Demystifying the Written Exam

Jami Heckman

5 min read ·


Taking the Private Pilot Written Exam

Getting your private pilot’s license opens up a new world of freedom and adventure in the skies. But before you can take to the air solo, there are important steps including one major milestone: the FAA Private Pilot Aeronautical Knowledge exam, commonly called the “written” exam. We know exams can cause pre-flight jitters, so we wanted to give you the full rundown on what to expect.

What is the Written Exam All About?

You might be thinking, A written test? But I want to be hands-on in flying planes! We get it. The appeal is definitely the magic of flight itself. However, the FAA has this knowledge exam requirement for a crucial reason—to ensure all future pilots have a comprehensive understanding of the rules, responsibilities, and vital procedures involved in safely operating aircraft in the national airspace system.

The Private Pilot written exam covers a wide range of must-know aviation concepts like:

  • Air navigation and flight planning
  • Interpreting weather data/patterns
  • Aircraft systems and aerodynamics
  • Airspace rules and regulations
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Emergency operations and procedures

You’ll need to take and pass this test after completing all your dual instruction flights and solo cross-country requirements during training with us or any other FAA-approved flight school. However, at Summit Flight Academy, our strong recommendation is to complete the written exam before you even start your in-air instruction.

Why Take It So Early?

There are a few key reasons we advise taking the written exam right at the start of your training:

  1. We want you to gain a deep mastery of aeronautical concepts from day one, before ever getting in the cockpit for hands-on training. Having this solid knowledge foundation makes the actual flight lessons much easier to comprehend and apply safely.
  2. Internalizing procedures, systems, rules, etc. at the start gets you thinking like a responsible pilot from the very beginning. This forms good habits and a sharp aviation mindset.
  3. Finishing this major written milestone early on is one big hurdle cleared. This allows you to be laser-focused on developing your stick and rudder skills when you start flight training.

How to Effectively Prepare

Passing the Private Pilot written exam requires a score of at least 70% across the 60 questions. Achieving this passing threshold demands a strategic study approach and preparation regimen. You’ll want to dedicate consistent time reviewing and internalizing the material from trusted sources like:

  • The FAA Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
  • Private Pilot test prep books and online study tools
  • Aviation training courses/kits (video lessons, practice tests, etc.)

We provide our students with a full library of preparation resources and guidance on the most effective study materials. Our instructors are also always available to answer any questions.

On exam day, be sure to bring a valid photo ID matching the name on your application. The testing center has strict policies.

Many students find enormous benefits from taking an interactive multimedia/online home-study course to prepare. These advanced training tools integrate video instruction, animations/graphics, practice tests, and more to efficiently learn and truly grasp all the core concepts. They’ll get you ready to pass with a score showing true mastery.

Using tools like these also allows you to learn and review the material mapped directly to real-world scenarios and how the concepts apply in-flight situations.

The Bigger Mission

Ultimately, the FAA written exam is about ensuring you have a comprehensive working knowledge of every dimension involved in operating aircraft safely as a private pilot from aeronautical concepts and systems to rules and human factors. Proper preparation is critical for performing your absolute best on this test.

Having this depth of understanding thoroughly ingrained before starting hands-on flight training is invaluable. It allows you to remain firmly focused on developing flight proficiency. You’ll be able to dedicate your full attention to learning the intricate skills and scenarios of actually controlling the aircraft because you’ve already built that strong conceptual foundation.

Checkride Confidence

Successful completion of the written exam is a required milestone for every prospective pilot. But it goes beyond just checking a box - it’s powerful proof that you’ve taken command of essential aviation knowledge and information recall abilities. This boosts your confidence tremendously as you transition into further flight training and prepare for your final checkride exam with an FAA examiner.

Trust us, having already mastered those fundamentals through your high written exam score makes the actual skills testing a much smoother process. You’ll be able to clearly demonstrate an authoritative understanding of concepts like aerodynamics, aircraft performance, and regulations—not just rote memorization. This well-rounded proficiency is what defines a true airman.

So Don’t Delay

The private pilot written exam stands as one of the first defining challenges in your journey toward the rewarding goal of becoming a licensed aviator. With the right attitude, study strategy, and high-quality training tools, you can soar through this milestone with confidence.

The team at Summit Flight Academy is here to support your pursuit of aviator excellence every step of the way. Our instructors provide personalized guidance and coaching, access to the latest prep resources, and insight into efficient mastery techniques. We’ll ensure you have everything required to take the written with your best foot forward.

Commit yourself to dedicated preparation, trust the training process, and keep your eyes on that helicopter/airplane!/glider at the end of the runway. Steadfast focus and an enthusiasm for sticking to the practical test prep will ease your workload immensely.

You’ve got this! The skies are calling, and that coveted private pilot certificate is well within your reach. With Summit Flight Academy and the right drive, your dreams of soaring as a qualified pilot will soon be a reality.

Contact us today for more information.