Well today (02/03/2012) was the day I had my FAA Knowledge Test. I arrived 30 minutes early for my test and walked in to the Twin Cities Aviation School building where I saw Chris (the Proctor for the exam) already in a conversation on the phone. He however, it seems, was expecting me and waved acknowledging my arrival. I waited for him to finish and within a few minutes he ended the phone conversation and said, “So are you ready for the test?” “Yes I am” I replied smilingly even though I was a little nervous. “Do you have a photo ID and your sign off letter from your instructor?” he asked, and I opened up my wallet and presented my Driver’s License first, and then unzipped my pilot’s bag and took out the sign-off letter from Mr. Whipple and gave that to him. He took a photocopy of both but only returned my license.
“Okay, you can only take with you a calculator, a plotter, and the E6B computer into the examination room. Everything else has to remain here, even your cell phone if you have it with you. Scratch paper, pencils and the figures book are all provided.” I took out the above mentioned items from my bag and placed my cell phone inside and zipped it. Chris took the bag and said, “I’ll place your bag here behind the counter where it will be safe and you can collect it at the end of the exam. Now do you want to go to the rest room because the exam will continue for 150 minutes and you won’t be able to leave?” I used the restroom and then we went upstairs to a room that was adjacent to my Ground School Night classroom. There were other people there, but I think they were other instructors as they had large desks and were working. I was taken all the way to the rear of the room and there were four computers all with a chair in front of them. “This is the one that you’ll be using” said Chris. I took off my coat as Chris explained that the first 17 questions were about how to use the computer software to answer the questions. “Don’t worry, you will not be timed for this and no exam time will be lost. Just go through the three steps. The first step is going through this software showing you how to use it, the second is to fill in your details i.e. your name, zip code and date of birth (since you did not want to use your social security number), the third and final step is the exam itself”. Chris then said, I’ll keep an eye on you in case you need anything through this camera”, and he pointed to a corner in the ceiling behind me. Chris then said “Pass mark is 70% or more, good luck!” and closed the door.
I went through the first 17 questions of the software which basically showed me how I could skip a question, how I could erase my answer, how I could enlarge a diagram I was being referred to, where the clock showing the time left for the exam to end was located on the screen, how I could tag questions to return to later etc. I was also informed here that there would be 5 test questions the FAA will be trying out, but I wouldn’t know which questions these would be and when they would be introduced into the test. Once I was done with this part, I entered my details into the computer which then asked me to check the information before I began the actual exam. I was now finally able to start the exam. I was nervous and excited at the same time. There were some questions I did not want to see, and most of them didn’t come up, but there were a few that did. I made efforts to answer all of them and tagged some that I could return to later. I wanted to first finish the one’s I could do and then return to the more difficult or the most time consuming one’s. Once I went through all the questions, I returned to about 5 questions which I had tagged for later review. When these were complete, I went through all the questions again, just double checking to make sure. I ended up changing two from the original answers. Then I had to press the quit button to end the test, which I did but then I received a message from the computer stating that I had some incorrect answers, and if I wanted to go back and check which one’s, I would have to call the proctor who would then have to enter a password allowing me to re-enter my test to check those answers that were incorrect. I would have another 10 minutes to go through these incorrect answers, but I had already double checked and was fairly satisfied that I had passed, and was definitely expecting my practice test result of around 82%-87%. I cancelled the message (i.e. I did not want to re-check my answers) and then I was asked to complete a survey to help the examiners improve the test. I had to answer questions like, was the exam environment quiet and free of disturbance, if I disagreed with any answers I could explain which ones, was the proctor helpful, knowledgeable and polite etc. When I was finished with the survey, the quit button appeared again, then I was asked, “Do you really want to quit?” I replied yes, then I received another question, “Are you sure you want to quit”, I said yes, and then one final question from the computer, “You’re absolutely sure you want to quit?” I said yes again. These weren’t the exact words but close, but I was asked if I wanted to quit three times! After the last quit attempt, I received the final message, “Please see the proctor”. I looked at the computer clock and I had 39 minutes left before the end of the exam. I put on my coat, gathered my things i.e. Plotter, calculator and the E6B computer, and the scratch paper that I had used to do some calculations on so that the next person could come to a clean area, exactly as I had found it.
I opened the door and went to see Chris who was sitting at his desk with the other people I saw when I first entered the room. “Are you finished?” he asked. “Yes I am” I replied and then he went to the computer and picked up the book of diagrams, graphs and charts that was provided and switched off the light. He then asked me for my scratch paper which I had crumpled up in to a ball, but I gave it to him. Then he said, “Let’s go down and get your score”. He printed off the score and said, “Congratulations you got 95%!” as he presented me the paper showing me the FAA approved embossed seal. I was shocked and extremely elated to hear this, and immediately asked him “Where’s the score?” “Oh right here” Chris pointed, and I was happy to see that indeed I had scored 95% which meant I got 3 incorrect out of 60. 😀 Then he pointed to the codes for the ones I had gotten wrong. “Before your oral and/or practical, your flight instructor will go through these with you and once he’s satisfied that you’re up to par in these areas, then he will complete the lower portion of this paper, sign it and send it off / give it to the examiner. Once again congratulations!” Chris concluded.
I thanked Chris and left feeling very happy and pleased with myself. I called Mr. Whipple as he had asked me to inform him of the result. He wasn’t at home and his wife took down my information and said he would call as soon as he returned. About 10 minutes later the phone rang and when I informed Mr. Whipple of my result he was very happy and congratulated me and said, “Oh so you were worrying for nothing!” he said laughingly. I then told him, “Well I’m pleasantly surprised because even in my practice tests I was still getting around 82%-85% and there was only one test where I had gotten 87%”. “Oh really? Then I’m sure you must be accusing the examiners of giving you an easy test then?!” said Mr. Whipple. “Well yes and no, but these tests are generated randomly and you get the test you get I suppose”, I said.
Then I asked Mr. Whipple about the instrument class, and asked when it was and if he was going to be teaching it. He said that he was teaching it and classes would be starting on February 21, 2012 and they will be from 6pm – 9pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “Are you going to take the class?” He asked. “I’m thinking about it, yes. I want to do it while the VFR information is still fresh in my mind” I replied. “Yes and you’ll be able to go straight into the instrument flying instructions immediately after your VFR is finished” said Mr. Whipple. He then added, “You can come in on the day of the class and I can register you then, you don’t have to register before that if you don’t want to. I’ll email you the same email I emailed all the students for the Instruments class”. I asked if anyone from the VFR class had registered to study for the IFR class, but he said “No, from the list of student names I don’t recognize anyone”. With that, I concluded our conversation and said that I will most probably be attending the IFR classes.
Here’s the email I received from Mr. Whipple:
Tiger: Here is the info I sent to everyone else. Congratulations on the private test and I look forward to seeing you at the instrument class on Tuesday, February 21. Dan
Good morning. I would like to introduce myself and welcome you to Twin Cities Aviation Instrument Ground School. The class will start on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 6 pm in the upstairs classroom at Twin Cities Flight Training at the Anoka County airport. We are located at the far North end of Airport Road next to the control tower. We will be using the Jeppesen Instrument/Commercial text book along with the FAA airman knowledge Test Guide by Jeppesen. Please try to purchase the books before the first night of class as we will be using them the first night. TCFT has an instrument kit which will include the books, etc. I will be lecturing, using power points, DVD information, and overhead information on a nightly basis. I follow the outline of the text book and write all the tests and quizzes out of the knowledge test guide to help you prepare for the written exam.
I am the assistant chief flight instructor at TCFT with 35 years of instructing experience. I am also a professional educator with 37 years of teaching experience in the public high school. I look forward to meeting you all on the first night of class.
Please return an email to me firstname.lastname@example.org so I know I got the correct email addresses and will know how many copy materials I will need for the first night of class.
Daniel Whipple, Assistant Chief Flight Instructor
Twin Cities Flight Training