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Tips for Success on Transport Canada Writtens

Background Study and Advance Preparation, Personal Attitude Tips and Advice

When you are preparing for any aviation exam, you are building up your knowledge base that will always be with you as a pilot: dedicate yourself to this task with real effort right from the start and you will benefit greatly throughout all of your future years piloting aircraft. Your period of study for a Transport Canada aviation exam is an important opportunity to learn and to prove what you know; do not think of the exam as a mere adminstrative hurdle in your way towards getting a licence/rating.

Ensure that you have studied all relevant background subjects. The best way to be certain you are studying the proper subjects is to use the appropriate, CURRENT Study and Reference Guide from Transport Canada as a checklist (incorporated and cross referenced within all of our Ground School Course training texts). Do not waste your time studying irrelevant topics that will not be on the exam: for instance, if you are preparing for the Recreational Pilot Permit written, you should not be studying gas turbine engines, high altitude IFR charts, supersonic aerodynamics, cabin pressurization systems, cockpit voice recorders, instrument landing systems, flight planning procedures for trans-oceanic flights, Category II runway lighting systems etc. etc. As well, for the purposes of exam preparation, avoid wasting time browsing aimlessly through such giant regulatory reference sources as the Aeronautical Information Manual and Canadian Aviation Regulations. These are very lengthy documents and will take forever to learn and should only be used to reference a particular subject if further or specific detail is sought. Focus all of your study energy on the task at hand - getting ready for a particular written. If you want to learn detail for the sake of curiosity beyond the required subject knowledge for the written, learn these off topic areas after you complete the exam (otherwise you will "burn out" and know too much about irrelevant subjects and virtually nothing about the basics).

Be sure that you study only from CURRENT MATERIALS! Due to changes to government regulations and enactments affecting aviation, changes to aviation technology, adoption of improved aviation training programs and methods, publication of new government publications etc. it is never a good idea to study from aviation training manuals that are out of date (all Culhane training manuals are revised on an ongoing basis and we issue revised versions of our publications annually).

Just because you have sat through ground school from start to finish does not necessarily mean that you must now be ready for the Transport Canada written. Once you have learned the mandatory subject areas, spend some time taking as many practise exams as you can - the more realistic, the better. When you write a practise exam, don't look at the answers before you have finished the test since this will defeat the whole purpose of identifying your strengths and weaknesses. When you have finished a practise exam, after scoring yourself, you should carefully analyze your scoring to determine what subject areas need further study and review: what subjects can you easily handle? What subjects tend to cause you problems? Write out a list on a blank piece of paper with two columns: one column should have the title: KNOW, and on this side, list those subject areas from your practise exam that you can easily say you know and don't need to worry about. The other column should have the title DON'T KNOW, and on this side, list those subjects that you will need to review (our texts make the identification and sourcing of exam question references easy since every one of our exam questions is cross referenced to our course texts with subject reference numbers). Then re-learn and re-study your weak areas. Don't waste your time re-studying the material you already know! Diagnostic school exams can be useful but are often not the most reliable indicators of your exam readiness because flying school/club exams are frequently out-of-date or not truly accurate/representative of actual/current Transport Canada exams. And even if you have scored 90% on an old school exam, don't think that this alone means that you will "ace" the latest Transport Canada test. The Transport Canada exams are difficult and they are constantly re-written and updated: you will only do well on them if you have prepared thoroughly from CURRENT study materials.

Just because you may have worked as a commercial pilot with a small VFR operator for a season or two or as a flight instructor (or you have flight experience in the military) and you might have accumulated 1,000 hrs plus of flying time does not now automatically mean that you know everything there is to know about flying and can easily handle an advanced test such as the ATPL's, INRAT, IATRA etc. When preparing for an advanced exam, you must temporarily set aside your practical, "hands on" operational flying experience gained from "real flying" as compared to the formalized, theoretical textbook subjects that comprise the advanced writtens and that you will have to study and learn from first principles. The key to your success on advanced aviation writtens is to follow the same study discipline as if you were preparing for your PPL: be humble, study hard. Learn all the relevant background topics as per the relevant Study and Reference Guides (incorporated in our ground school texts) since these comprise the formal subjects that you will be examined on. Be wary of making loose or generalized assumptions about avation rules, regulations and theory based on hearsay, "hangar talk" or based on practical experience that may not derive directly from the source material from which such rules, regulations and theory are based upon. For example, many who sit their ATPL writtens lose valuable points on basic licensing and medical questions e.g. "what is the basic privilege for the holder of an ATPL that is above and beyond that of the CPL?" (it has nothing to do with the gross weight of the aircraft!!).

Avoid participation in "exam gossip sessions" with fellow students on what is or is not on the current Transport Canada written. You have to learn the required subjects, plain and simple, and if you do the work of studying all mandatory subjects, you will have no difficulty on your Transport Canada exam without any advance specific knowledge of the current test you will ultimately write.

Don't cheat!! Unfortunately, it is a fact that current Transport Canada exam questions can sometimes be stolen and passed around via internet discussion forums, unscrupulous flying instructors and copyright infringers. If you encounter such stolen materials, it may be tempting to take the "easy route" and memorize such material so that you can avoid having to complete any real study and write your exam based on being an accomplished "parrot" by memorizing current exam material and re-iterating it when you sit your exam. But in the end, when you cheat, you are robbing yourself because you will not know the materials and subjects that you ought to know as a pilot. As well, you do a dis-service to other pilots and to the reputation of pilots in general by the fact that you basically don't really know your trade because you never properly learned the applicable subjects. When you don't know your trade, you are a "second rate" pilot. In the final analysis, especially if you want to become a true professional (as you should), take the "high ground" and DO YOUR WORK by completing all the study and effort that you rightfully should, both for your own sake so you will be a knowledgable, competent and safe pilot, and for the sake of having safe and competent pilots in general e.g. would you prefer to be a passenger in an aircraft flown by a knowledgable, safe and competent pilot, or an aircaft flown by a parrot? Would you prefer to have surgery from a doctor that cheated on his/her medical school finals, or from one that never cheated and passed his/her finals legitimately? Should you ever encounter pilots that attempt to pass on such stolen material or brag to you about having passed a Transport Canada exam on the basis of cheating by memorizing stolen Transport Canada exam questions, give such persons a few words on why such behavior is foolish and above all, bad airmanship. In my view, psychologically speaking, persons that pass on such stolen materials have the mentality of juvenile deliquents: they want to impress others and so, in their quest to find peer approval, they steal a car, shoplift, vandalize public property etc. so their friends will like them. Passing around stolen exam questions is exactly the same mentality.

Be highly wary of what you read in online forums, internet discussion groups etc.! I am frequently amazed at the level of ignorance by self appointed "experts" who post anonymously on various Canadian and international aviation web forums, blogs and chat sites. These big talkers love their sense of importance more than anything else and the content that they post online is often full of basic misconceptions revealing poor understanding of the subject: these sources in general are not very accurate and in general you should take such unverifiable material as weak and unreliable. If you want accurate material, go to original authoritative sources such as government source regulations and publications or materials formally published by known aviation authors and publishers.

Avoid last minute cramming on the eve or morning of your written. Frantic cramming just before the written only serves to muddle your thinking. When the time comes to write, you should arrive at the exam with a relaxed, well rested and fresh mind.


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