Group to advise on airmen testing

September 23, 2011

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced Sept. 23 at the AOPA Aviation Summit morning keynote address that the FAA is forming an initiative to review the agency's process of developing airmen knowledge testing material.

Knowledge testUnexpected changes to knowledge tests earlier this year suddenly and dramatically increased failure rates in those tests. Concerned that the FAA had changed the tests without providing training material explaining learning objectives to test-takers, AOPA and other industry groups met with the FAA's airmen testing and standards branch to discuss the agency's approach to test-question validation.

After a follow-up meeting with AOPA, the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), and experts in test writing and validation, the FAA announced it would remove certain questions from the Fundamentals of Instruction test and re-grade tests; and now a new initiative will review the process by which the FAA develops new testing material, updates current questions, incorporates input from industry, and validates questions prior to changes in the existing test banks.

AOPA and NAFI advocated for the creation of the committee to ensure that knowledge tests are a valid and reliable measure of knowledge; the two associations, along with experts in academia from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Liberty University, the Professional Board of Aviation Certification, the University of North Dakota, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Western Michigan, met to discuss failures in the knowledge exams and determined that the dramatic increase in failure rates was in part due to the methods used to write and validate questions. The groups recommended revising or removing certain questions from exams and discussed industry-accepted methods for developing and validating exam questions.