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Advice and tips for completing your ATPL Theory

Alexandra O'Loughlin23 Dec 2016 Posted in: pilot training, News, pilot school, atpl, exam preparation, prepare

We hear so often how students are put off completing their ATPL theory or dread the seemingly insurmountable amount of work it entails.

The reality is that ATPL theory course is very manageable. Here is some advice about how best to prepare and conquer your ATPL theory…

1. Work hard at School

It sounds obvious but solid exam results in English, Maths and the Sciences will undoubtedly stand you in good stead for your training. It’s not simply the results that are important but devising an effective way to learn, revise and digest Maths and English will pay dividends when you embark on your ATPL theory. To complete your ATPL theory at FTA you will require a minimum of five GCSEs including English and Maths at grade 4 or above (or A*to C).

2. Get a head start with your Pilot  Training

You do not need your Private Pilot's Licence (PPL) if you have decided to enrol on FTA’s Integrated Flight Deck Programme. However researching and learning as much as you can about aircraft and aviation will assist with your training.

If you have decided to embark on your training already and are working towards a Private Pilot's Licence (PPL) then that's terrific.

You need a PPL if you are due to enrol on an ATPL Theory course and complete your training on a module by module basis. Your ATPL theoretical training will build on the already solid foundations of PPL but if it’s been a while since you completed your PPL, we suggest you get up to speed with your knowledge before you start.

Please note: We offer exemptions to fees on the Integrated Course if you’ve completed your Private Pilot's Licence already. Contact admissions for more information.

3. Develop a toolkit for learning

What will help most with the theoretical side of your training is being able to identify how you learn best as an individual.

Everyone learns and revises in different ways. The ATPL will involve a lot of self-led study which requires self-discipline and an ability to reflect back over the day’s lesson and prepare for the next class.

Always remember to give yourself enough time to study and take regular breaks. FTA graduate, Chris offers advice: “Set the pace from the start. I didn’t try hard enough to begin with - it’s in your first module that you learn how hard you have to study to complete your ATPL theory and qualify as a pilot. It’s where you find the pace you need to work at and you can set your routine for studying, planning and revision. If I gave anyone advice about pilot training it would be to put in the work from the beginning. The more you apply yourself to your studies, the better you will be.”

There is a lot of information and research available for helping you absorb information. Click here for our top tips for improving your memory and concentration.

4. Remember to set study goals and create a study plan

Your ATPL theory course is divided into 14 topics and, (depending on when you enrol at FTA), you will have around four to five subject areas to study before you take end of module progress tests, and upon successful completion of the tests, you will sit four to five exams.

Head of Ground School, Dave Mortimer advises, “We suggest two hours set aside each evening to go through the lessons of the day and a day at the weekend of self-study. The more time you can spend brushing up and reading up, the better. During lessons you will be set assignments, incomplete tables to fill out to help you revise and recap what was learnt in class."

5. Take regular breaks

At FTA, we offer ATPL theory as a residential course. That means that your training is delivered Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm in a classroom.

Breaks are taken throughout the day with an hour at lunch, evenings and weekends are your own but it is expected that additional time is dedicated to self-study and consolidation.

The course structure is designed so 75% of your training is conducted in the classroom, with two hours computer-based training and additional self-study each day. 

The quality of your break from study is as important as the study itself and our location and setting provides ample respite to refresh ready for the following day.

6. Brush up on each subject area before you start

When you enrol on the ATPL theory ask about the structure of the course and the subjects you will cover first. Be sure to read up as much as you can on these subjects ahead of class - this will help you process the information in each lesson.

You will excel much better in your ATPL theory if you research the industry and topics. Those that have a natural love and interest in the mechanics of an aircraft and how it flies will find that the theoretical study is much easier to grasp.

So, a good tip is to immerse yourself in aviation information. Create Google and news alerts with aviation news. You could also bookmark the following websites:

You can create RSS feeds from each of these news pages and organise them in an RSS feed aggregator. The best have been rated for you here: https://zapier.com/blog/best-rss-feed-reader-apps/

7. Enjoy it – get excited about each new topic and milestone

The time spent in ground school can be intense and your life will largely be placed on hold whilst you complete this important phase of your flight training. It’s important that you embrace the challenge and really enjoy it.

Create a study group with like-minded students, use some of the tips we’ve suggested for keeping your mind active and rewarding your hard work.

Perhaps keep a diary throughout your training. Make a note of your experiences, feelings and accomplishments in a journal. It might prove entertaining reading one day, or perhaps something to share with the grandchildren when you’re captain for a major airline.

One of FTA's modular students Demetris, actually documented his training with a blog on YouTube, called 'The Great Flyer'. This might be something you would enjoy doing, and inspire others in the process.

8. Practice your mental maths

You do not need to be a mathematician to be a pilot, but a sound ability in mental arithmetic will help when you’re in the air.

There are a few sites with tips and tools for improving your mental maths. We’ve featured the best below:

Some publications/resources which may offer some help are:

  • Padpilot's Maths and Physics' pre- ATPL iBook - this is available as a free download 
  • Mental Math for Pilots: A Study Guide (Professional Aviation) (Professional Aviation Series) ISBN13: 9781560275107
  • Mental Math: Volume 3 (Mental Math, Mental Math For Pilots, Mathematics) ISBN13: 9781522888536

FTA's ATPL Course content providers, Padpilot 

9. Organise study groups with other cadets

Study groups are a great way to get tips from friends in your class, share and explain what you’ve learnt and a good source of company when you stay late to study.

In the absence of study companions, you can also look up some useful apps and websites which help you revise. See below for the most popular ones we found online:

10. Be sure to work on your English

To enrol on our Integrated Pilot Training Course you will need at least a grade 4 or ‘C’ in your English GCSE. If English is not your first language than you need to be mindful that to be effective in your role as a pilot you will need to have a good level of spoken English. FTA’s UK-based flight school is very close to Brighton a vibrant, multi-cultural city with many language schools. If you want to look up some schools before you arrive, please feel free to take a look at the following sites:

Non-EU students will require a minimum of level 4.0 (B1) in IELTS. The UK Government’s website has a list of all approved English language tests on their website: www.gov.uk

You will need to observe these requirements to be successful in a VISA application. More information about the requirements if you’re visiting from overseas can be found here: www.gov.uk

11. Be cautious of bad advice

Your tutor will be able to tell you everything you need to know about the subject areas to cover and offer advice on how best to prepare for each lesson progress test or exam. Be sure to make the most of the instructor staff and approach them for any information or advice you think will be valuable.

If you have any concerns about subjects in class, schedule a check in with your tutor and share any worries or concerns you may have.

12. Don’t ever be discouraged

You will never be put forward for an exam – let alone progress test unless your instructor believes you are ready.

To pass an exam you will need to get at least 75%. If you complete a progress or mock test and only get 70-74% you will re- complete the test before you take the final exam.

If you’re struggling to get over 70% in your progress tests you will progress with the other modules with your class mates and simply revisit the module at the end of the 6 months. This allows you to focus on the same theory as your classmates and while leaving you free to take time reviewing the modules when the ground school instruction is complete. It may well be that you’re stronger in some subjects than others so you should never be disheartened if it is taking a little longer to grasp a subject area.

13. Make the most of the tools, facilities and resources in the school

There is a lot of information and resources in the flight school which will help you stimulate an interest in your studies and fuel your interest in difference areas. In the flight school you have a simulator, a Gamin simulator, free access to a library of books and aviation publications, access to the network, free WiFi, a lounge area to get some respite for training, access to the control tower, aircraft and engineering company. It will all help and you won’t be left alone to struggle with your pilot training, searching for inspiration.

Being a busy airport means that you frequently see a myriad of aircraft using the airport, communicating with the ATC. Brighton City Airport is used by other flight schools and aviation businesses, the military and their training teams, private charter companies and jet owners and leisure flyers.

We are unlike any other pilot training academy in that we are based on a very busy airport. Air Traffic Control, Fire Crew and an engineering and maintenance company are all co-owned by the same management company as FTA Global. This means that you can meet the Air Traffic Control staff that you speak to over the radio, see the runway from their perspective or take a look at the inner workings of the aircraft you’re flying at Apollo maintenance. Whatever it is you love about flying – you will find inspiration to fuel it at FTA.

14. Immerse yourself in the training content

FTA deliver all their theoretical instruction using Padpilot's training manuals. These are available as iBooks on iPads or MacBooks. Each subject manual contains diagrams, video and animations as well as interactive 3D models that can be zoomed into, explored and rotated. You won’t be carrying 14 books around with you so you can take your self-study anywhere to the library, home at the weekends, to the beach in the evening – anywhere you find it best to study.



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