After talking to my instructor when I was first starting out, we decided it would be best to get the FAA Written out of the way at the beginning of my training. I would recommend the same thing for new student pilots as well. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Training becomes more fun: You have the confidence in aircraft systems necessary to really know your airplane. It is extremely rewarding to pass the FAA Knowledge Test. You won’t feel that nagging feeling of knowing you need to study for an exam. You won’t be stressed out about the exam during training if it’s already done! Best to just get it out of the way! The final check-ride and oral exam comes at the end, so no need to worry about that (for now).
  2. Do it while the weather is bad: Get the exam done while the weather outside is questionable and often poor. Once the weather improves in the spring and summer, finding a time to fly will become much easier! In addition, it can become more predictable in the spring/summer compared to the winter = less cancelled flights!
  3. The knowledge gained will SAVE you TIME and MONEY: After having studied for the FAA Written, you will have a solid base knowledge of many airplane systems, aerodynamics, navigation, maneuvers, etc. Your training will go faster (you’ll already know how to handle certain situations). All of this equates to money saved. The better prepared you are for a flight, the smaller the learning curve is. Because of this, you’ll save money and time, finishing up safely and effectively in minimum time.

All of this led to the question: “what is the best way I can prepare for the Knowledge Exam?” I am using a variety of study tools available. When deciding on study tools, my parents and I decided to go for diversity of materials. In the end we hope these will expedite training, give a good base knowledge, save money in the long run, and of course, do as well as possible on the Knowledge Test. (shoot for 100%!) I’d rather not be a C pilot…

Here is what I am using to study and why:

1.  Jeppesen Private Pilot’s Textbook: Jeppesen has a line of standardized textbooks ranging from Sport Pilot to Airline Transport Pilot. I decided to go with Jeppesen for my main textbook because their system has textbooks laid out in the same fashion for every level. There are questions at the end of each sections to test knowledge. In the future, when I need a book for the next certificate (lets say instrument) I will know what to expect diving into the book. So far, I’ve gone through the first two chapters (I’m shooting for 1 per day). There is a lot of information presented at once!

2.  Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course: I am someone who learns a lot visually. The graphics, advanced animations, in-cockpit footage, and much more contained in this modular course really have been great to watch and learn from. They have flashcard sections, formatted practice tests, and will even give you an endorsement to take the FAA Written after having passed two tests with a minimum of 80%. Reading from a textbook is great, but actually watching how people fly in live time is priceless. The course is pretty pricey, but well worth it in my opinion.

 3.  Gleim Private Pilot FAA Knowledge Test: this textbook is full of every released question that the FAA could give on the written exam. It is divided into units and sub-units. Each question is given, with the correct answer being given in a separate column (including an explanation for why). At the end, there is a practice test with randomly selected questions and answers. For me, this will be used mainly as a follow-up tool after having read the Jeppesen book and watching the Sporty’s Online Course. In the end, a lot of choosing on materials comes down to what you are comfortable with and what type of learner you are. Do you like visual animations? Do textbooks work better for you? My opinion is that in an ideal situation you will try to learn using as many available methods as possible.

Hope my ideas might have given you something to think about when deciding on study materials! Best of luck to all of you,
Swayne Martin

About The Author

If you want to become a pilot, I want to make your journey just a little easier. I'm a First Officer for Envoy Air, one of the largest regional airlines in the world, and have partnered with industry leaders like the U.S. Air Force to teach about various aviation careers. For a full bio, click the "About" tab above. Use the "Contact" tab to shoot me a message.

12 Responses

    • Swayne Martin

      Thanks Karlene! Have a good flight!

      I hope it’ll help someone out with studying. It can be challenging sometimes…

      Feel free to share it everyone! Want to help out as many people as I can

  1. cecilielarsen

    I agree! If I could have redone it all, I would have done it like you have planned to do it. I did my PPL in a Part 141 school. We had 2 weeks of ground school at the beginning of the training (before we even got in the plane) for PPL theory, then 2 weeks of instrument theory. I actually passed both my PPL and IR FAA written exams before I ever went up in the plane with my instructor. The studying I did was more memorization than understanding, which is not a very good way to learn things, but I got it out of the way, and as I progressed through the program, I picked up things that I remembered from studying the GLEIM books.

    • Swayne Martin

      That’s an interesting approach in doing that all before flying. I guess that’s pretty common at 141 schools.

      I have enjoyed studying so far. I really like making connections between my flying, Sporty’s videos, and text reading. It’s been pretty efficient so fa r 🙂

      Thanks for reading,

  2. The Practical Aviator

    Great post, I suspect you will do very well on the written with this approach, and very smart to get it out of the way early so you can spend your time on the important task of becoming PIC! Looking forward to more posts and following your adventure!
    The Practical Aviator

  3. capnaux

    Great post, Swayne! Good stuff. It’s amazing to me the excellent training aids now available to you. Looks like you’ve weeded them out and found the best–good advice! You’re definitely a perfectionist when it comes to flying, so I know you’ll do well!

    • Swayne Martin

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      For me, it’s pretty much a matter of safety. Sure, you can pass the FAA Written with a C, but do I really want to be a “C” pilot? …. no way! If I am going to go through with this, I’m going to do the best I can with it and treat it like any of my honors courses at school 🙂

      Swayne Martin

  4. capnaux

    PS–Just published a new post over on my site that ends with a “coming soon–interview with Swayne” teaser…guess I’d better get crackin’ at that post, lol!


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