Pilot Aptitude Tests - Pass Your Pilot Selection Day
This blog, discussing all about Pilot Aptitude Tests, is part of our extensive How To Become A Commercial Pilot guide.
Pilot Aptitude Tests – What To Expect
Pilot Aptitude tests are part of nearly every assessment process for candidates wanting to enrol on a pilot cadet program.
With the above in mind, you must research what you can expect during each airline of flight school aptitude test.
An internet search is one of the best places to start.
Many companies online were created to prepare future pilots for their aptitude test assessments.
These companies will provide up-to-date information on what to expect and even provide practice assessments that you can carry out from home.
Most of these services charge, but it’s a good idea to use their services, and I thoroughly believe it’s worth the investment!
Having practice tests, even if not 100% accurate, is a great idea to calm your nerves more than anything else!
However, here is a guide to pilot aptitude tests for free!
The Different Kinds Of Tests
The following examples are the aptitude tests I carried out when I applied to become a pilot in 2014.
However, at the time of writing this post, I have been informed that the aptitude tests still follow a similar format (depending on which FTO you apply for, of course).
Not only this, but these aptitude tests were similar in concept to those I performed in 2016 when applying to join the airline I now proudly fly for.
The first pilot tests we will discuss will simulate flying with a joystick. This test is mainly designed to assess how ‘natural’ the candidate is at basic hand-eye coordination skills and flying.
As the Airbus fleet, an aircraft family that many commercial airlines operate, use a joystick to fly, this test is very useful!
This test will provide you with a set of crosshairs on a screen. The aim is to use the joystick to keep the cross hairs centred.
Throughout the test, however, the effect of the joystick is different. So, pushing hard will have a significant effect at some points but not at others.
The trick is to make small movements and wait for the response before adjusting again.
This skill is very relevant when it comes to flying large aircraft.
It is essential not to make overcorrections as it can lead to an unstable aircraft and do more harm than good.
As mentioned, the test is designed to assess hand-eye coordination, so there isn’t much aptitude test preparation you can do before this task.
It mainly falls into the category that you can either do it or can’t (most people can). Playing computer games using a joystick may help!
This pilot aptitude test will present three pictures of a man in different positions and orientations.
For example, one might be upside down facing you, another standing upright but facing away from you and the other standing upright and facing you.
During the test, you will be given a phrase such as ‘positive left circle.’. Next, you need to identify how many men, if any, out of the three are holding a circle in their left hand.
Another example of this phrase was ‘negative right triangle’, where you would have to identify how many don’t have a triangle in their right hand.
This test has multiple rounds with different time limits. This test is probably one of the more challenging aptitude tests I have seen. I have drawn a very rough diagram to help explain this better.
For example, what would your answer be if asked ‘Negative right circle’? Don’t read the answer yet; make sure you get it right.
Your answer should be ‘two’. The question asks how many people don’t have a circle in their right hand.
The man on the left (as we look at it) has a circle in his left hand. The man in the middle does have a circle in his right hand, and the man on the right (who is facing away from you) has a triangle in his left hand.
Therefore, the two people do not have a circle in their right hand.
The third type of pilot aptitude test is a pattern test.
This test will present you with two different boxes. Within each box, there are lots of shapes randomly put together, overlapping each other to create shapes within other shapes.
Below these two boxes, you will be told which shape you are to identify.
The task is to identify if this shape is present in either the left box, the correct box, or both boxes or if it’s not present.
This task is simple, and you get a lot of time to do it.
The fourth example of the tests you might face is what I like to call a grid/concentration test.
This task will present you with a five-by-five grid. On the top of the grid, you will see five different shapes and, on the side, five different colours.
You will examine the grid and click the shape when the colour and shape match up.
In the example I have drawn here, you would ‘click’ the blue triangle as the shape and the colour line up correctly.
Each combination will have a time limit. Therefore, it’s a delicate balance to scan the shapes/colours quickly and accurately.
This test is relevant to what we must do when flying commercial jets. When moving at very high speeds, things happen very quickly. Therefore, it’s essential that our ‘scan rate’ is fast but also very accurate.
There is another aptitude test that I call ‘tracks.’
You are given a little aircraft on the screen, and, using the arrow keys, you must fly this model through various boxes. It’s as simple as that.
Another commonly used pilot aptitude test you may expect to face is a mixture of different activities.
These tests are therefore used to test your attention and your multitasking.
It may not be these exact tests, but often it will use a combination of audio, visual and hand-eye coordination activities.
When flying a large aircraft, you must communicate with multiple people whilst handling the jet safely. This involves scanning your instruments to ensure your flight path is correct (speed, altitude, pitch, power and more must always be accurate).
First, you may be given the same task as in test one, simply keeping the cross hairs centred.
However, whilst doing this and working on your hand-eye coordination, you will be given a number sequence to keep track of.
Here’s how it works:
The voice will read a starting number, say 4-8-5. This number is, in fact, 485.
The voice will then say another number, for example, 5.
From here, the voice will count down in 5s.
So, starting with the first number, 485, you will hear ‘4-8-5, 4-8-0, 4-7-5’ and so on.
The pattern will eventually change. Therefore, you must identify when it does.
It will read ‘4-8-5, 4-8-0, 4-7-5, 4-7-1’.
At this point, you must click to say you have noticed the change. You must also identify what the change is.
In the example I have just given you, the number changed from 475 to 471, meaning a change of 4.
The series will now continue in 4s. So, it will now go ‘4-7-1, 4-6-7, 4-6-3’,,’ etc. You must then identify when the pattern changes by more than 4.
After doing these two activities simultaneously for a few rounds, the test will present you with a third activity to complete simultaneously.
Whilst completing the above, there will also be a shape read to you, for example, YELLOW SQUARE.
Different shapes will then appear down the left side of the page with different numbers in the middle of the shape.
You must identify when the yellow square appears as quickly as possible, recognising and entering the number within the shape.
These tests may sound overwhelming and challenging to complete, but like all the other activities, it is more than doable.
You will always be given practice tests/sections between tasks to ensure you know what to do.
Use this practice time to your advantage. To put you at ease, I don’t think I missed one thing during this last activity, and I’m no Superman!
To Summarise – Pilot Aptitude Tests
Ultimately, you may not face any of these above challenges.
However, I wanted to provide an example of what aptitude tests might look like.
As I’ve mentioned, it’s relatively easy to find out precisely what aptitude tests you’re likely to face.
A simple google search should provide you with some up-to-date forums or Facebook groups where you might well be able to get the information from people who have just completed the process themselves.
Again, I highly recommend paying for the online practice software if you can find these services.