A private pilots’ licence (PPL) is the first step for many people aiming to begin their careers in aviation. Along with the practical aspect of flying, student pilots also have to pass 9 ground exams which are designed to give students the theoretical knowledge they’ll need in order to gain a private pilots’ licence. The theoretical portion of a PPL licence can be learned at a PPL ground school, or with self-study.
Whilst there is no formal ground school requirement associated with PPL theory training, many PPL students choose to study for their exams at a PPL ground school in order to learn and understand the nine topics with the support of instructors at a ground school.
The training and exams are identical for EASA and UK CAA licences.
PPL Ground School Exams
There are nine subjects in the PPL theory syllabus, each one is assessed by an exam. In order to gain your PPL licence, you must pass all nine exams, within 18 months starting at the end of the calendar month in which you pass your first exam.
Each PPL exam consists of 12 to 16 multiple choice questions and lasts between 20 and 50 minutes. Many student pilots choose to study PPL theory in three or more blocks or modules, reducing the number of exams attempted at each sitting.
PPL Ground School Subjects
Air Law – It is important that you know and understand the rules and regulations that govern aviation, in order to keep yourself and others safe. This subject deals with International and National aviation rules and regulations.
Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK) – This subject will teach you the essential components of a modern light aircraft including aircraft design and systems, instrumentation, electrics, engines and emergency equipment.
Flight Planning & Performance – When flying an aircraft, it’s important that you know how to do important pre-flight calculations to ensure you have sufficient fuel, runway length. The Flight Planning and Performance subject will help you understand the potential and limitations of your aircraft.
Human Performance & Limitations (HPL) – This subject will give you an understanding of the psychological and physiological effects of flight.
Meteorology – Weather will affect flying and in this subject, you will learn what causes different weather conditions, how they affect flight and how to interpret aviation forecasts.
Navigation – Whilst piloting a light aircraft, you will also have to act as a navigator. This subject teaches you basic navigation theory and use of navigation aids.
Operational Procedures (OP) – This subject covers the standard procedures that you must follow when operating aircraft.
Principles of Flight (PoF) – A scientific subject, Principles of Flight covers aerodynamics, how aircraft fly and how different variables affect lift and drag.
Communications – This subject focuses on teaching theoretical knowledge in order to communicate using radiotelephony.
How to Study for your PPL Exams
As mentioned, whilst there is no formal requirement for PPL ground school training, doing so may be the best way to learn the materials for your exams.
Our PPL computer-based training software has been designed to make studying for your PPL exams simple and effective.
It has been tailored towards the learning objectives for the nine PPL subjects and includes inbuilt testing featuring exam-style questions ensuring your understanding before moving onto the next lesson. It features a revision guide for each subject for sharpening up your knowledge prior to your exams so you can focus on the key areas of each topic.
Once installed ATPdigital will work offline allowing you to study on the go, once you connect to the internet again your progress will sync to the other devices that you have been using to study the course.
After you have completed your PPL Ground School Training
Your next step after getting your PPL might be to complete your Night Rating. This will allow you to fly at night exercising visual flight rules (VFR).
Alternatively, you could also start instrument flight training. Adding an instrument rating (IR) to a license gives the holder certain extra privileges. These privileges include planning flights under Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) and under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).
There are a number of different instrument ratings you could attach to a PPL – in Europe a Basic Instrument Rating (BIR) or in the UK a Restricted Instrument Rating (IR(R)) might be your starting point or you could go for a full IR. There are two training routes to the latter: a Competency Based Instrument Rating (CB-IR) allows you to count previous instrument training towards the minimum course hours whereas these do not count for an IR course.
There is more information about the various instrument ratings here.
If your aim is to become a commercial pilot, you may consider enrolling in an ATPL or CPL course. For a deeper dive on what each of these includes and which one might be right for you, visit our ATPL vs CPL blog post.
Ready to take your next step?
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With the option for online-only tuition, you can choose to fit your studies around existing commitments too – no matter where you are in the world.
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