The journey to becoming an airline pilot begins in the classroom. Whether you have chosen to complete a distance learning course or a more intensive option like an integrated route, ground school will be a test of your motivation and determination.
Ground school is unforgettable for many reasons, and if you ask any seasoned pilot about their time in the classroom, it's likely to be met with a familiar groan.
There’s no denying that it’s a tough and intense period, littered with both highs and lows. But the reward for completing is great...FLYING.
There will be times when you find yourself questioning the relevance of some objectives and you may even experience trouble remembering the sheer volume of information thrown at you.
If you have just started your ATPL ground school studies, then perhaps right now the prospect of completing those 14 Theoretical Knowledge subjects feels unachievable.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone...Read our guide to surviving ground school.
Stories and Myths
You will undoubtedly hear stories of people before you who failed their exams and simply couldn't keep up with the curriculum, unfortunately these are the stories that will stick in your head.
Despite this, you must remember that ground school has been passed by many people before you and will be passed by many people after you.
When the inevitable “I can't do this “ moment arrives, simply think about how hard you’ve been working and the end goal.
If you have been away from education for a few years, it may take you a little longer to adjust again especially to an intense schedule, this is normal and you will soon adapt!
Are you a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner? The sooner you identify this the better.
Below are some ideas on best study practices for each learning type:
The internet is full of videos, head to YouTube to check out some useful videos on your ATPL subjects.
Some people swear by post-it notes, covering your walls with key information, may be a great visual way for you to learn.
If you learn best from hearing information, then perhaps record yourself reciting information and listen to it throughout the day, in the car, in the shower or even in the gym.
These are the people who learn best from ‘doing’. Unfortunately, it's quite difficult to ‘do’ Principles of Flight. But perhaps try to persuade your flight school to demonstrate in the simulator. You may also benefit from reciting information with the use of flash cards or trying to explain principles to others.
Whichever route you take you will need rest, whether that is rest within a study session or giving yourself a full day off.
A day off can do you the world of good. Although it might feel like the last thing you should be doing, taking your head out of the books, taking a walk and distancing yourself just for one day, can give you a much-needed reboot.
If you set the whole day aside for studying then taking regular breaks is also important. Have you tried the Pomodoro Technique for optimal work/rest ratio?
There’s no such thing as a stupid question
Ask, ask and ask again.
Everyone is stronger in different areas, don’t compare yourself to others, over the 6-months there's no doubt you’ll find a subject harder than some of your peers, but don’t worry the time will come when you’re the one breezing through.
“More than likely in your class everyone has got a burning question on their mind, but they’re also, just like you, too scared to ask” Dean Corbin - First Officer
Don’t forget, you’re not alone! Whether you’re on an integrated course or learning remotely, there are hundreds of pilots-in-training in the same boat (or plane) as you.
Be sure to ask your peers when unsure, someone may say something that makes it all fall into place.
Over time your peers will become close friends, don't be afraid to talk to each another and treat yourselves to a meal out when you complete some exams.
Get in the bank
Question banks are the holy grail of revision for many pilots, use it but don’t abuse it.
Don’t just learn the answers without understanding the questions. It is very good for testing yourself and working out areas that you need to improve your knowledge.
But don't forget there are many other resources out there.
Don’t lose sight of the end goal
Don’t lose sight of the end goal, you might be questioning what does all of this have to do really with commercial flying.
Unfortunately, it can be seen by some as a hoop-jumping exercise more than obtaining useful future knowledge. In any case, airlines will still look at your ground school record, it says a lot about your qualities!
Ground School right now might be a gruelling experience, but you will look back with fondness over time, you’ll make friends and memories that will last a lifetime, and when you’re wearing your airline uniform and flying it will all seem like a distant memory.
The people who surrounded you on your first day just may well become lifelong friends and one day guests at your future wedding.
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