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Step 4: FAA Medical Exams, Knowledge & Practical Tests

Throughout your training and flying career, you will be required to take tests to ensure that you are able to safely perform the duties of your pilot certificates and ratings. We’ve provided a brief explanation for some tests you’ll be required to take and pass before earning your pilot certificate or rating.

Medical Exam
Knowledge Test (a.k.a. Written Exam)
Practical Test (a.k.a. Check-rides)

Medical Exam
Before you fly Solo, you are required to have a Student Pilot/Medical Certificate, which serves as your student “learner’s permit.” To obtain your Student Pilot/Medical Certificate, you must visit a physician who has been designated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs). After successfully completing the medical exam, the AME will issue you the Student Pilot/Medical Certificate. There are three classes of medical certificate. To learn more about the “Classes” of medical certificate, Student Pilot/Medical Certificate, costs, How to obtain a medical certificate, and Frequently Asked Questions, visit the Medical Certificates section.

Knowledge Test (aka Written Exam)
After completing ground school (either scheduled classes, home-study program, or one-on-one with your instructor), you will take the FAA’s Knowledge Test (Written Exam). The Knowledge Test consists of 60 multiple-choice questions drawn from a bank of about 1,000 questions for the Private Pilot Knowledge Test. You must pass this test by receiving a score of 70 percent or higher before you can take your Practical Test with a FAA Designated Examiner. The Knowledge Test lasts approximately 2 hours.

There are various Knowledge Test Guides available to help you study for the test. Your instructor will also direct you to the various study materials to help prepare you for this test. Several companies offer condensed ground school courses that allow you to review each question and answer to help you prepare for the test. The Knowledge Test is administered by commercial computer testing centers, in which some flight schools offer FAA-approved computer testing as part of their services. If you need to locate testing centers near you, ask your flight instructor or contact the Flight Standards District Office for more information.

Practical Test (a.k.a. Checkride)
A Practical Test (checkride) is the final step in achieving your pilot certificate or rating, whether you are preparing for your first checkride for the Private Pilot Certificate or your Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. A typical checkride lasts approximately 3-5 hours. The Practical Test consists of two-parts: an oral exam and a flight test given by FAA Designated Examiner.
Oral Exam
The purpose of the oral portion of the checkride, which is taken on the ground, is for the examiner to ask you questions to test your aeronautical knowledge regarding flight and non-flight related items according to the Practical Test Standards (PTS).
Flight Test
The purpose of the flight portion of the checkride is for the examiner to test your ability to perform specific flight maneuvers, make good judgments, and fly the aircraft safely. According to the PTS, the examiner can ask you to perform any or all of the flight maneuvers outlined for each particular certificate or rating.

You and your flight instructor will spend plenty of time in preparation for the Knowledge and Practical Tests.

Words of Wisdom: Remember the phrase “ Cooperate & Graduate!” Never argue with the examiner. The examiner has much more flying experience than you do. If you have questions about any thing the examiner asks you, ask the examiner to clarify the question. The best solution to any problem is communication. The examiner realizes that you will be a little nervous during the checkride. The best advice is to relax and allow your knowledge and flying skills speak for themselves.

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Written by: Sedgwick Hines Copyright 2004-2011 AvScholars Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.




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Learn to Fly: Become a Pilot is your one-stop source to information on flight training, flying lessons, flight schools, and helicopter schools. Learn about the entire flight training process to help you earn your pilot certificates or ratings such as student pilot certificate, commercial pilot certificate, instrument rating, and others.

Copyright © 2003 - 2011 AvScholars Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.