December 28, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
Pilot training and testing require large commitments of time and resources, and rely heavily on expectations set by the FAA for the practical and knowledge exams. The practical test standard remains relatively clear and concise, yet the expectations for the knowledge portion have historically been less objective.
This issue was illustrated in 2011 when the FAA introduced revised knowledge test questions and set off a spike in failures of some knowledge tests—especially the Fundamentals of Instruction knowledge test taken by flight-instructor applicants.
AOPA and others in the flight training industry immediately began discussions with the FAA to address the knowledge test issues. The FAA stepped up to the plate to fix the problems. First, they removed some of the newly added test questions that were deemed misleading or poorly constructed, and credited those who failed the exam as a result of those questions, changing the failure to a pass. They then revised the knowledge test guides on the FAA website to provide better information on the specific material being tested in all exams, and agreed to make changed subjects available to the public for 90 days before any new knowledge test questions appear in a knowledge exam. Most importantly, the FAA has formed a knowledge test advisory group to make recommendations on the content, planning, development, production, and review of FAA testing material including technical information related to airman knowledge and skill tests, computer testing supplements, knowledge test guides, practical test standards, and training handbooks. AOPA is participating on this advisory committee. Final recommendations from the group will be issued in 2012.
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Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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