ATPL questions and exams were probably the hardest studies I ever did in my life! All the hours on the questions bank going through ATPL questions and answers, missing out on social life!

If progressing your CPL/MEIR etc. and you want to avoid the common mistakes (overpaying, poor flight school selection leading to problems passing CPL & MEIR etc.), check out my best-selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon.

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Money was tight, and I didn’t want to fork out for yet another question bank. I remember my first module with CATS Aviation- having completed their question bank and the BGS question bank a few times.

I wanted to look at the other question banks to see if there were any gaps with what I had done but wanted to keep the cost down.

Into Google I went looking for “free atpl questions and answers”! In this blog post, I wanted to share some of the options available for free if you wanted to augment your study by looking at other atpl exam questions for a limited time.

My position is that the question banks are worth every penny and without them, there is no way I would survive ATPL exams – so please support them whenever and in any way you can!

Quick links to what is in this post:

ATPL questions

There are two versions of ATPL questions and databases currently available. Make sure the ATPL question banks you are using have the applicable databases.

The two databases are:

  • EASA 2016 (ECQB 7.0) Database
  • EASA 2020 Database

What is the difference between ATPL question databases?

Countries using ECQB7 include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK. 

The EASA 2020 database has been released. The significant changes include the addition of new chapters and questions based on student feedback and the removal of many old redundant questions. 

As I have said in my previous posts, it is almost like an arms race between the various CAAs to keep adding new questions of different ways of asking the same questions – as the question banks catch up with student feedback! 

There is no shortcut to getting through ATPL questions. The only guaranteed way of passing is to know your material inside and out and have plenty of practice with several question banks based on the latest student feedback. 

Considerations when deciding on which ATPL Questions provider to use?

Updated database

You want to make sure the provider of the ATPL questions you are using has up to date questions reflecting either the EASA 2016 (ECQB 7.0) or the EASA 2020 database (depending on which you are studying). Whilst ATPL questions alone will not guarantee a pass, having good practice questions to revise will hone your exam technique.

Part of the challenge in answering ATPL questions is to know the material and a particular skill needed in understanding the intent behind the question, particularly when a given question has two answers that may be similar and are both technically correct. Having good up to date questions based on either EASA 2016 (ECQB 7.0) or the EASA 2020 database will be a massive help.

Real ATPL Exam questions

You don’t want to waste your time practising ATPL questions that have been taken out of the syllabus, so the provider of the ATPL questions you use must keep the questions up to date. Most ATPL question providers add new questions daily and remove old questions to provide as accurate a question bank as possible.

Live student feedback

One of the features that helped me was to be able to take exams based on questions identified by previous students.
I would even go a step further and say that in some exams, I would have failed (despite knowing the material) had the feature of existing students identifying questions not been available.

As you are getting close to the exam, identifying recently asked ATPL questions in the exam will save you a lot of time and focus on your last minute revision.

Last 200 (now Top 200)

atplGS question bank was the first to come up with this feature. As a result of live student feedback identifying recently seen exam questions in ATPL question banks, consistent comments from the various ATPL theory student forums have been that the top 200 in many cases have provided between 60-80% of the questions later seen in the actual exam.


There is no substitute for good study material during ATPL exams. ATPL questions with explanations will save you vast amounts of time during study.

Let’s say you get a question wrong.

Rather than going back through the textbook and finding the exact reference buried deep in some text, a quick explanation within the question bank may be enough to jog your memory and correct your thinking, so next time you get the answer correct.

Quadrant questions

No longer are ATPL equations all multiple choice. New style questions have been developed where you have to type the answer in yourself, select multiple statements that correspond to the correct answer or use drop downs to complete a response.

To get the most out of your ATPL questions prep, you want to select a provider that allows you to practice this style of questions.

Progress reports

Spending hours practising VFR or IFR communication questions is no point when you get 100% with each practice. Progress reports and summaries will allow you to see where your weak areas are.

When I was completing my ATPL exams, I used the BGS question bank, and the goal was to get to 100% for each topic and repeat the question bank a few times for each subject.

The progress report and summaries provided for each subject helped focus my attention on the weak areas. Some ATPL questions providers now allow to see not only progress by topic but by learning objective also.

ATPL questions with comments

From the atplGS site, comments allow you to read how other students interpret and understand explanations to the questions and offer your invaluable advice and opinions to help others.

Collaborative learning is excellent as you may be able to help others out in their understanding. Equally, someone may be able to present something to you from a slightly different perspective that allows you to understand an ATPL concept that you were struggling with. 

Free ATPL Questions and answers

8) ATPLex.eu: free ATPL questions and answers

I had not heard of ATPLex.eu before writing this post but on checking them out I was pleasantly surprised by the number of free questions available and the quality of the explanations to accompany each question.

See ATPLex.eu here!

7) ATPLOnline: free ATPL questions

ATPLOnline has the option to try 14 questions for free. Compared to the ATPLGS, AviationExam and BGS etc, as a taster, this is great but not as comprehensive as the other question banks.

Check out my review of ATPLOnline here.

Are you hour building? Click here for the FREE Structured Hour Building Web App to help you get the most out of hour building and prepare for your CPL course!

6) ATPL OnTrack – Free Questions

ATPL OnTrack offers 10 free ATPL questions and answers in each of the ATPL Theory subjects. They currently have a sale for the 2020 Syllabus @ £12 for 30 days.

Check out ATPL OnTrack question bank here!

5) Caledonian Advanced Pilot Training: free ATPL questions and answers at rtfq.org

I was not aware of rtfq.org – They do have atpl practice questions and answers. They offer questions by region and have both Aeroplane and Helicopter syllabuses. rtfq.org offer 20 practice questions for each subject.

Check out rtfq.org here!

4) ATPL Questions: Free ATPL Questions And Answers

ATPL questions allow you to complete 20 questions from each subject for free. This is fine, and I appreciate the free trial is not designed to allow you to revise from – but rather ‘test out’ the interface, question style etc.!

If you choose to go with a full subscription, ATPL Questions had 13,186 Questions in EASA 2016 Database at the time of writing. The number of questions they have for the 2020 syllabus is shown in the table below.

SubjectEASA 2016 SyllabusEASA 2020 Syllabus
Air Law853955
Airframe, Systems, Electrics, Power Plant13051340
Mass Balance382379
Flight Planning Monitoring897833
Human Performance Limitations10931140
General Navigation934914
Radio Navigation873817
Operational Procedures824884
Principles of Flight16761753
VFR Communications320
 IFR Communications318
Summary of ATPL Questions (2016 vs 2020 syllabus) from ATPL Questions

Visit ATPL Questions here.

3) Aviationexam free test

Aviation exam allows a free trial, but the questions are limited to just 5% of the question bank. What I liked about Aviation exam is the ease of which to use the question bank for the different syllabuses i.e. EASA 2016 or EASA ECQB 2020.

Check out the Aviationexam free test here.

2) Free ATPL questions and answers: atplGS question bank

When you sign up for ATPLGS free trial, you get access to around 5% of the question bank. ATPLGS do have discount offers from time to time, so check out the free trial first before you sign up. You may get a discount pop up when trialling the question bank. The free trial is available for 7 days!

Check out my review of atplGS question bank here. As I mentioned in my atplGS question bank review, one of the best features I love about them is the ATPL Questions last 200 feature. Total lifesaver! You will need a paid subscription though to access this feature.

If you do decide to take a full subscription, below is a summary of the ATPL questions that atplGS have when comparing EASA 2016 (ECQB 7.0) vs EASA 2020 Database

Subject2016 Syllabus Qs2020 Syllabus QsQuestions Added in last 6 months
Air Law10741070141
Airframe, Systems, Electrics, Power Plant15831403124
Mass Balance54748885
Flight Planning Monitoring1009994207
Human Performance Limitations941939241
General Navigation919834152
Radio Navigation867902173
Operational Procedures823725215
Principles of Flight14941440198
VFR Communications16324
IFR Communications489182
Summary of ATPL Questions (2016 vs 2020 syllabus) from atplGS

1) Bristol Ground School Question Bank Free trial: The best one!

BGS must be one of the best ATPL question bank free trials as you get access to the complete question bank for three days! BGS question bank saved me during my ATPL exams . With free access to the whole question bank for three days, you can get a lot done if you already have a primary question bank you use and just wanted to augment and make sure there were no gaps.

Check out my review of Bristol question bank here.

The spirit of this blog post is not to ‘cheat’ the question banks out of revenue, but to share options available if you needed access for a day or two to top up what you have already done elsewhere! Please support the question banks wherever you can as without them – there is no way we would pass ATPL exams!

Which ATPL exams are the hardest?

Principles of flight and operational procedures. Principles of flight is hard because the ATPL questions and answers can often be very subtle in phraseology and easy to get wrong. Also, the theory can sometimes be confusing and take a while to get your head around. Operations procedures can be hard because of the sheer amount of information you need to know and commit to memory.

How can I pass my ATPL exam?

Simply put, hard work, consistency and determination. ATPL exams are difficult and there will be many moments that you feel like giving up!

  • Don’t lose sight of the reason why you are doing ATPL exams
  • Work hard, but also have regular breaks. I did not study during the weekends and instead progressed my hour building.
  • Study effectively, buy learning the material but also making use of question banks
  • Be consistent with your study i.e. x number of hours each day. Remember it is more effective to work for a few hours every day than to try and do everything at the last minute with 18 hours days!
  • If completing your ATPL exams via distance learning, try and arrive at the brush-up classes with all the problems that you need help with. Don’t sit back and expect to be ‘taught’ during the brush-up – there is simply not enough time
  • Don’t waste exam sittings

Check out my post on how to pass your ATPL exams.

How many questions are at ATPL?

682 questions over 14 exams. When you combine all the exams, there is 18 hours and 15 minutes to complete all 14 ATPL exams.

Is ATPL theory hard?

ATPL theory is not complicated if you break things down and look at individual topics, questions or subject areas. Provided you can do essential addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and can read and write at GCSE level, that will be enough.  

What makes ATPL theory hard is the sheer volume of information that needs to be committed to memory. The other complication with ATPL theory is that just because you know the material inside and out on its own will not guarantee a pass. 

Successfully passing ATPL exams relies on knowing the material thoroughly and having practised several thousand ATPL questions to get into the groove of how the CAA would like you to answer the questions.

How many times can you fail an ATPL exam?

You can attempt an ATPL exam a maximum of 4 times. In addition, all 13 ATPL exams have to be completed in 6 sittings, and once you sit the first ATPL exam, you have 18 months to complete all 13 exams. An ATPL exam sitting is a session where you take a group of exams during a particular week without interruption. 

How do I prepare for an ATPL?

1. Decide on whether distance-learning or full-time course

Depending on the type of student you are and how you learn, choosing the right kind of course for your ATPL exams will make a massive difference to the outcome. 

For example, if you are not disciplined in studying or maybe are not confident with maths and technical concepts, a full-time face to face course may work better for you.

Alternatively, a distance learning course may be more suitable for you if you have family constraints and have to hold down a full-time job whilst studying ATPL exams.

2. Learn how to study again

For most, ATPLs will come after a period when you have been out of education. During my ATPL exams, I spent the first period figuring out how best to study again. 

I kidded myself thinking that I could study for my ATPL distance learning exams whilst sitting in front of the television each evening with the iPad in hand.

Check out my course on skillshare on How To Study Effectively if you have not already. Skillshare is running an offer at the moment for 4 weeks FREE.

How to study effectively
How to study effectively

See the class here

Get a dedicated work area free from distractions and interruptions, get into the rhythm of working in 30-40minute bursts, and then take a break. 

3. Motivation 

ATPL questions and exams will be tough! Depending on how quickly you can get through the material, ATPL exams will require a lot of sacrifices and consistent study over 6-18 months. 

Figure out what your reason is for wanting to complete the ATPL exams. I was desperate to fly professionally and had recently been through a redundancy process in my previous engineering job. I felt like getting through ATPLs was key to giving myself a new start to do something I would love to do by flying professionally.

Everyone is different, so figure out your motivation, write it down, keep focussed on the end goal, and recognise that ATPL exams are just a process you need to go through to where you want to be (hopefully flying professionally). 

There will be days you get tested, and the last thing you want to do is study. The key to ATPL exams is the consistent study and not giving up. You will eventually get there.

I lost count of the number of 4 am alarms before work, Friday nights in, and not being able to go out. 

4. Know your ATPL study material

Gone are the days when you could get through ATPL exams by smashing through the question bank two weeks before and memorising all the answers. 

You have to know the material as new questions get added all the time, and it takes some time for the question banks to catch up. 

Knowing your material may make the difference in allowing you to eliminate some answers in a multiple-choice question when you have no idea!

5. Practice ATPL question 

Exam technique is key to getting through ATPL questions. Part of the skill required to get through ATPL exams is knowing how the CAA want ATPL questions answered. 

There are several answers to multiple-choice questions that may be technically correct in many cases. Lots of practice on ATPL questions will help you figure out how some of these questions are to be answered. 

Some ATPL exams are time-limited, so there is very little thinking time. 

You have to know straight away what the question is asking and how to answer it, e.g., general navigation or flight planning. The answers have to be at your fingertips; otherwise, you will waste valuable time thinking and not manage to complete the ATPL exam in time.

6. Take breaks

It would help if you took regular breaks from ATPL study; otherwise, you will burn out. ATPL exams take at least six months to complete (mine took eight months via distance learning), so you must pace yourself and give yourself a chance to rest.

Taking breaks will also help your motivation, and it will mean you are fresh and ready to resume studying after you have had a chance to do something else.

In my case, I did not study during weekends (unless I had an exam the following week). Over the weekends, I would progress my hour building, which brought perspective and reason to all the crazy studying during the week. 

7. Make sure you look after yourself, eat, sleep etc

Flight training is expensive, so it is understandable to want to scrimp on the essentials like accommodation, food etc. Try and get suitable accommodation that means you are well-rested and try and eat as well as possible. 

Even after ATPL exams, you still have a lot of flight training to complete, and the pressure doesn’t get any less, particularly when the goal is to get first time passes in everything (CPL/ MEIR).

After that, getting the first flying job is super competitive, so you need to keep going for another 12-18 months after ATPL exams and perform at your best.

How long are ATPL exams valid for?

ATPL exams are valid 36 months from the date of your last exam for the issue of Commercial Pilot Licence or Instrument Rating (IR). Once your IR has been issued, or you complete a type rating, your ATPL exams are valid for seven years to allow the issue of your ATPL.

What happens if you fail pilot training?

Like most setbacks in life, if you fail pilot training, dust yourself off, take a break, reset, and try again. There is no pilot in the world that has not struggled or failed some aspect of pilot training.

The actual impact of failing pilot training depends on what stage on what type of fail you have. Very rarely will failing a part of pilot training means that you are permanently excluded from becoming a pilot.

Failing some part of pilot training will generally mean taking that aspect of your pilot training again or finding an alternative aviation route that suits your abilities.

If we look at what happens if you fail pilot training at each stage:

Failing your Medical

Depending on what it is, failing your medical may require additional testing by a specialist in the given area. If the requirement that has been failed is a hard requirement, i.e. during a class 1 medical, hearing, or vision is not suitable, there may be procedures available to correct the issue.

Alternatively, if it is not possible to correct the given problem, it may be worth looking at a Class 2 medical. A class 2 medical would not allow you to fly professionally, but it still may be a valid avenue to allow you to enjoy flying recreationally.

Failing at PPL & Night rating stage

A fail at PPL or the night rating stage is not a big deal, although you may be disappointed. Get a good debriefing on the given area that caused the failure and speak to your instructor about undergoing some remedial lessons or studying to correct the problem.

It may be that your navigation is not up to scratch or your landings need extra practice. There is very little at PPL or night rating stage that an extra hour or two flying or studying with an instructor cannot resolve.

What happens if you fail an ATPL exam?

ATPL exams have the added pressure that all 13 exams must be completed within 18 months after sitting the first exam. 

There is also the constraint that you have a maximum of 6 sittings to complete all 13 exams, and you are only allowed a maximum of 4 attempts at each subject.

ATPL exam first series passes are also considered a differentiator when looking for employment opportunities as a pilot.

Whist first time passes in all ATPL exams is desirable, having one or two resists is not the end of the world and will in all likelihood not have too much of an impact on your employment chances providing you have a good flight school report.

The critical thing with ATPL exams, particularly if you experience a failure, is to take your time, understand why, and come up with a plan to redo the exam.

Was the fail because:

  • Were you not ready?
  • Did you not understand the material?
  • Or just a bad day / bad luck because of the lie of the questions in the ATPL exams

Figure out what the issue was. Take your time and only take the exam when you feel ready. Most tend to get a solid pass at the second attempt, provided they have studied and have put the work in and sought help for whatever the reason for the failure.

Think of it as a positive rather than looking at an ATPL exam fail as a negative. How you recovered after failing an ATPL exam may be one of your examples of being resilient during a competency-based interview for a pilot job.

The critical thing is to keep going and don’t give up.

Employers look at the ATPL exam passes because they are trying to assess your ability to absorb complex information over a short space of time, as you would be required during a type rating. 

Failing pilot training during CPL and Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR)

The CPL and MEIR will probably be the most challenging practical flying exams you undergo in your pilot training. The CPL and MEIR can be passed first, but the margins are extremely fine.
Switch off momentarily and make a significant mistake like not setting an altimeter correctly could leave you with a partial or fail.

Similar to failing an ATPL exam – whilst the stakes are high, it is essential to understand why you failed.

Sometimes it is also best to take a bit of time away from flying after a significant setback (but don’t leave flying too long). While I was fortunate to get a first series pass during my MEIR, there were days when I would be utterly saturated after a bad flying session or sim.

At those points, the best thing for me was to go home, take a break, digest, and leave flying for a few days vs the impulse of just doing more and more (which can sometimes be a waste of money).

If you fail or partial your CPL and or MEIR – it is not the end of the world. Employers prefer first series pass. Once you have a certain amount of flying experience and are competent, very few employers pay attention to CPL/ MEIR or ATPL exam results.

I found CPL and MEIR to be very psychological – there wasn’t anything new I was being asked to do in terms of the basic flying that I hadn’t already done before. The challenge was mentally getting myself in the right place, particularly after setbacks.

Honest, frank conversations with your instructor, chief flying instructor, or examiner to understand the issue that caused the setback and developing a plan to fix the problem are key.

Solving the issue that caused the failure may be through extra sim time, extra lessons, or flying with a different instructor to see if a slightly different approach will solve the problem.

What does frozen ATPL mean?

Officially, a frozen ATPL does not really exist. Instead, the frozen ATPL term has been unofficially classed as someone who holds a commercial pilot licence (CPL) and Multi-Engine Instrument Rating (MEIR).

The ATPL is ‘frozen’ until the person has the relevant experience in, i.e. > 1500hours total time and subject to meeting other requirements (check out my post on unfreezing your ATPL), they can take an ATPL skills test and ‘unfreeze’ their licence.

How long is ATPL theory?

The EASA ATPL(A) theoretical knowledge course is 650hours in total (consisting of a minimum of 585 hours distance learning study time and 65 hours ground school).

I did my ATPL theory ground school via distance learning, which took around 8 months to complete. ATPL theory takes approximately six months to complete if doing a full-time course.

How long does it take to complete ATPL?

With no flying experience, it will take between 3-6 years to get an ATPL.

ATPL theoretical exams take at least six months to complete via a full-time course. Completing ATPL exams via distance learning can take anywhere from eight months to 18 months, depending on how much time you can dedicate to study each week.

The remainder of pilot training to get a ‘frozen ATPL’ (completing CPL & MEIR) can take around 6-12 months, depending on how much time you can dedicate to pilot training.

Once you have a ‘frozen ATPL’ and multi-crew course, assuming you can get into employment in a multi-crew aircraft relatively quickly after flight training, it usually takes around 2-3 years (assuming flying about 700 hours per year).

You need to have 1,500 hours total time to take your ATPL skills test.

If interested in learning more about ATPL exams, CPL/MEIR etc, check out my best-selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon.

Listen to the Pilot Training Guide FREE with Audible here

See it on Amazon

If I have missed anything or you have any questions, please leave a comment in the section below – I would love to hear from you!

Good luck with your studies!


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  1. You might want to take a look at atplontrack.com too. 10 free questions per subject and only ?12 for 30 days

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