Study for and Take Your Private Pilot Exams

In order to experience the joy of flying an airplane by yourself or with passengers, you must first pass the Federal Aviation Administration private pilot exam and check-ride. The written knowledge exam is required to be passed first and then you must pass both an oral exam and an in-flight check ride with an FAA designated pilot examiner. These instructions will walk you through the basic steps required to pass both your written exam, oral exam, and check-ride.


How to study for the written exam

  1. Purchase aviation books to help you study
    • The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK)
    • FAR AIM (Federal Aviation Regulations Aeronautical Information Manual)
    • Airplane Flying Handbook
    • Private Pilot Oral Exam Guide
    • FAA Private Pilot Practical Test Standards
    • Aviation Weather
    • Sectional Aviation Map
  2. Purchase an online program to help you study (optional step) This is optional because most courses are over $250. However, they are highly recommended because they guarantee you will pass the test and they are in video format. Several highly recommended courses:
    • King Schools- Private Pilot Course
    • Sportys- Learn To Fly Course
    • Mzeroa- Private Pilot Online Ground School
    • Gold Seal- Online Ground School
  3. You need to study, study, study
    • You need to understand the information in the books before you take the test
    • Negatively impact your career if you choose to pursue aviation
    • Several failed attempts at the written exam can be viewed negatively by future employers
    • Any questions you get wrong on the written exam will be asked during your oral exam by the examiner
    • It is up to you to ensure that you have read the books and/or watched the entire private pilot course (if you purchased one)
  4. Schedule the written knowledge exam
    • The written exam must be taken at an FAA approved testing center you can find a testing center on the website
    • The Written Knowledge test is 60 questions from a bank of over 1000+ questions from every area of your studies ranging from weather to navigation
    • You have 2 1/2 hours to complete the test
    • You have to get at least 70% of the questions correct in order to pass

Prepare for the check-ride and oral interview

  1. You need to have the required flight hours and a written endorsement from your flight instructor
  2. If you qualify for the check-ride you need to review the information from the written exam
    • During the oral portion of the exam you will be quizzed on many concepts from written exam
    • You will be quizzed on the questions you missed on your written exam
  3. Use multiple resources to study
    • Youtube videos- These can be extremely helpful, especially videos of real check rides
    • Books- Especially the books I have already mentioned
    • Mock check- Ride with your instructor and other instructors
    • Test-prep booklets- These are very helpful and are based on real check-ride questions
    • Online programs- Again, these are expensive but incredibly helpful
    • Practice Tests- These are excellent resources to prepare for your oral interview
  4. Practice the flight maneuvers with your instructor and by yourself (with your instructors permission)You will be required to be able to demonstrate to the designated pilot examiner a few of the following maneuvers (know them all):
    • Soft-field takeoff and climb
    • Soft-field approach and landing
    • Short-field takeoff and maximum performance climb
    • Short-Field approach and landing
    • Crosswind takeoffs and landings
    • Forward slip to landing
    • Go-around/rejected landing
    • Turns around a point
    • Steep turns
    • Stalls
    • Emergency procedures
  1. Practice planning a flight from start to finish. Take out your sectional map and do the following:
    • Plan a flight with alternate airports, you will have to change your destination mid-flight
    • Get familiar with the sectional chart. It is important to know what is on your chart
    • Make sure you know your chosen flight plan like the back of your hand. You will be very nervous and it will help to have gone over it many times
    • Double and triple check to ensure that your route is safe and compliant with laws and regulations, your examiner will expect that you know how to do this. After a passed test it will be up to you to understand on your own
  2. Know how the flight instruments and systems work
    • Understand how the instruments work and what to do in case of failures. It can save your life to understand the instruments and your examiner will expect you to know them inside and out
    • Understand the engine on the airplane you are flying. You will receive a manual and you should memorize it
    • Understand the electrical and hydraulic systems on the airplane you are flying. Your instructor will explain it to you, but you need to memorize it
    • Memorize the pre-flight procedures for your airplane. You will need to demonstrate for your examiner that you understand how to do a proper pre-flight check and how to spot issues
    • Memorize the emergency procedures for your airplane. It is very important that you know how to react during any emergency

Take your check-ride

  1. You and your instructor will schedule a check-ride with a pilot examiner of your choice
    • Your instructor will give you recommendations about which designated pilot examiner they think you should choose
    • You will call that examiner and schedule a time
    • The DPE will give you a flight to plan. You will need to ensure that you pick the best route and plan for all contingencies. More likely than not you have to divert to an alternate airport of the DPE’s choosing, mid-flight
    • Get as much practice in as you can before the check-ride
    • Ensure the airplane is legal to fly and that it’s paperwork is up to standards
    • Get all of your paperwork in order well before the day of the check-ride. Your instructor should help you through these difficult processes, if not ask them for help
  2. Rest the night before your check-ride
    • You will be extremely nervous the night before but you need to sleep. The better rested you are the better you will perform on your check-ride
    • Eat a good meal before your check-ride. It is up to you as to when you would like to eat but please, remember to eat
    • Bring snacks. There will be time for you to eat some snacks and drink some water, it would benefit you to bring some snacks as the entire process will take most of the day
  3. Have a positive attitude! Your instructor would not refer you to the examiner if they didn’t believe that you are ready to become a private pilot
    • Believe it or not the examiner doesn’t benefit from failing you. Your instructor certainly doesn’t either
    • They both want you to pass as much as you do
    • It is a stressful time but afterward it will be worth it


  • These instructions
    • will not focus on any of the other requirements such as instruction minimums, hours required, etc.
    • should be used to give you tips on passing your exams, your flight instructor will be your primary resource all throughout your flight training journey.