FAA to modify FOI exam changes, re-grade tests

May 17, 2011

The FAA will immediately reverse some of the changes made to the Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI) knowledge test, review others, and re-grade tests taken since February when pass rates plummeted.

AOPA welcomed the announcement as a positive response to objections raised by the flight training industry to the unannounced changes that made it difficult for applicants to prepare for the exam.

The FAA’s Regulatory Support Division announced the decision following an early May meeting with AOPA, the National Association of Flight Instructors, and experts in test writing and validation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Liberty University, Professional Aviation Board of Certification, University of North Dakota, University of Oklahoma, and Western Michigan University. The group discussed possibilities for developing a system of test writing and validation that would rely on accepted industry practices and coordination with the aviation training community, and reviewed the specific changes made to the exam.

The FAA, citing concerns raised about the exam, said that it would immediately remove six questions from the FOI test. Pilots who missed the six now-withdrawn questions will receive retroactive credit for their answers. If answering any of those six questions incorrectly resulted in failing the test, the grade will be changed to a passing score, the FAA said.

The FAA will notify each pilot whose test score will change from failing to passing. If a pilot retook the test after failing because of a withdrawn question, and subsequently passed, the pilot’s record will be adjusted to show passage on the first try.

At the meeting, the FAA indicated it will review 12 other FOI exam questions the group identified as ambiguous.

As part of its effort to make improvements to knowledge test standards, the FAA stated its intent “to involve the flight training industry and academia in the process of developing future revisions to testing and guidance documents.”

AOPA continues to urge all flight instructor candidates preparing to take the FOI exam to review the 2008 edition of the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook. All questions on the new FOI exam come from this text—not the previous version of the handbook, as was the case prior to February 2011.

“Because this edition incorporates a number of changes and updates, the FAA stresses that instructor candidates should use it as the primary text when preparing for the FOI test,” the FAA advised in its notice to participants in a flight training industry meeting held in April.

The FAA, noting in its statement that it “strives for continuous improvements” to knowledge testing, is also developing more detailed knowledge test guides to assist airmen and aviation instructors in preparing for knowledge exams.

AOPA applauds the FAA for taking such prompt, positive measures to work with the industry in addressing concerns about the knowledge exams.