I’m continuing to march along and check off the requirements needed to take my check ride. This morning I took and passed my knowledge test.
I’m not a stranger to testing. I just finished up a BS in Accounting and tested out of three different classes on my way to finishing up the last two years of the degree in 14 months. The running joke was “C’s equal degrees” although I was determined to do better than C’s (who wants to be average). I managed to finish with a 3.91 (anything under a 95% was an A-). To test out of a class you just needed a 70% and it went into your transcript as a transfer credit (which didn’t affect your GPA) and that was a good thing because I squeaked by the Accounting Information Systems class with a 70.68% on the test. So, I am well aware of the pressure of going into a big test. (Think of if you don’t pass a test you will have to take an expensive 8 week class instead…)
The difference between getting my degree and taking the FAA Knowledge Test was that although only a 70% was needed, I was determined to do much better than that. Think about it, if I don’t quite understand something about the accounting I can look it up or ask for help. If I get something wrong up in the air, well I might not be able to look it up, there will probably be nobody for me to ask for help, and the consequences are a little more severe. I have also been told that if you do very well on the Knowledge Test that it will make the Oral Exam during your check-ride easier. (Easier is better…)
I had a couple of different routes I could go to prepare for the test. I could study the book on my own and pay my CFI for ground school time, or I could sign up for one of the online ground schools. After I looked at the price of paying for ground school with my CFI and the cost of an online school I decided that it would be less expensive and more beneficial to do the online ground school (no disrespect to my CFI’s knowledge or teaching prowess). I looked at all the different options and settled on Gold Seal Ground School with presentations by Russell Still. The lessons were good, the presentations often cheesy, and I could hear Russ’ voice in my head as I would be reading the review materials after the lesson. The bottom line is that it was effective and kept me interested.
As I finished up studying last night I had no doubt that I would pass the test, the only question in my mind was if I would do better than 90% (which was the bar I had set for myself). The test itself is 60 multiple choice questions drawn from a huge bank of questions and you have 2 1/2 hours to complete it. Not to knock anyone that uses all the available time to take the test, but 2 1/2 hours is a loooonnnnggg time. Do the math, that’s 2 1/2 minutes per question. Most of the questions are the type that you just read and answer which should take maybe 10-15 seconds each. Even the questions that require some kind of calculations shouldn’t really take more than about a minute. You either know the answers or you don’t.
I got to the testing center, located at a local flight school, and checked in with the proctor. I had with me my E6B (Whiz-wheel), a plotter, and a basic calculator. The testing center provided scratch paper, the testing supplement with all the charts etc…, a calculator, and a clear page protector with a dry erase marker so I could lay it over the pages in the book and mark on it. (If you are going to take your test, remember that in the front of the supplement there is a key with all the symbols and everything for sectionals which can be handy if you forgot one). The proctor got me set up at the computer and we went through the way the interface works. I began the test and many of the questions looked familiar. Some of them were identical to some I had seen and others were just asking the same thing as the practice questions I had done but in a little different way. There were only a couple questions that I wasn’t really sure on so as I clicked the “Finished” button just over 30 minutes after starting the exam I felt pretty good. After completing a short survey my score came up on the screen, 88%… I could miss six questions and get my 90%, but I had missed seven. Rats…
Where did I go wrong? Well there were two questions I knew I was guessing on, two I over thought (the age old multiple choice strategy of your first answer is usually the right one and when you switch you are usually wrong, I switched my answers and was wrong), two I thought I had right (but didn’t), and one that I just completely missed and can’t believe I missed. That one question had to do with wind forecasts and I must have either been looking at the wrong row for location or column for altitude, either way there is no excuse for missing that one.
Still, 88% isn’t bad, it’s much better than the 70% required, but I was not pleased that a couple of easy questions that I shouldn’t have missed kept me from my goal of scoring over 90%.