FAA to revamp knowledge tests

June 23, 2010

The questions on FAA knowledge tests and the way they are taken could change over the next couple of years.

In an industry meeting June 15 and 16 to review changes that have been and will be made to knowledge tests and practical test standards this year, the FAA said that it plans to expand its test-question bank from the current 15,000 to 20,000 questions, to more than 100,000 questions. Another goal is to make the written exams Internet based. The tests would continue to be taken in approved testing centers, but they would be served online instead of the hard drives of the testing center computers.

Both moves are expected to take at least a couple of years, the FAA told about 30 industry representatives, including AOPA, King Schools, Jeppesen, Gleim, the National Association of Flight Instructors, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

The groups met to review what changes to the written and practical test standards the FAA has already made and what is upcoming. This allows representatives the opportunity to point out any problems that some of the changes may cause. Regarding the knowledge tests, the FAA’s announcement of changes were general, and none of the actual test questions or answers were released to the group.

A change that will be incorporated into all knowledge tests is a general question about glass cockpits. The FAA will develop a bank of questions, so that one will appear on every knowledge test given. The questions are not specific to any particular type of glass cockpit. The FAA decided to add the question based on NTSB recommendations that it do more to enhance pilot training and knowledge requirements for glass cockpit aircraft.

In other cases, the FAA is working to bring the tests up to date. For example, questions about microwave landing systems have been eliminated from the instrument knowledge test. Questions on the Part 135 and Part 121 air transport pilot knowledge tests will change from a focus on turboprops to light jets in order to better represent the knowledge required to fly these aircraft that are used more frequently.

Tests and practical test standards that already have been updated include the ATP, aircraft dispatcher, parachute rigger, and flight navigator knowledge test guides, and the  instrument, flight instructor, and flight instructor-airplane PTS.