Prep for your Checkride the Right Way!
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Getting ready for a checkride can feel pretty overwhelming- especially once you finally purchase all the study books that your instructor recommends. How are you going to have time to read all of that in the few short weeks before your checkride? Are you even ready for your checkride? What if you can't study it all and then don't pass? I know those are all thoughts I had in the past before a checkride. However, prepping for a checkride doesn't need to be stressful, it can be exciting, as long as you follow a few easy steps.
Create a Study Schedule
I didn't learn this trick until I was prepping for my instrument checkride, but once I did it made my checkrides look like a piece of cake instead of the most intense few hours I would have to endure. Before I began my final studying, I pulled out my PTS (Practical Test Standards book, now the ACS Airman Certification Standards) and created a list of all the items I needed to study before my checkride. You can purchase the ACS from your local FBO, online, or you can download it for free from the FAAs website. Remember, if it is not in the PTS, you can't be tested on it. It is no surprise what you will be tested on- it is all outlined in detail in the ACS. Here is the list I made when I created my schedule for the Commercial Checkride: (yes, I still had a copy of it after all these years... haha). Commercial PTS Requirements
Certificates and Documents
Cross Country Flight Planning
National Airspace System
Performance and Limitations
Operation of Systems
Before Takeoff Check
Radio Communications and Light Signals
Airport Runway/Taxiway Signs/Markings/Lighting
Normal Takeoff and Climb
Crosswind Takeoff and Climb
Normal Approach and Landing
Crosswind Approach and Landing
Soft Field Takeoff and Climb
Soft Field Approach and Landing
Short Field Takeoff and Climb
Short Field Landing
Power-Off 180 Approach and Landing
Eights On Pylons
Navigation systems and Radar Services
Simulated Emergency Approach and Landing
System and Equipment Malfunction
Partial or complete power loss
Loss of oil pressure
Vacuum/pressure, and associated flight instruments malfunction
Landing gear of flap malfunction
Inadvertent door or window opening
Smoke/fire/engine compartment fire
Emergency Equipment and Survival Gear
High altitude operations
After Landing Parking and Securing
After I typed up every single subject, I printed off the list and wrote the dates I would study each item to the left of the subject area. I typically liked to give myself Saturdays and Sundays off, so I figured out how many days I had to study and then with some simple math decided how many subjects I would need to study each day to be ready a few days before my checkride. For example, if I had 10 days to study, I would need to study 5 to 6 subject areas each day. Most days my schedule required 1-2 hours of studying, give or take. That may seem like a lot, but studying for just a few hours a hour a day is so much better than cramming for 20 hours the days before the checkride! Trust me.
Stick to your Study Schedule Once you have created your study schedule, you need to commit to sticking with it, like your life depends on it! Look at your free time each day and decide exactly when you will study. For me, I liked to get up a few hours earlier than normal and study in the quiet hours of the morning. I was able to study without distraction, and then I didn't have to worry about it for the rest of the day. Talk about peace of mind. Find out what works best for you and stick with it, no matter what!
Last Word of Advice
Do not wait until the last minute and then stay up for days straight trying to prep for your checkride. Of course you may be able to pass your ride, but how much of that information will you retain after you complete it? Isn't the whole point of a checkride to make sure you are a safe pilot? Don't you want to be the best at what you do? Absolutely! You are tested on those specific areas because you need to know that stuff to stay alive and be a flying pilot for the rest of your life. So don't procrastinate. Begin studying for your checkride early so you have time to understand and apply the information. If you follow these few easy steps, a checkride will no longer be a stressful event, it will be an exciting event, something you will go into knowing full well you have the knowledge and skill to pass. I still get nervous before checkrides, but not because I think I won't pass; it's just the typical nerves I feel before I force myself outside of my comfort zone and do something for the first time. Prepping for a checkride and then passing it is a lot of work, and not something many people do, so make sure you do it the right way. Have fun studying!