Mak­ing the Grade

How to study for and pass the FAA’s Part 107 Ex­emp­tion exam

Model Airplane News - - CONTENTS - By John Reid

How to study for and pass the FAA’s Part 107 Ex­emp­tion exam

When I tell fel­low RC pilots that I have my re­mote pilot’s li­cense, the first ques­tion they usu­ally ask is “Was the un­manned air­craft test hard?” This is a sub­jec­tive ques­tion, and much will de­pend on yo r back­ground and ex­pe­ri­ence with full-size air­craft. If you’ve never had any ex­pe­ri­ence with any type of air­craft and have never heard the term “con­trolled airspace,” then the test may be some­what dif­fi­cult, even after you take a class and study for it. But if you have any ex­pe­ri­ence with fly­ing and airspace, that knowl­edge will make it much eas­ier to un­der­stand the con­cepts that re­late to the ques­tions on the test. If you al­ready have a pilot’s li­cense, of course, then this should be an easy test. So my answer is al­ways “It de­pends.”

As a mag­a­zine ed­i­tor, I am used to dead­lines, so my first task was to sched­ule the test two weeks out. Once that was done, I had a study time­frame in which to find all the in­for­ma­tion I needed to learn it and pass the test.

Get­ting Ready

In this ar­ti­cle, I will cover the ways I stud­ied for the test and some tricks I have learned over the years to suc­cess­fully pass any test. The first piece of ad­vice—and this may seem ob­vi­ous—is that you must know the ma­te­rial. This means you need to un­der­stand the ma­te­rial, not just be aware of it. Know­ing that there is a dif­fer­ence, for ex­am­ple, be­tween Class B and Class D airspace is not enough; you need to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween them and the ex­act def­i­ni­tion of each. My ob­jec­tive was to learn and know the def­i­ni­tions of all the items that might be in­cluded on the test.

If you aren’t al­ready a li­censed pilot or aren’t very fa­mil­iar with airspace reg­u­la­tions, I rec­om­mend that you at­tend a sem­i­nar or take an on­line class that spe­cial­izes in the un­manned air­craft test. This is the best way to learn ev­ery­thing you need to know for se­cur­ing your Part 107 li­cense. But when I con­sid­ered my pre­vi­ous knowl­edge and my time sched­ule, I de­cided to go an­other route.

I started by check­ing out the rec­om­mended Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FAA) web­site (faa.gov/train­ing_ test­ing/test­ing), which has two down­load­able PDFs in the Re­mote Pilot Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sec­tion: the Air­man Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Stan­dards for Un­manned Air­craft Sys­tems and the Re­mote Pilot Study Guide. They are de­signed for the

Part 107 test and have good in­for­ma­tion, but I found the PDFs to be rather lengthy and some­what hard to wade through. There is also more in­for­ma­tion about fly­ing in gen­eral than you need to know to fly a drone safely in U.S. airspace (and pass the Part 107 exam). The guides cover many sub­jects about flight in great depth, so if you re­ally like to read, they will teach you ev­ery­thing you could ever want to know on the sub­ject of avi­a­tion. Oth­er­wise, pay close at­ten­tion to the sec­tions on airspace and read­ing nav­i­ga­tional maps.

IF YOU ARE SELFDISCIPLINED, YOU CAN PASS THIS TEST BY US­ING STUDY MA­TE­RI­ALS THAT ARE EAS­ILY AC­CES­SI­BLE ON­LINE. IF, HOW­EVER, YOU PRE­FER TO HAVE A LIT­TLE HELP WITH YOUR PREPA­RA­TION, THERE ARE A NUM­BER OF FINE SCHOOLS THAT WILL GUIDE YOU THROUGH IT EV­ERY STEP OF THE WAY.

Other Sources

After pe­rus­ing the ma­te­rial on the FAA site, I de­cided to head over to YouTube. Many of the videos were, to say the least, a waste of time, but I did find one by Tony and Chelsea Northrup that fea­tured a pho­tog­ra­pher who took the test and passed. They also of­fer a study guide that has a lot of good in­for­ma­tion, and I found it to be a valu­able re­source. In­cluded in this guide are num­bers (min­i­mum and max­i­mum), facts you need to know, weather in­for­ma­tion, METAR (Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Aero­drome Re­port) data and weather ab­bre­vi­a­tions, charts, con­trolled airspace def­i­ni­tions, links for chart-read­ing tips, METAR and TAF (Ter­mi­nal Aero­drome Fore­cast) acronyms, and de­cod­ing video links. I’ve posted the video on­line at ModelAir­planeNews.com/part107.

Prac­tice Makes Per­fect

After study­ing all the in­for­ma­tion I could find on the FAA site and YouTube videos, I headed over to a cou­ple of free prac­tice-test sites. One of the best can be found on the 3D Ro­bot­ics web­site (3dr.com), where you can answer sam­ple test ques­tions and then see all the cor­rect answers. An­other good one is on the Rup­precht Law web­site (jrup­precht­law.com); it pro­vides the cor­rect answers along with de­tailed ex­pla­na­tions. It’s a huge help to be able to take a prac­tice test in ad­vance of the ac­tual test. In ad­di­tion, you can take the tests re­peat­edly to help boost your con­fi­dence. What Is on the Test?

Be­fore tak­ing my test, these were my main ques­tions: Did I study enough? Did I study the right items? Should I have mem­o­rized ev­ery­thing in the rec­om­mended study ma­te­ri­als on the FAA web­site? On my test

(and please keep in mind that each test has dif­fer­ent, ran­domly se­lected ques­tions), the fol­low­ing were the main sub­jects that were cov­ered. First and fore­most was airspace, and most of the ques­tions on my test re­lated to this sub­ject. Along with this was the abil­ity to read and un­der­stand aero­nau­ti­cal charts. There were a few ques­tions on who is re­spon­si­ble for var­i­ous things dur­ing a drone flight (hint: it will al­most al­ways be the Pilot in Com­mand). Fi­nally, some ques­tions were de­voted to the de­cod­ing of TAF re­ports and METAR data and weather in gen­eral. If you go into the test with a firm un­der­stand­ing of these items, you will most likely pass.

Find­ing a Test Cen­ter

The Part 107 exam, or aero­nau­ti­cal knowl­edge test, must be taken at an FAA-ap­proved Knowl­edge Test­ing Cen­ter. To find one near you, do an on­line search or con­tact the providers: CATS (Com­puter As­sisted Test­ing Ser­vice)—800-947-4228; PSI Ser­vices—800-211-2754. The cen­ters charge ap­prox­i­mately $150 to take the exam. You will need to bring along pay­ment and an ac­cept­able form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, such as a driver’s li­cense.

Test Day

I ar­rived at the test­ing cen­ter just about an hour be­fore the test was sched­uled to be­gin so that I could have some time to go over my notes and re­view some of the study guides. Be­fore I take any test, I like to get my head in the game by look­ing at words and items that re­late to it.

This just puts it all fresh in my mind so that when I see the same words on the test, they are eas­ier to re­call.

When you sit down at the com­puter desk to take the test, or­ga­nize ev­ery­thing (and be sure that you’ve brought along a sim­ple cal­cu­la­tor, which you are al­lowed to have—there is no rea­son to miss a ques­tion be­cause of a math mis­cal­cu­la­tion). You have two hours to take the test; you’ll have two min­utes per ques­tion, which is plenty of time, so don’t let that bother you. Read each ques­tion care­fully be­cause some of the ques­tions are writ­ten in an un­usual way; you may need to read the ques­tion two or three times be­fore you un­der­stand what it is be­ing asked. Don’t rush—be sure to read the whole ques­tion. Care­fully read the ques­tion in its en­tirety and all the answers be­fore se­lect­ing one. Take your time!

If there are ques­tions that you just don’t know or un­der­stand, the test al­lows you to mark them so that you can eas­ily come back to them at the end. Do that, and come back to them at the end. This ac­com­plishes two things. First, by go­ing through and an­swer­ing all the ques­tions you know, you’ll gain con­fi­dence in your knowl­edge and re­duce any test jit­ters you may have. Sec­ond, after read­ing ad­di­tional ques­tions and answers, you may be bet­ter able to answer the ques­tions you tem­po­rar­ily skipped. In many cases, one of the three pos­si­ble answers can be quickly elim­i­nated be­cause it makes no sense. There­fore, if you are un­sure about a ques­tion, use logic to elim­i­nate one of the answers and give your­self a bet­ter chance of an­swer­ing correctly.

If you have time left at the end of the test, go back over ev­ery­thing just to make sure you did not mis­read any ques­tions and that you did, in fact, check the answers you meant to check. One bit of ad­vice: If you go back over your test and there is a ques­tion where one answer seems to be bet­ter than the one you se­lected but you are not ab­so­lutely sure, go with your first choice; it has bet­ter odds of be­ing cor­rect. When you have fin­ished dou­ble-check­ing your test, click the “Fin­ish” but­ton and get your test re­sults.

Re­sults

My study method worked well; I scored 92 per­cent cor­rect and re­ceived my re­mote pilot’s li­cense. If you are self-dis­ci­plined, you can pass this test by us­ing study ma­te­ri­als that are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble on­line. If, how­ever, you pre­fer to have a lit­tle help with your prepa­ra­tion, there are a num­ber of fine schools that will guide you through it ev­ery step of the way. How­ever you go about study­ing for the test, the Part 107 exam can be passed by any­one who takes time to learn the ma­te­rial, re­gard­less of his or her prior knowl­edge on the sub­ject. Good luck!

Know­ing how to read aero­nau­ti­cal charts, like this one on the left, will go a long way to help­ing you pass the test.

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