Aviatrix West in paid collaboration with 43 Air School
I'll never forget that stressful night before my first Commercial Pilot License theory exam in South Africa. Instead of getting a good night's sleep, I was downing what felt like my hundredth coffee and cramming new facts at the last minute. This nightmare situation wasn't my fault - I hadn't procrastinated or underestimated the work. On the contrary, I had studied for weeks! My textbook was highlighted, my colour coded study notes memorized and, as far as I could tell, I was ready to ace the exam.
That was until I received a life-changing phone call. "Did you study all the online questions?" my friend asked. "Um, no," I replied, confused. I didn't know what he was talking about. After a brief explanation, I reluctantly purchased an online question subscription. My eyes grew wide with fear as I raced through the database - if this was the exam standard, I could potentially fail - my textbook didn't cover most of this material.
It was a race against the clock from that moment. With only a few hours to get through hundreds of questions, I had to compose myself quickly; Deep breaths, a new study strategy and bottomless coffee were my tools to survive.
Despite the odds, I aced my exam.
As the adrenaline wore off, I took a moment to reflect on the series of events. I noted that failing to complete the online practice questions would have been a disaster. Yet, purely memorizing questions without understanding the material in the textbook would have been even worse in the long run. So, what was I supposed to do to prepare for my next exams?
I followed the advice of a famous B737 pilot YouTuber in Europe. She explained that memorizing all the online questions is the only way to pass pilot exams since textbooks are insufficient for exam preparation. The multiple-choice style questions that we face are often complicated with only one word distinguishing the correct answer. Without exposure to the questions before the exam, most of us would fail.
So, through trial and error over my next exams, I found a study method that combines practise questions with broader information in textbooks for long term success. To help you develop a study routine to ace your exams, let’s jump in:
The Exam Syllabus
Select your preferred method of study - whether it's textbooks or distance learning ground school. Read through the entire subject to gain a solid foundation. Highlight and make some study notes but focus on understanding broad principles instead of focusing in on details.
If you attend ground school, arrive at class already prepared by reading through the topics the night before. Use the lectures as an opportunity to clarify confusing topics and to solidify what you already learnt at home.
Online Questions, Round One
With your solid foundation from step one, some of the online questions can be tackled without problems. However, not all of them will be a walk in the park, so, you'll have to look further. For example, read the explanation at the bottom of the question, watch a video on YouTube or reach out to an instructor for further assistance. Continue to focus on understanding concepts while working through the database sequentially. Don't forget to update your original study notes as you learn!
43 Air School recognises the importance of using practice questions as part of the learning process, so they equip their student pilots with fantastic up to date questions and answers using a product called: PILOTEXAMS. This is an industry's leading provider of SACAA exam questions. The PILOTEXAMS team of professional subject matter experts continually update the database and questions are carefully selected to resemble the official Central Question Bank. (However, I didn't use PILOTEXAMS personally).
What do you get with PILOTEXAMS?
1,000's of carefully selected questions.
1,000's of detailed explanations
PPL(A), ATPL(A) and CPL(A) courses (No Heli yet)
Progress monitoring dashboard
Mock exams for all subjects
Support from professional pilots and instructors.
Assign a few minutes each day to revise study notes to store this information for long-term memory. These notes will prove useful after your exam when you want to maintain your knowledge, so, take care of them!
Pick up the pace
By now, you’ll be familiar with all the exam material and have an in-depth understanding of the concepts. So, focus on completing a set of questions from the online platform’s subtopics and flag any questions you’re unsure of. Repeat this process for each subtopic. As a rule of thumb for my EASA exams, I was advised not to attempt the final exam until I consistently scored above 85% in each sub-topic database.
Constantly revising material that you’re confident with might inflate your ego, but it’s a recipe for disaster. Dedicate more time to flagged questions that you struggle with to make sure you don’t have any weak areas by exam time.
With your exam date around the corner, it’s time to focus on practice exams. Most online question platforms generate these timed practice papers for you so, complete as many as possible.
I benefited greatly from this tool. It’s an opportunity to face questions from different topics in one study session and to learn to work fast enough so, you don’t run out of time in calculation-based exams. Once you consistently score above 85% in the mock exams, you’re ready for the big day.
In conclusion, as you can see, using online question banks correctly can be a powerful study tool. However, when used incorrectly, it creates a culture of unsafe pilots who simply memorize sentences.
Despite the continued advice to use practice questions, some student pilots still believe that studying online questions is cheating. If you fall into this category, you're probably unaware that students in all fields refer to old questions from previous exams while studying. They're called 'past papers'. University students go to great lengths to track them down. Practising with past questions allows students to test their knowledge and to check that they can apply what they've learned to theoretical problems.
So instead of finding out about online question banks the night before your exam, as I did a few years ago, learn from my nightmare experience and plan your study schedule to incorporate all sources of information. This will give you the best chance for success while working towards a career as a safe pilot.
If you're interested in more study tips to ace your exams, then you'll find this article interesting: www.aviatrixwest.com/post/studying-for-pilot-theory-exams. And make sure to follow 43 Air School and Aviatrix West on social media to see a summary of our study tips to help you succeed!
To learn more about flight training visit 43 Air School's website: www.43airschool.com
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The views presented in this article are solely the author's based on available information at the time of writing. The purpose of this blog is to inform readers, not to provide professional advice. Readers are advised to research further and consult relevant professionals, such as flight training schools. Readers are cautioned when acting on information provided and assume all risk from such actions.