PPL ground school can be hard going. Check out my best selling Pilot Training Guide on Amazon for how to complete your PPL and all your other pilot training!
Although I fly the Boeing 737 now, it does not feel like that long ago at all that I was struggling and trying to get through my PPL ground school exams.
If you read on, I will share some of the mistakes I made during PPL ground school (so hopefully you don’t have to repeat them) and also some of the ‘tips and tricks’ I found along the way.
What is PPL Ground School?
There will come the point during your PPL ground school course where you will feel the exams are impossible/waste of time/money or just unnecessarily complicated (I continue to believe the flight calculator – CPR1 is witchcraft!!).
The CAA stipulate that all private pilots have to have completed the nine theoretical knowledge examinations to apply for their licence though, so it is just something you have to get through if you want to get a Private Pilot Licence.
PPL exam list
- Air law (See it on Amazon)
- Human performance (See it on Amazon)
- Meteorology (See it on Amazon)
- Communications (See it on Amazon)
- Principles of flight (See it on Amazon)
- Operational procedures (See it on Amazon)
- Flight performance and planning (See it on Amazon)
- Aircraft general knowledge (See it on Amazon)
- Navigation (See it on Amazon)
Why do we do PPL Ground School?
I guess the whole point of PPL theory is that it is to give you a baseline of knowledge and procedures so as you go through your training, you can implement the techniques (navigation, communications etc) and stay safe and legal.
You will also have the confidence in your knowledge as a commander once you get your licence!
When is the best time to complete your PPL Ground school?
The winter for me as the weather was usually rubbish! What worked well for me during my PPL ground school course was even on days when the weather was poor or not flyable, I would still go into the flying school.
You don’t want to get behind on ground school and have to waste good flying days indoors doing PPL exams. I tried to complete my PPL in the shortest space of time around my job, so that meant weekends were for flying.
I would book one flying lesson in the morning and one in the afternoon on each of the weekend days.
Continuing to go into the flying school when the weather was not suitable for flying, gave an excellent opportunity to press on with the PPL ground school.
I would recommend this. Find a quiet room at the flying school, and if you get stuck, you have easy access to your flying instructors at the school to help you.
The first exam you will need to get out of the way is the air law exam. You need to have completed air law to do your first solo flight. The textbooks I used were the Pooleys books.
I still have my books and refer back to them from time to time, especially when I have not flown GA aircraft for a while or have a revalidation flight coming up.
You can get the books cheaper via eBay for example, or occasionally they do come up second hand for resale on various Facebook groups. Do what works best for you!
How long are PPL Exams valid for?
Once you have sat the first exam, the remaining exams need to be completed within 18 months after the end of the first calendar month when the first one was taken. Still, though, you will want to get through your PPL exams as soon as is practical and at a reasonable place during your flight training.
Navigation ground school, for example, helped me become more confident by being able to apply the principles learnt during my flying lessons, e.g. diversions, dead reckoning, map reading etc. With all the PPL Exams complete, they remain valid for 24 months.
Where can I do PPL Ground school?
Your PPL ground school has to be completed at an Approved Training Organisation (ATO). The ATOs can be both physical (i.e. your local flight school) or you can do your PPL Theory online. Just make sure the ATO is approved via the CAA.
I did mine with my local flying school (Ravenair) which also happened to be the closest PPL Ground School near me. Figure out which option works best for you.
How can I take my PPL ground school exams?
The first key point is you are only allowed to take your exams after your ATO says you can having completed the relevant training. The UK CAA has brought in an online system.
Points worth bearing in mind – all nine PPL ground school course exams have to be completed within six sittings. Each sitting is a period of 10 days when a given exam is taken. So it would be best if you were tactical in how you ‘group’ your PPL ground school exams.
You do not want to sit too few exams in each sitting as you will run out of sittings. You also do not want to sit too many either as not to overwhelm yourself. You do need to leave room within your exam sittings in case you are unfortunate and have to re-do an exam.
The PPL ground school exams pass mark is 75%.
What does PPL ground school cost?
Your PPL ground school training is either included upfront within your PPL flight training cost if sold an all in one package for your PPL. If you are doing your PPL ground school course on its own, then prices start around £475 rising to about £800 depending on what package you go for.
The lower end typically is the bare minimums consisting of a majority of your study (min required is 70hours) followed by 30hours of ground school study at the school. The requirement from the CAA is 100hours of mandatory training. Some ATOs offer Online PPL ground school like CATS Aviation.
How to pass your PPL exam questions?
With the EASA PPL exam questions now being online and coming from a centrally controlled question bank based on the EASA PPL ground school syllabus, the good old days of being able to pass solely by practising past question many times over are gone!
The PPL exams are becoming more in character to the dreaded ATPL exams whereby CAA exam questions are continuously changing and being adapted.
The online system is not all flawed though, as if your ambition is to pursue a commercial pilot licence later, then, this process is a good introduction into the ATPL exams framework.
There are no shortcuts to PPL theory anymore. You just have to understand the material thoroughly. The steps I took were:
- Go through the material first.
- Then practice past questions.
- Any you get wrong, go back and revisit the material.
In truth, no question bank is 100% accurate anymore as questions change all the time, so the best bet is to know your stuff. That said practising PPL questions can significantly improve your learning.
Bottom line – Use all the resources available to you: your instructors, your coursemates at the flying school, online forums, PPL question banks etc. That was the only way I managed to pass my PPL ground school.
Free PPL ground school resources – does such a thing exist?
Definitely! Facebook community PPL groups can be beneficial. Also, don’t forget free trials with question banks like PPL Questions.
I would love to hear how you are finding your PPL ground school experience with the exams now being online? Please leave a comment in the section below!
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 captain with over 3,000 hours of flying in Europe. He holds a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, is a chartered engineer, and is a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self-funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.