View Full Version : The question bank and rote learning

CATS Support
27th Nov 2011, 13:22

27th Nov 2011, 14:09
Hmmm... I lost the will to live about 2 pages in. What are they trying to say? That rote learning is no good? My grandchildren could tell them that. They ought to take on board that one reason why people are tempted to learn the answers is that the question bank is so abysmal that they have no choice if they want to pass the exams!

"Doing it the proper way" presupposes that the QB has some credibility in the first place.

27th Nov 2011, 14:47
A typical "survey" full of academic psycobable telling us the bleeding obvious. How much did this lot cost?

Best part of 12 years ago now the JAA lost a great chance to produce a sensisble & useful examination system, but like anything to do with Europe it was a compromise & fudge leading to the flawed CQB.

Fortunately some senior/more experienced training captains are now getting wise to the "rote" learning system and are questioning the wisdom of such a system. A training captain friend of mine is getting very concerned about the lack of underpinning knowledge some of his trainee F/Os arrive with.

27th Nov 2011, 20:30
A defining paragragh

Rote-learning is a learning technique that often involves little or no explicit understanding of the material that is learned (Ormrod, 2001). The material is memorized by repetition, which means that no transformation of the knowledge is required and the person simply tries to remember the material learned without context or a view to apply the knowledge to other situations.
By contrast, meaningful learning refers to a learning technique in which the learning material is learned consciously and fully nderstood. Meaningful learning leads to knowledge acquisition that enables the application of this information to novel situations.

Sadly we see too often in this forum the desire to 'nail the questions' rather than learn the subject with frequent reference to database inadequacy.

I always thought examinations were intended to establsh a level of knowledge and therefore I welcome any moves that ensure the subjects are 'meaningfully' learned.

However it does require that a RELEVANT syllabus be established, taking cognisance of the advance of technology. We no longer need to know the speed of a gyro or the like.


27th Nov 2011, 22:02
Well, no need to read all of the 62 pages, just go to page 56 and read the conclusion. (

The report basically says, that yes, it appears to be possible to pass the ATP exams by rote-memorization/learning without gaining a deeper understanding of the subjects and recommends EASA that it should increase the size of the CQB to at least 20.000 to 30.000 questions to discourage any attempt of rote-memorization or making it impossible, and a very limited time frame in which the examination has to take place regardless of modular or integrated training.

Well, I seriously doubt that this will be the antidote to the core problem, lack of knowledge among students or rookie F/Os. In my opinion the CQB and/or EASA syllabus deals with an abundance of outdated and escapist questions/topics (like Halfwayback mentioned in his post - see above) and instead of being expanded and further complicated, should be cleared out, revised and updated.

28th Nov 2011, 07:06
If you make the assumption that the "good" questions are already in the database then in order to increase the QB you are left with the solution of wordplay which is exactly what got them into the current pickle at the moment.

The real solution would be for an oral exam with a drastically reduced QB focusing on core understanding of the main subjects but we can't have that cos it would mean copying the FAA system which is just not on!

28th Nov 2011, 11:40
I've never had a Tech interview, but I wouldn't want to attend one after just rote learning.

28th Nov 2011, 11:59
A move away from multi-guess questions would be a welcome start.

The theory side needs to be radically overhauled, but the danger is that FTOs might have to only select candidates that can read & write!

29th Nov 2011, 21:25
The basic problem is that the present ATPL theory is about 90% irrelevant to any form of aviation.

They need to sort that out first.

But it isn't going to happen because if they did that, they would end up (as MCDU2 says) with the FAA ATP study and you cannot do that ;)

30th Nov 2011, 19:39
Sorry, I have to disagree. the ATPL theory isn't 90% irrelevant. Some of it is but by no means a large proportion as you suggest.

It's that kind of false belief that leads students to think they can safely ignore learning in favour of exam cramming - that's a big mistake.

A lot of the theory is trying to teach basic principles which, if properly understood, allows you to apply that knowledge to almost any situation.

The current syllabus is a long way from perfect but it does get you thinking and it's a he'll of a lot better and more relevant than the old CAA syllabus that preceded it.

Despite its limitations with a bit of imagination the subjects can be brought to life and taught in a meaningful and totally relevant way.

The biggest hurdle to proper learning isn't, I suggest, the 4 option multiple choice, but the way the exams are constructed. 4 opt MC is dreadful but much worse is having to teach students, for example, grid navigation and the North Atlantic track System in the same breath as the elementary principles of visual navigation in a light aircraft.

If the exams were properly split into basic and advanced knowledge then we could do proper integrated learning which means learn then practice followed by learn then practise.

Unfortunately EASA seems to have neither the intellectual clout nor manpower to mandate the kind of training system this industry so badly needs.

30th Nov 2011, 20:47
personally I think there is an argument for as you say a two stage exam system with the second stage only being able to be opened up when you have met the current ATPL experence level.

Then they can hammer you on all the stuff that really does kill you in commercial operations and stuff you need before going LHS. And have a rehash of the previous level to make sure its sticking.

And only after you have passed that set of exams can you sit the ATPL LST.

1st Dec 2011, 03:52
I have to agree with Graham - I'm still using ch long as a mental calculation in remoter areas. Believe it or not I can also fix CRTs, but that's because I'm a computer engineer :)

More seriously, what appears to be irrelevant now will become relevant much later. It's also good background knowledge that helps you learn other stuff.

1st Dec 2011, 21:51
Hey Paco I can vouch for your computer engineering skills. You sold me my first ever PC way back when. I still remember your flat in Shortlands packed with bits and pieces of hardware!!!

2nd Dec 2011, 03:08
Wow, that was a long time ago! :) have you still got it? The office here still looks like somebody got into a computer and sneezed!


3rd Dec 2011, 14:31
Corruption is the bigger problem.

The syllabus may have elements that are less relevant to certain types of flying, but what I learned was generally all good stuff, looking back.

Learning by rote will get you through current CAA exams.

This is possible because the actual CAA Question Bank is available. It's common knowledge. Go to a certain groundschool, and for a nominal sum you will get the full, current UK CAA set of multiple choice questions and answers.


Why the hell is this available? The groundschool in question claims it's built this question bank purely out of recall of people entering the exams. BULLSHIT. There were enough hints, nods and winks in that groundschool to tell you other forces were at work. Not to mention the fact that their QB questions were essentially word-for-word and answer-for-answer to the actual exams.

How then, are they able to release full version updates at the same time as the CAA?

Spend one months per module on that bank, and you will recognise each question and answer sufficient to get 95%+ in the actual exams, with time to spare.

Total bollocks. That's what needs fixing first and foremost.

If the actual exam questions were not available in the first place, people would have to do some proper studying. Not all of the ATPL syllabus is hard, there's just quite a bit of it.

1085 questions in Met can be memorised and pushed into the visual automatic response regions of the brain, sufficient to pass that exam, and I personally feel that's the trickiest exam in some respects.

How can anyone defend a multiple choice exam system where applicants can buy the answers?

Because of this, the only barrier to entry in this game is cash and some time.

3rd Dec 2011, 17:00
Not sure if somebody has got their wires crossed but the whole JAA ATPL QB was obtained under the FOIA in (IIRC) Germany and then translated into English. This was all legit.

The national versions of this QB are all slightly different, and the UK CAA has been more proactive than most in weeding out the worst of the meaningless and ambiguous rubbish. I have done the 7 IR exams this year and found very few of the really badly phrased questions which any "QB" is littered with.

But, variations notwithstanding, the various QBs on offer at/by the FTOs are easily good enough for productive revision. I used the one which despite the buggy website was probably 80% "right" and that is plenty good enough because there are long runs of very similar questions, a dozen at a time, and if you learn one you can calculate any variation.

In that sense, one is actually learning by doing the QB. What more do you want? Hang upside down while studying?

Anybody with more than half a brain doesn't need to spend anywhere near 1 month on each subject. 1 week will do it nicely, full time revision.

An exception might be a foreign student who cannot speak English and his/her only way is to cheat totally. This is a huge huge issue in higher education today, in the form of plagiarism, and > 90% of postgrad material is plagiarised from the www, by foreign students who can barely read or write English.

Corruption is not relevant to this, although there are rumours that a particular school "down south" had in the past arranged exam passes, for a very fat fee.

3rd Dec 2011, 20:03
Passing the exams is one thing. I'm inundated with applications from people with the basic qualifications at the moment.

Demonstrating adequate knowledge at interview is another.

You may all rest assured that, like my colleagues with whom I interview, I can spot someone who learnt the question bank, from a hundred miles, on a dark night, in fog, with one eye closed and the other watching the X Factor (God forbid).

There is no substitute, in exams, interviews, or professional flying, for a sound fundamental knowledge of the subject matter.. To progress into training or management, you need to know the basics inside out.

I hope that's clear!

( for 'learning by doing the question bank...'. He's done it again!)