How to Approach Flight Tests Or Exams…


Here we go…

PART 1: How to Approach Flight Tests.


So who just loves exams and tests?


Without any official research I would suggest that this is our 80/20 rule again.  That is, 80% of people don’t love exams and 20% do. (Not sure which cubicle they’re hiding in though!)


For most of us exams and tests are a necessary evil.  When it comes to any industry that requires a high level of sophistication, a measure of skill and standard is required.  The aviation industry is at the forefront of maintaining a safe standard do to the nature of the beast.  Hence as pilots we have to learn to live with being checked, assessed, monitored and watched REGULARLY! In fact, I would go as far to say that we are subjected to more assessment than ANY other industry.

BUT WAIT!…..Before you go and rolling up into the foetal position, there are some steps you can take to maintain your ‘test wellbeing’.


It is definitely worth having some strategies to get the most out of each check.

Here’s 5 things that you need to know when approaching a flight test or exam…

  2. EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES (even veterans)

So let’s look at the pre test process that you can use as your strategy until you are ready to adapt it for you…

STAGE 1: Resentment


This is where we feel annoyed that we have to actually to the test.  Of course we know they are looming in the future but when the time finally arrives don’t be surprised that you wish someone else was doing it!  You may ask yourself things like “Is it really worth it?” or “Do I know enough?”.

Well yes to both.


You question the unfairness that you are subjected to this perceived pressure and may even decide that you think the aircraft manufacturer or aviation regulator has no idea about what they’re talking about!

Have you felt this yet in your tests/exams so far?


Well with what I know now, you should be happy with these feelings.

This is your natural human emotions trying to prepare your body and mind to cope.  An adrenalin rush.  If you understand that this feeling is a good thing and be waiting for it then you can turn it into a positive strategy.  So that is step one of your testing strategy.


STRATEGY STEP #1 Expect Resentment.


STAGE 2: Procrastination


So I have received our adrenalin rush from Step 1 and I am all inspired and pumped for the test.  Great!

But the thing with adrenalin is unfortunately that it wears off.  So that initial rush then moves onto procrastination.  This is where you know that you SHOULD be doing something but are frustrated by your lack of action.  It is a difficult feeling to overcome and the more you worry the more you may procrastinate!  This is what is called a vicious circle.  I need to break out of this vicious circle.


Again being aware and be expecting this will help break out of it.  Get yourself to the point where you have exhausted all the excuses to avoid starting your study process.  Like when we looked at making a decision, clear your mind and find narrow the excuses down to one at a time.  If it ends up that your last excuse is something like you can’t be bothered then this is good.  At this stage you can ponder what you love about flying and realise that the up sides out way the down side of the test.  This will make you just get on with it.  Your competitive nature (that most pilots have but may not admit to!) will overcome your procrastination.

So that is step two of your testing strategy.


STRATEGY STEP #2 Expect Procrastination.


STAGE 3: Planning


Remember our old saying.  5 P’s.


In anything that you do in life which appears challenging at first will always be diluted by planning.

So when approaching a test or exam it is no different.  Start with the end goal in mind then break it down.


For example:

A PPL or CPL flight test.

End Goal: Get from A to B.

  1. Overview of Route to be flown
  2. Overview of Aircraft to be flown
  3. Departure considerations (WX, Notam, flight plan)
  4. Departure procedures
  5. Cruise Procedures
  6. Diversion Procedures
  7. Descent Considerations and Procedures
  8. Landing Considerations
  9. Parking Considerations

This is an example only but designed to show how to break it down into manageable study portions.  You can also break each subject into further small sections.

When setting yourself manageable portions you will cover the content better and keep your sanity!

Remember that everyone may study differently and you may fine tune the way you plan for your study program however being aware of the need to plan will help guide you to the outcome required.

So that is step three of your testing strategy.

STRATEGY STEP #3 Pre Planning.

STAGE 4: Focus and implementation


By this stage you should be ready to actually get started.  You know what you want to cover, divided it into sections and have a plan of action.


Now you can look at the time available and how you like to study.  Some people prefer to just go nonstop.  Others like to allocate time windows and get as much done in that allotted time and roll over to next slot as required.

Whichever type that you are it is time to implement.  Get your study area ready, get the required manuals and tools and start at step 1.  All you can do is work through each section until you are happy.  Remember to have a break and during the break summarise in your mind what you just covered before moving onto the next step.

So that is step four of your testing strategy.


STRATEGY STEP #4 Get Focussed and Implement.

STAGE 5: Belief


Without this bit all the previous steps are largely a waste of time.

It can be easy to slip into the trap of worrying about what you don’t know rather than what you do know.  This is what perfectionists do.

I always say to strive to be the best that you can be.  Regularly check in with yourself to reflect on what you HAVE achieved so far.  You may be surprised at how far you have come.  When you do this you are programming your mindset to trust you knowledge and ability because you have proof.  This proof is where you are at right now.

Even I forget to do this from time to time but find when I do it gives you a burst of an achievement reality check.

A test or exam is a great time to do this as this is when you need reminding the most.

So that is step five of your testing strategy.

STRATEGY STEP #5 Program your Self Belief Mindset.

By applying these 5 Strategy Steps everytime you approach a test or exam you will get the most out of each one.

Here they are again…

STRATEGY STEP #1 Expect Resentment.

STRATEGY STEP #2 Expect Procrastination.

STRATEGY STEP #3 Pre Planning.

STRATEGY STEP #4 Get Focussed and Implement.

STRATEGY STEP #5 Program your Self Belief Mindset.



PART 2: Understanding the feeling of euphoria post test.

Over the years I have noticed after a check, test or exam phenomena known amongst the pilot ranks as…

“Post Test Euphoria”

You know – that satisfied feeling you get when you finish something hard.

It has 2 sides to it that we want you to understand.

Firstly it includes the feeling of relief and should be used to stop and pat yourself on the back.  Remembering this feeling will help get you focussed next time.  So relish for a while in it and use it to boost your confidence when you are flying about.

Secondly is something to be aware of that may not serve you well.  That is once you have finished acknowledging that you did well and passed you check that you return to being alert for complacency.  I don’t want to take anything away from the good work you did but with this great feeling could be the tendency to think that you are untouchable.  Aviation is a good leveller and remember you could be one takeoff away from your next situation.

In Summary…

Having a strategy when you approach a test or exam will make the experience far more enjoyable.  Don’t think that veteran pilots don’t still go through the same feelings as you.  The difference is that they have developed a strategy to handle their career testing.  Try to turn each one into a learning experience and you will come out the other side with the healthiest attitude.

Good Luck with your next one!

PART 3: Questions for You.

1. What are the 5 strategy steps to approach a test?

2. How do you like to study?

3. If you would like to fine tune this strategy to suit you, what would it look like?

4. Have you experience post test euphoria?

5. Write down all the things that concern you about tests or exams and please raise them at the Webinar.


Next week’s preview…’HotSeat – Gold Wings member – one-on-one mentoring call…’


Find out how doing anything that you can even before you start will be of immense value to your career.


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Don’t miss out on a opportunity by procrastinating.

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http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54492-156-8639FF5164CAE1AC8E9290F679F028DBCaptain Craig Baker

Airline Pilot and Professional Pilot Mentor