The FAA used to make their question banks publicly available, which made passing the Private Pilot Knowledge Exam a breeze. You would just have to spend some time memorizing the answers to questions and that would be it. Despite this change, the FAA Private Pilot Written Test isn’t particularly hard, and the vast majority of students manage to pass the first time.
While there is no shortcut – which is a good thing to ensure only safe and competent pilots are allowed to take to the skies – any motivated student will have no problem passing.
What is the Format of the Exam?
The private pilot written test consists of 60 questions with a 2 hour 30 minute time limit. Questions are asked in a multiple-choice format. A score of 70% is required to pass the exam.
Knowledge areas and the number of questions you can expect to answer include:
- Regulations: 3-9 Questions
- Accident Reporting: 3-6 Questions
- Performance Charts: 3-6 Questions
- Radio Communications: 3-6 Questions
- Weather: 3-6 Questions
- Safe and Efficient Operations: 3-9 Questions
- Density Altitude Performance: 3-6 Questions
- Weight and Balance: 3-6 Questions
- Aerodynamics, Powerplants, and Aircraft Systems: 3-6 Questions
- Stalls and Spins: 3-6 Questions
- Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM): 3-6 Questions
- Preflight actions: 3-6 Questions
What is the Pass Rate?
The average score and pass rate vary slightly each year, but the typical pass rate is 90% with an average score of 84. As you can tell, the vast majority of pilots pass first time. So as long as you put the work in, you have very little to worry about.
What Happens If You Fail?
Despite the very high pass rate, don’t worry if you don’t do as well as you expected to and fail the exam. You are able to retake the test 30 days from the date of your previous attempt. There is no limit to how many times you can retake the test.
The main reason for failing the exam is more to do with not studying enough or poor studying methods than anything else. So don’t try to cram the night before, but plan to study for an hour or two every day several weeks in advance of the test. This way you will better retain what you learn.
What is the Best Study Resource?
Rod Machado is comfortably the go-to resource for any pilot who wants to pass the FAA exam the first time of asking.
We recommend his Private Pilot Handbook that contains 656 full-color pages and more than 1,200 illustrations and photos.
If you learn better through video and interaction, we recommend Rod’s eLearning Ground School course. It consists of 26-course modules, spanning 40-hours.
How Long Should You Study For?
It’s hard to be too specific when recommending a number of hours to study for, as some students are better learners than others, and manage to retain knowledge more easily.
However, as a general rule, you know you’re ready to take the exam if you can score 90%+ on the practice tests.