In January 2010, I started an AOPA forum discussion about what software people had found useful in preparing for the FAA's knowledge test for the private pilot certificate.
As ever, numerous people generously gave of their time, making valuable contributions, which I present here in digest form. (You may find that new comments have been added to the thread in the time since I prepared this digest.
In most cases, the sites offered more than just preparation for the Knowledge Test.
One of the things you'll learn while studying the FARs is that in almost every situation, the PIC is responsible, somehow. Take the "too low" rules, for instance. There are all the "over congested areas" etc things, but there's also the catch all "must not fly in such a way as to create hazard".
Remember that You are responsible bias when looking at online test preparation materials. With many hundreds of questions in the FAA databank, would you expect every supplier of test preparation software to have made no mistakes? You will find "bad" information in most of the packages. If so: Well done for spotting it. Now move on, and do the next question!
Let's start with some great news: There is a good way to exercise your little gray cells for nothing....
The free test prep site, WebExams.com is worth a lot more than you have to pay to use it!
The WebExams site lets you go over the answers/questions one at a time if you want. You can mark a question for later review. (In the current session.)
Up to a to a point, the WebExam site lets you practice what you'll do in real exam... A little familiarity with the "exam on a computer" environment can't hurt your score. The site has online graphics, but you'll be happier with a set of properly printed ones. You can set up exams of differentia lengths, with sub-sets of questions. I got three questions wrong when I did my test, not so very long ago. Checking out the WebExam site very thoroughly brought back most of the feelings I had during the real thing... and it reminded me of the need for constant review. I knew "everything"... once upon a time. That knowledge needs exercise, and WebExam gives it.
There are further notes at the bottom of the page about test-taking, other resources, etc, but first let's get back to software for exam prep....
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Without doubt, the consensus of that thread was that the Gleam software was well liked, did a good job, etc. $55, by download, at 2/2010. Alternatively, you can enroll in their Online Ground School for $100 (2/2010), and there is a money back guarantee if you don't pass your Knowledge Test. They also say, of the online ground school, that "a full refund is available if you have accessed no more than two study units within 30 days of purchase."
Another name that came up a few times was the ASA Virtual Test Prep, $50 (2/2010). In the discussion, there was mention of a $170 DVD. I suspect that a situation similar to that at Gleim exists... but I found the ASA site hard to navigate, so I will leave getting to the bottom of that to you.
Both, it would seem, from comments in the discussion, offer more than mere "drill and practice". One or both offer things like...
One contributor had had a bad experience with one of the companies... but both are so big, so well established, that you would expect that. There was only one negative comment about either of them.
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At least one contributor liked the product from Dauntless. I had a look at the website. The discussion participant said (edited)...
"Some friends and I had success with the Dauntless software for written exams.
"$35 or so for the single test prep. They also supply MP3 training stuff.. useful for listening to in the car, for instance."
(End quote). For the private pilot test question bank, you can install their product for $35. You get a discount on purchases of other things later, including the MP3 material. There is a free demo of the MP3 material.
Another option is the well known Kings Schools courses. At their web site I couldn't find a moderately priced software module for the FAA Knowledge Test, Private Pilot. I did find: "You'll be so engaged by KING's clear, simple, fun presentation and you'll get the big picture you need to be the true master of your flight." And I saw a Knowledge Test course for $279
The well know "Sporty's" takes a different approach. They have free online test prep web-pages, and if you want to, you can sign up for 90 days of enhanced service at those pages. $10 for the Knowledge Test material, at 2/2010. The enhanced service includes, for instance, explanations of why an answer you selected was wrong.
One last site for you... mine! It isn't nearly as sophisticated as any of the above... but some of the things there are free, and all of them helped me pass my own test. While I am new to flying, I am not new to teaching, so perhaps there are some features in my software that can help you. Exclusively for Windows, alas. Sheepdog Software's private pilot training software. If you liked what was typed out for you (above), please give my site a try?
That's it, for now, for software packages.
You might find the following list useful:
(Of course there is a great deal of useful information available at the AOPA site, but I trust you already know that!)
Before I close the page... some thoughts on tests and test passing.
Remember the point of the Knowledge Test: It is there to help you be a better pilot.
Having said that, it must be conceded that, like any test, you can, and up to a point, should, "learn to pass the test".... which isn't the same thing as knowing what the test is supposed to test you on.
One contributor to the discussion wrote the following. (Edited)...
"I have found that doing study sessions and practice tests over and over really honed my test-taking skills.
"I've learned to...
More on taking the test another time, perhaps. Useful?
Click this to go to a page with general freeware, shareware, i.e. applications which do not fall into the following categories
Click this to go to a page with freeware, shareware to help users with 4+3=?, 8 times 6=?, etc
Click this to go to a page with freeware, shareware to help users improve OTHER arithmetic, mathematical skills
Click this to go to a page with freeware, shareware which needs extra hardware before it is useful.
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