ATPL Theoretical Exams

student studying for the ATPL theoretical exams

Once you’ve got your PPL, it’s time to start working on your ATPL theoretical exams. These are very hard work. They are possibly the worst part of flight training to be completely honest. But unfortunately, they have to be done.

If you’re going to self-learn for these exams, you can expect it to take around 9-12 months or more to complete, especially if you have a job alongside them. However, if you can allocate 100% of your time to them, or you have gone down the integrated route, you can get them done in around 6 months.

In total, there are 14 exams covering the following subjects:

  • Instrumentation
  • General Navigation
  • Meteorology
  • Human Performance & Limitations
  • Radio Navigation
  • Aircraft General Knowledge
  • Flight Planning and Monitoring
  • VFR Communications
  • IFR Communications
  • Operational Procedures
  • Principles of Flight
  • Performance
  • Mass and Balance

Unlike the PPL exams, these are not all multiple-choice questions. They are a mix of multiple choice and written answer questions, with a pass mark of 75%. Whilst it really isn’t essential, ideally, you would want to be aiming for 90%+ on average to help stand out a bit more on job applications.

Each exam is taken at a UK CAA examination centre and costs £74 per exam. (As of the time of writing) 

You’ll have anywhere from 30 minutes up until 2 hours to complete each subject depending on the exam itself.

You must complete all the exams within 6 sittings. You cannot take more than 4 attempts at one single exam, and all must be completed within 18 months of sitting the first one.

To practice for these exams, your flying school of choice will recommend a ground training provider, such as Bristol Groundschool. They will supply you with all of the subject material you will need to self-study. You can also use an online question bank to practice, such as ATPL Questions, which can be accessed here.

5 Top Tips for Success

Here are our 5 top tips to help you prepare for your ATPL Exams!

  1. Create a study plan: Develop a structured study plan that outlines your goals, study materials, and a timeline for completing each subject. Break down the ATPL syllabus into manageable sections, and allocate sufficient time to cover all the topics. Be consistent with your study routine, and set aside time each day to review and consolidate your knowledge.
  2. Use a variety of resources: Don’t rely solely on one source of information. Utilise various resources, such as textbooks, online courses, videos, and forums to gain a comprehensive understanding of each subject. Seek recommendations from other pilots who have successfully passed the ATPL exams, and explore different study materials to find the ones that work best for you.
  3. Practice with question banks: Familiarise yourself with the types of questions you’ll encounter on the ATPL exams by using question banks and practice tests. Regularly test your knowledge and understanding of the subjects by answering practice questions, and identify any areas where you may need to focus more time and effort.
  4. Join study groups or forums: Connect with other aspiring pilots who are also preparing for the ATPL exams. Join study groups or online forums where you can share tips, resources, and experiences. Discussing complex topics with others can help solidify your understanding, and you may find new study techniques or materials that you hadn’t considered before.
  5. Stay organized and manage stress: Keep your study materials organised, and maintain a clutter-free workspace to help you stay focused and efficient. Find ways to manage stress, such as taking regular breaks, exercising, and practising relaxation techniques. Remember to maintain a healthy balance between studying and other aspects of your life to prevent burnout.


By following these tips, you can effectively prepare for the ATPL exams and increase your chances of success. Stay dedicated, focused, and positive throughout your study journey, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your dream of becoming an airline pilot.

atpl theoretical exams

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