I am 17 and am going to be taking my check ride for my private pilot's license very soon. What tips do you have before I go up? (Oral exam and check ride).

I am more looking for personal experience and tips from people who have taken the check ride. I know what goes on during the check ride already, I'm looking for things people know would be useful from their own experience that they want to pass along.

  • $\begingroup$ Which country are you in? $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2016 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm from the US $\endgroup$
    – Zach W.
    Sep 19, 2016 at 4:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that What happens during a checkride for a private pilot license? really is a duplicate of this question. That question asks for the sequence of events, this is asking for tips on how to prepare. The two are definitely related, but I don't think it's the same question. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Sep 19, 2016 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, thank you. I am more looking for personal experience and tips from people who have taken the check ride. I know what goes on during the check ride already, I'm looking for things people know would be useful from their own experience. $\endgroup$
    – Zach W.
    Sep 20, 2016 at 0:53

3 Answers 3


Do NOT worry about getting an unsatisfactory result!! It just does not matter. There will be no record of it anywhere but in your memory. It's not noted on your certificate and, really, nobody will care. The PPL is a license to learn and that is what you'll be expected to do after you pass. The checkride merely assesses basic requirements. Now, if you want to be a professional pilot...it still doesn't matter. Nobody will care if you made a dumb mistake on a PPL ride and had to go back and demonstrate a maneuver again. Anyone who does is not worth working for anyway!

Think about it, worst case you have to go flying again (that's a pretty good "worst case"). The only downside I see is having to pay the examiner fee again.

Ok, but real advice...
1.) Get sleep the night before. You'll be nervous, but sleep anyway. You already know everything you need to know to pass, a few more hours of studying won't make or break the ride.

2.) It's ok to say "I don't know the answer, but I know where to find it," and then look it up. You can't say it for every answer, but it's not a deal breaker to not know something.

3.) At least one experienced pilot (your CFI) thinks you're ready to be a PPL. If you took a stage check with an evaluators at a flight school, two experienced pilots think you've got what it takes. CFIs don't sign off on a checkride if they think the student will fail.

4.) Be able to explain why the plane is legal to fly. One of the examiners I used loved to ask the students to prove that the plane was legal.

5.) Be able to explain why you're qualified to take the exam. The same examiner would routinely ask students to prove that they were qualified to take the exam.

The only way this ends is with you earning a PPL. If it takes two rides, so what? You've already done the hard work. Just go flying with the examiner and show him/her what you've been showing your instructor for the past few hours.

Good luck. Don't sweat it.


As a generic answer, you will want to thoroughly read the Private Pilot - Airplane Airman Certification Standards. This document is the benchmark for the skills which you will have to demonstrate to the examiner in order to pass. Read through it and thoroughly review it. If you are concerned that you cannot perform a skill to the standards listed here, talk with your CFI and go up for another practice flight to work on these areas prior to your practical.

Other tips:

First off, as discussed above, make sure that, not only can your perform the skills listed above, but that you can do them in an unconsciously competent manner. They don't have to be perfect, but be able to demonstrate them to an examiner, to the standards listed above, all while being subject to other environmental stressors - radio chatter, examiner small talk/comments, changes in plans, etc. which are adding to your workload and you have to consciously think about.

Find out who the examiner will be and talk with other pilots to get a feel for this person. Is this person fairly easy to work with? Are they spiteful and just search for ways to trip up and fail a student? The practical will be demanding enough without the DPE acting this way and adding to your stress level.

IMSAFE - Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Eating/Exercise. Make sure that you can meet these guidelines to make you body as physically prepared for the checkride as possible. Make sure you are not ill and take steps eg wash your hands regularly, stay away from sick people, etc for the preceding week or so before the checkride. Make sure you are not on any medications which will interfere with your ability to operate a motor vehicle or serve as PIC. Avoid stressful situations a few days before the checkride and terminate all studying for the practical at least 12 hours before it is scheduled to avoid burnout. Don't drink or take drugs (duh!) before a check ride. Make sure you get plenty of exercise on the week of the checkride.

And on sleep - GET AT LEAST 8 HOURS OF SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE THE CHECKRIDE. Do so in a totally dark, silent and cool room. Turn off and abstain from using computers and portable electronics, smartphones, and tablets at least one hour before bedtime; the blue light from the screens really screws up your circadian rhythm and almost guarantees you light and restless sleep - not good. Eliminate any kind of distractions and do not drink caffeinated beverages at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast for the day of the flight. Select days which there will be good visibility and light winds. Even if the conditions are VFR, strong winds are likely to make the landings - especially crosswind landings - very treacherous. You don't want to do an otherwise perfect checkride and then bust it when the plane slams down during landing. If the weather just isn't cooperating with the planned day of the checkride, just re-schedule it. This happens a lot in GA and also the DPEs like it as it demonstrates both a consciousness of weather conditions and a refusal to be rushed and carry out a flight in adverse conditions, something that a lot of pilots do which is just asking for trouble.

Get to the airport early and make sure everything is ready to go. Verify the airplane is available and do a pre-flight check (your examiner will ask you to do a second one) to make sure nothing is wrong with the a/c and it is ready to fly. Identify the room where you will be doing the oral exam and make sure it is set up. Set out your FAR/AIM, charts and plotter, E6B, charts, A/FD, scratchpad and pen/pencil on the table and easy to access for the exam and flight planning. Check your flight bag the night before and make sure you have all your needed gear - E6B, headset, etc that you will need for the ride.

That's about all the pointers I can give you, the rest is up to you. Good luck, birdman. Keep the pointy end forward and the dirty side down.


Its a bit out of date but this video is a good resource.

All check rides are a bit different since the DPE has some room in what he can/does do. However the FAA does require particular things. Many people (myself included) got their tickets when the older PTS's were in place. You will be tested under the new ACS regulations but they are quite similar from what I understand.

As some general advice,

Whats most important is that you answer to the best of your ability and be sure to provide as many references as you can. Don't be afraid to say

"I don't know the answer but I know where to look to find it"

In many cases this is what the DPE is looking for. Don't be afraid to pull out the FAR and point to a specific regulation for particular wording or a particular number etc. Showing that you know how to use the FAR's as a tool and can quickly navigate them is key. You are not expected to know every single regulation in the book but you are expected to know that you can find them all in there.

Along with having positive control of the plane (don't let the aircraft get ahead of you) you should know your plane and its POH inside and out. Have the performance charts tabbed with a post-it or something so you can quickly turn to them as you are going to need them. You may want to notate other common numbers in the POH so you can get to them fast.

Have your emergency checklists at hand. Make sure to read them out and mime the maneuvers on your power off landing. The FAA is having examiners stress certain things and this is one of them.

Some healthy confidence will go a long way, if you are asked about what to do in a situation explain why you are taking said course of action and be ready to back it up.

Examiners love to trick you but they are also not out to get you. They have a few hours to make sure you are a good decision maker and a half decent pilot its stressful for them as well. They are putting plenty on the line when then sign you off as well. Show them you are a good decision maker above all.

  • $\begingroup$ I actually have that video open right now! Haha Thank you $\endgroup$
    – Zach W.
    Sep 19, 2016 at 4:57

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