Frequently Asked Questions about PPL Theory and Exams

PPL theory and exams guide

Whatever your reason for studying to become a pilot, before you gain your private pilot’s licence, you’ll need to pass 9 PPL theory exams. During your PPL theory training, you’ll learn everything you need to know when flying an aircraft including navigation, flight planning, air law, operational procedures, meteorology to name just a few.

We’ve put together this guide of the most frequently asked questions about PPL theory training and exams. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in this guide, please get in contact with our training team using the contact form at the bottom of this page.

How is PPL theory structured?

The PPL syllabus consists of nine subjects, each one is assessed by an exam. The nine subjects are:

  • Air Law – covering the rules and regulations governing aviation
  • Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK) – Featuring aircraft design and systems, instrumentation, electrics, engines and emergency equipment
  • Flight Planning & Performance – learn how to do important pre-flight calculations to ensure you have sufficient fuel, runway length and so on
  • Human Performance & Limitations (HPL) – covering the psychological and physiological effects of flight
  • Meteorology – learn what causes different weather conditions, how they affect flight and how to interpret aviation forecasts
  • Navigation – basic navigation theory and use of electronic navigation aids
  • Operational Procedures (OP) – covers the standard procedures that you must follow when operating aircraft
  • Principles of Flight (PoF) – aerodynamics, how aircraft fly and how different variables affect lift and drag
  • Communications – how to communicate using radio telephony


How long will it take me to study for my PPL exams?

This will depend on how much time you have to dedicate to your studies and what pre-existing knowledge you already have. Each of the nine modules typically requires a minimum of around eight to twelve hours of study to get exam-ready.


How many PPL theory exams are there?

There are nine PPL theory exams in total, one for each subject. The PPL examination duration and the number of questions vary significantly between examining authorities.  Most require you to sit 9 examinations, but in some states, the subjects Air Law and Operational Procedures are examined together and in other states, all examinations must be taken on the same day.  You have 18 months to pass all the exams, starting at the end of the calendar month in which you sit your first exam. You are allowed a maximum of four attempts per exam.


How much do the exams cost?

Each exam costs around £35. You will need to contact your chosen authority for information on where you can sit the exams. They will also provide you with the paperwork that needs to be completed in order to book them.


Do I have to attend a ground school?

No, there is no formal ground school training required for PPL, however, some students choose to do a course or work with a training organisation to help them through their exams.


How can I study the theory portion of my PPL?

This depends on how you like to learn. Some students attend a ground school or hire a tutor to help them learn the PPL subjects. Other students choose to self-study by learning the material via book, e-books and question banks.

Alternatively, PPL students can use online applications to help them revise, such as Bristol Groundschool’s own computer-based software, ATPdigital, which includes immersive lessons on all PPL subjects, built-in testing using exam-style questions, a study guide for each subject (so no need to buy extra books!) ATPdigital works both online and offline and can be downloaded on PC, Mac or iPad. To find out more about our computer-based PPL theory, visit our PPL(A) page.

Click to find out more about our PPL(A) Computer-Based Training Software

Also Available, BGSonline – PPL Question Bank

Trusted by students from across the globe, BGSonline now includes PPL questions with the ability to generate mock exams and track your progress.

With the ability to filter questions by subject, topic or specific keywords, you can revise what you want, when you want.

Subscriptions start from just £9.90 for 30 days.

Click to visit PPL Question Bank, BGSonline


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