How to Prepare for a Scenario Based Oral Exam



New Airman Certification Standards

The new Airman Certification Standards (ACS) were developed by the FAA to provide a more integrated and systematic approach to testing. Most students and instructors think “Oh no! The test is changing!” But, what does this mean to the student? What we are actually seeing is that the examiners are moving from rote questions to scenarios that students have to think through. The FAA wants to see that you, the pilot in command, are making decisions that would reduce the risk of getting into an accident. The examiner wants to see how you apply the knowledge that you have in order to make a safe decision using real life scenarios. Simply put, MAKE SAFE DECISIONS.

Preparation for the oral exam

How does the student prepare for the new testing standards? Study, study, study!!!!!
Memorizing answers from the question bank will not be enough to pass a scenario based oral exam. Understanding the material is important. When the information is understood, then it can be applied to make a safe decision.

How does the student apply the knowledge? The FAA has implemented Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) as part of the pilot training curriculum. Instructors can train the student pilot to recognize the risks involved when making decisions. Incorporating checklists such as IMSAFE and PAVE can help students to make a safe decision quickly. Consider this situation: Your friends want to fly to KASE, it is an airport in Aspen, a beautiful place. Can you as pilot in command fly there? Before making this decision you should use the PAVE checklist to identify your level of risk.

Related: 3 Ways to Prepare for Flight Training in the US

P- Pilot in Command:

Am I ready for this trip?
Do I have the necessary currency?
Do I have the experience necessary to make this trip?

A – Aircraft:

Is my aircraft capable of making this flight?
Can the aircraft take off and land at the airport?

V- EnVironment:

What is the altitude of the airport?
How would my aircraft perform at this altitude?
Do I have the experience to fly in mountains?

E- External Pressure:

Are your friend’s going to be disappointed if you don’t make the flight?
Will you be considered a competent pilot if you don’t make the flight?

In the oral exam, before answering questions off the top of your head, ask yourself these questions and then give your response. This shows the examiner that you are using your knowledge to make safe decisions. Applying this method to any question asked is a sure way to pass your oral exam using the new ACS standards.

You can use the following rule from DPE Jack Boyd to develop scenario-based questions:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Consequences of taking no action
  3. Determine corrective action

For example:

  1. Engine fire during start up
  2. Fire will destroy the aircraft
  3. Throttle idle, mixture cutoff, motor engine until flames extinguish (Engine Fire Checklist)

Now, tackle that oral exam with the confidence that you can work through any scenario! Take a breath, consider the issue and work it out through resolution. That is what the examiner wants to hear.