View Full Version : PPL Exams problem

10th Apr 2012, 10:18
Ok lads. I recently done bad in my PPl exams (65% average). It was my first go and I didn't prepare as I should have. I have always had an issue with study. At school I had the same problem. I just learn in the classroom and never do anything at home. Now been honest the marks I got from no study are up there and If I actually put effort into it I should have no problem. But I just cannot do it. I can't motovate myself for some reason. I love flying, have logged quite a few hours and I will be preping for skill's test soon ( x-country just done) flying is not an issue for me. I want to change all this. Has anyone any tip's on how to study ? I have a few old pass papers which help and I have the pooleys books themselves. I'm currently turning a room in my house into a study room etc. Another issue is that I'm Irish so the exams come around every 2 months !!!:ugh: may is my next attempt at this and I want to do better

10th Apr 2012, 10:25
Set aside a time on specific days of the week, which is allocated to study.

Stick rigidly to those times...never ever skip a session at one of these times.
Do it in this room you're prepareing, and make sure that there are no distractions. Those in the house with you need to know that you can't be disturbed during this time no matter what.

As you have an issue with will power, perhaps best to ensure that you have a treat after your study session. Wether that be some nice food, or a trip down the pub, so be it. But you only get your reward if you do your study. No reward if you start 5 mins late, or finish 5 mins early. (Again enforcing that policy on yourself takes will power.)

After that, it's just about having the discipline to stick to it. There is no easy way.

Genghis the Engineer
10th Apr 2012, 10:48
Ah "teaching and learning", I have a postgraduate certificate in that buried in a drawer somewhere.

Right, firstly, I agree with Dublinpilot - routine is really helpful. Also things to motivate you, and not (unless you are on real roller and enjoying yourself) keeping going for more than about 45 minutes at a time without a break.

Secondly however, you have probably come through a route of "passive learning" to date - learning through listening or reading. As a method, it works for very few people and is the reason that many people do badly in exams - because they have never really learned how to learn.

So, first things first, you need to get yourself into a pattern of active learning. DO NOT START WITH THE EXAM QUESTIONS. Start with the syllabus material and start working through it actively. What the heck do I mean my actively? - I mean by first reading, but straight after writing, creating your own notes, where necessary going to other sources when stuff doesn't make sense. Get to the point where you have a set of notes that you wrote, and understand. By all means set yourself progress tests at the end of important sections, but don't go to the exam questions just yet.

Once you've done that, do it again, create a new set of notes, probably far briefer, that summarise what you've written already in your Mk.1 version. Notes that again you understand, and trigger your memories to all of the existing material.

Decorate it, write it in Gaelic, handwrite it or type it as you see fit, insert lots of pretty pictures from the net if you like - nobody needs to understand or be impressed by them but you, and you do need to do it in a way that you find interesting.

Structure this so that in the exam subjects you are getting towards a full double set of notes around a fortnight before the exams are due. Then go to practice papers such as the PPL confuser (or more modern versions) and start doing the exams. Be rigorous about timings and marking, then go back to the notes and revise again anything you got wrong.

Keep that up, and you'll ace the exams.


10th Apr 2012, 11:53
I second Gengis' advice above. You need to get into the habit of writing stuff down rather than just reading it and trying to remember it.

As a true life example that proved the point to me as I was hopeless as exams in school. Many years ago I tried to cheat on an C&G electronics exam. I spent two nights devising a way to put key points on the inside case of my calculator. I made up codes and drawings that made it look like doodles and not an aide memoire of formula. I was actually quite pleased with the result and I'm sure it would have worked well if I'd remembered to take the right sodding calculator with me:ugh:. Anyway I took the exam and aced it as the very act of writing, rewriting smaller, devising codes and stuff had ingrained everything I needed to know in my memory.

Not saying you should cheat, but you get the point.


10th Apr 2012, 12:27
I would take issue with Genghis on this, though I don't have a diploma in education so perhaps you should take what I have to say with a pinch of salt. I've done OK for myself educationally, but perhaps I would have done better had I taken his advice.

My personal strategy is to start off with an exam, then revise the areas where I fell down, then try again. The important caveat on which I think we'd both agree is to spend much more time actually reading and understanding than actually doing the exams.


-Set the standard.

Something apparently simple a syllabus may say such as 'Explain the use of aeronautical maps and charts in practical navigation.' probably means a lot to the examiner, but as I already knew that pilots used charts I'm not sure what else (if anything) they actually want me to know. I can think of lots of questions like 'what's the difference between a map and a chart' or 'are electronic charts permissible', which may or may not be what the examiner was getting at. Likewise 'Define ICAO with examples of Articles and Annexes of the Convention.' A bit open ended, in my view.

- Reduce re-learning things that are already well understood. Chances are you know a lot of the material fairly well already. You want to concentrate on the things that you don't know, not what you already do.

- Practice exams help identify areas you think you understand, but don't. It can be quite difficult to do this without some kind of external aid.

- Sometimes give practical practice. I find the idea of learning about weight and balance calculations, then waiting until two weeks before the exam in order to actually do one, very odd indeed. For me the best way of understanding something like this is to simply sit down and work my way through a few problems, which should be included with model answers in mock papers or textbooks.

- There are topics where 'deep learning' isn't really a meaningful concept - you can only go so far trying to think of joined-up ways to remember signal lights and marshalling instructions. I'd use flashcards for these.

It only works when there are a fair number of mock papers to do, which thankfully there are for the PPL exams. You can get some good ones on AirQuiz - Online Practice Examinations for Pilots! (

My personal view is that the view of how learning should take place that Genghis outlined is driven by cost-cutting. Multiple choice exams are cheap and reliable forms of summarative education, but are very expensive to write. They're also not particularly good forms of formative education - i.e. you don't learn as much from doing them as you do from some other types of examination such as short answer questions or essays which are much more difficult to mark reliably.

Tim Bucks= UT Pilot
10th Apr 2012, 12:32
with everything else said, Keith Williams PPL Perfecter. First time high percent passes in everything so far, and I was terrible in school.....

10th Apr 2012, 12:36
Hello if you can get yourself to Bedfordshire for a week to 10 days I can help. I am an experienced ground instructor and flight instructor, and have just helped somebody in a similar situation.

Please feel free to PM me. I love groundschool !:O

Genghis the Engineer
10th Apr 2012, 12:47
Actually I mostly agree with you abdg - in particular about "learning by doing". You don't learn about weight and balance by writing notes about it alone, so much as you do by practicing preparing weight and balance reports. Similarly with performance - do the calculations, and again, until you can't get it wrong.

Multiple choice exams are horrible educationally, which is why very few universities use them for anything beyond class tests. On the other hand as you rightly say, they are very cheap to administer!

One of the problems with the JAR teaching system is that only a portion of the material is genuinely useful in the long term, but it isn't realistic for a PPL student to work out which. So, they do want to build up a good understanding of all of the material - which is where doing an exam first can be risky. Very few exams test ALL of the material, they have to be selective. So, you might get lucky with some aspects of the material in a practice exam, but later come a cropper when you discover that the real exam covers different aspects that are less intuitive. That's why, personally, I wouldn't be driven by a practice exam too early and put the effort into learning the material referenced in the syllabus.


10th Apr 2012, 12:52
Thinking back to your original question... You got 66.5% on average, but were there areas you did well on, and other areas where things went much worse?

My experience was that my revision strategy for air law (for example) was very different from my revision strategy for flight performance and planning.

I think that part of what I was getting at was that there are different ways of revising, which can be adjusted to suit both the person and the topic.

17th Apr 2012, 12:16
Thanks very much for the support lads, I'm on my phone now so I'll post correctly later, in relation to multiple choice, it's horrid as I went back and changed answers. The other issue is I thought I done ok. But you never know then where you done well or badly as they dont send you the test. I have gotten more into setting myself up now for the next round in May ( wish it was caa ) but I'll keep trying and learning. Again a massive thanks, your know how is invaluable to me

17th Apr 2012, 12:55
I concur with the advice given above. All good tips.

What helped me through my study was the combination of books and CBT's (together with some of the advice given above), and frequently testing the material learnt when a chapter ended.
I quite like CBT's they are interactive and certainly gave me motivation to carry on. The negative side is they are a bit expensive but certainly helped.

17th Apr 2012, 13:26
I'm a professional instructor (though not related to aviation). As such I regularly have to study new material for which no course material or courses exist. (In fact, in quite a few occasions I'm the one tasked with writing the course material.)

The best way for me to validate I understand the material is to find an empty classroom, and start explaining the material in my own words to an (imaginary) audience. (Even the empty classroom is imaginary, most often, but you get my point.)

oscar romeo
17th Apr 2012, 16:00
Irish Jason, before you jump into a routine of hard study I would seek out your options and that might work better for you.

Not evey one can learn soley from books. The folk on here have given you number of options like ground school, CBT as well as sensable advice about study planning You have the net at your disposal too if you get my drift.

The best advice I got when I did mine from the CFI was "RTFQ"

READ THE F***ING Question! which I forgot on numerous ocassions :ugh:

18th Apr 2012, 10:24
READ THE F***ING Question! which I forgot on numerous ocassions :ugh:

I get that alot :ok: Thanks for the PM alos. And again thanks lads, amazing help which has put my mind at ease somewhat :)