last updated: 1/22/19
Whether you’re pursuing a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate, you’ll need to pass three tests: the pre-solo written test, FAA knowledge test, and FAA practical test.
1.) Pre-Solo Written Test
- Required before your first solo flight
- May be created by your flight school, instructor, a commercial vendor, or anyone else as long as it meets FAA requirements
- Questions may be in any format (multiple-choice, fill-in-the blank, essay, etc.)
- May be any number of questions
- May be open- or closed-book
- Must be corrected to 100%
- Must include at least the following topics:
- Applicable regulations from parts 61 and 91
- Airspace rules and procedures for the airport where the solo flight will be performed
- Flight characteristics and operational limitations for the make and model of aircraft to be flown
2.) FAA Knowledge Test
- Often called “the written” because it used to be a written test (not anymore, it’s computerized!)
- Questions are pulled from a large FAA database
- Test is taken on a computer with supplementary information available on paper
- Questions are multiple-choice
- Minimum passing score: 70%
- Instructor’s endorsement is required to take the test
- As of 2019, PSI/CATS is the only vendor offering FAA approved testing
- Cost: Approximately $150 (check for AOPA or EAA member discounts)
- Number of questions and time limit depend on pilot certificate sought:
- Sport: 40 questions, 2 hours
- Recreational: 50 questions, 2 hours
- Private: 60 questions, 2 hours 30 minutes
3.) FAA Practical Test
- Often called a “checkride”
- An instructor’s endorsement is required to take the test
- Administered by an FAA inspector, designated pilot examiner (DPE), or sport pilot examiner
- The applicant furnishes the airplane
- Content and conduct of the test is strictly governed by the applicable FAA Airman Certification Standards (ACS) or Practical Test Standards (PTS)
- Test is pass/fail (fail one item = fail the test)
- Cost: free if administered by an FAA inspector, otherwise normally a fee applies (set by the examiner)
- Divided into two parts:
- The oral portion (ground) tests the applicant’s knowledge
- The flight portion continues to test the applicant’s knowledge and also evaluates flying skills
- If the practical test is failed, the applicant can re-test after receiving further training and another endorsement from an instructor
- The practical test may be discontinued due to reasons such as weather, illness, or maintenance and finished at a later time
- If the practical test is passed, the new pilot receives a temporary pilot certificate right away, with the permanent certificate arriving by mail later
Read More on the Web:
Airman Knowledge Testing Organization Designation Authorization Holders (PDF) – A list of FAA-approved test centers
Pilot Practical Test Standards – FAA site with the sport pilot and recreational pilot PTS documents
Airman Certification Standards – FAA site with the private pilot ACS documents
FAA Designee Locator – Search the FAA database to find an examiner for your practical test
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What are the Entry-Level Pilot Certificates?
- What are the Eligibility Requirements for a Pilot Certificate?
- What are the Medical Certification Requirements for Pilots?
- What is Ground Training Like?
- What is Flight Training Like?
- What Tests are Required to Become a Pilot?
- How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pilot?
- How Can I Find a Flight School or Flight Instructor?
- How Does a Pilot Stay Current and Proficient?
- What Additional Certificates and Ratings Can a Pilot Earn?
- How Do I Sign Up for an Introductory Flight Lesson?