How to Study for your ATPL Exams

Student studying for their ATPL exams

Our course materials consist of computer-based training software ATPdigital, recorded webinars with our experienced instructors, and a free subscription to our question bank, BGSonline – all with the aim of helping you to pass your ATPL exams first time.

Once you have enrolled on the BGS course you will be sent an email containing your login details and download links for ATPdigital and BGSonline, either directly from us or by your school. When you have downloaded ATPdigital on your device(s), start studying the first module.


The Syllabus

The syllabus for the ATPL exams is set out by EASA here in a spreadsheet with a tab for each subject. The subjects are numbered and named, for instance, subject 022 is ‘Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation’, often abbreviated to just ‘Instrumentation’ or ‘Instruments’.

Within each subject the syllabus is broken down by topic, for instance, the second topic in Instrumentation is ‘Measurement of Air Data Parameters’ and allocated the number 022.02. In each topic, there are a number of ‘sub-topics’ dealing with each particular item, for instance, sub-topic 022.02.04 deals with ‘Altimeters’. In each sub-topic are a number of Paragraph Headings and Learning Objectives (LOs) with numerical classification down to the 5th level, for instance, relates to one piece of required knowledge, the ability to “Explain the operating principles of an altimeter”.

Sometimes an LO applies only to certain ATPL exams, for instance only for Aeroplanes or only for Helicopters, this is indicated by crosses in the columns to the right.


Your Training Material

Most candidates require an approved training course in order to be cleared to sit the exams. The types of course available vary from ‘fully taught’ where you might sit in a classroom for six months to a fully remote distance learning solution using Computer Based Training (CBT) and webinar access to the instructors which we offer at Bristol Groundschool.

Most courses split the 13 subjects into ‘Modules’ or ‘Phases’ so that you learn 3 or 4 subjects in that module, take the EASA exams for those subjects, then move on to the next module. On any sort of course you should be supplied with training material that covers all the LOs in the syllabus subject by subject.

It is widely acknowledged, however, that merely learning the syllabus material does not prepare you for the official exams and that in order to study efficiently and to pass with a good mark you need to combine the study of your course material with the use of a good question bank or banks.

How to Use ATPdigital to Study for your ATPL Exams

Once you have logged into ATPdigital you are presented with the main dashboard.

(left) ATPdigital Dashboard (right) ATPL Lesson on ATPdigital

From the dashboard, you can navigate between the modules, lessons and tests associated with your course. There is also a progress graph that displays your course progress and the percentage of lessons and tests you have completed to date. To help you stay on track with your studies a date will be assigned to the left of each lesson and test within each module.

At the end of each lesson, you will be presented with a small quiz to check your understanding. There are approx. 5 multiple choice questions and the pass rate is 100%, you can retake the quizzes as often as required. At end of each section, there is a longer progress test. The pass rate for progress tests is 75%, to reflect the pass rate in the official exams, again these can be repeated as many times needed to achieve the 75% pass rate.  Both the quizzes and progress tests feature exam-style questions.

We recommend you start studying the Maths & Physics module as this acts as a useful refresher if you have not studied these topics for some time. It will also expose you to the required level of these two subjects you will need during your course.

Once you have completed the maths and physics module, move to the first module. The lessons are laid out in parallel, meaning you will study a series of meteorology lessons then move onto some instrumentation topics, for example. You can study the course this way if you wish, alternatively you can study each subject in its entirety and then move on to study the remaining subjects within the module after.


Question Banks

The first point is that you should absolutely not rely only on question banks to pass the exams. This form of rote learning misses out the underlying knowledge that you will need to answer questions in Airline interviews and to support learning in your future career.

All question banks make a big deal of how many questions they have but actually, there are many questions that they know have been withdrawn from the current banks because they were faulty or do not match the current syllabus, so the total number of questions is less significant than the number of relevant questions, and the ability to apply filters so that you see only those relevant to you.

Accepting that question banks are only a study aid, most experts suggest that you should do the lessons on the course first, and then refer to the banks to see exactly what questions are likely to be asked about what you have just learnt. This needs to be done in manageable chunks. For instance, you are unlikely to have completed just one lesson on the whole topic of ‘Measurement of Air Data Parameters’, there is too much in a whole topic to fit into one lesson. It is much more likely that a lesson in class or through CBT would only cover a sub-topic such as ‘Altimeters’ so what you would want to do is complete the lesson on Altimeters in Instruments and then search the question bank to find questions that relate just to the LOs in 022.02.04 and nothing else.

Once you have worked through all the relevant questions it is time to start practice exams. These are generated to match the structure of the EASA exams and can be attempted either to time or untimed. Start with untimed first then switch to timed as you get more confident. Your target should be to get 90% to 95% in timed practice exams expecting to drop your percentages by 10% to 15% under the pressure of a real exam. When you can do that, the chances are that you are ready for the exam.

BGSonline Question Bank

How to Revise for your ATPL Exams Using BGS’s Question Bank, BGSonline

Once you have completed each module on ATPdigital it is recommended you use BGSonline to reinforce your learning.

The question bank has been created using feedback from official exams to keep it relevant to the exams you are sitting. Each question features a detailed explanation to ensure understanding.

It is important to learn and understand the content of the syllabus first on ATPdigital as you may encounter questions in the official exams that require in-depth knowledge to answer. The question bank is a very useful tool to help you prepare effectively for your exams, but we advise against just remembering the questions.

The login details are the same as your ATPdigital credentials. Begin with small quizzes, building up to the full-timed exams for each subject. The full exams feature the number of questions you will be presented with in your official exams with the same time allocation.


KSA – Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes

Students Studying for 2021 Syllabus ATPL Exams Only

Knowledge skills and attitudes (100-KSA) is a subject area that has recently been introduced as a compulsory module for students studying for their 2021 syllabus examinations. It explores the pilot competencies, the non-technical aspects that airline pilots are assessed against.

There is no associated EASA exam, KSA is examined by your school for the duration of your studies. The KSA module needs to be signed off as complete prior to booking your final exams.

Your school will be able to advise you on how KSA will be conducted during your course.


Download our Free Ebook: The Essential ATPL Student Guide to Studying and Passing your Exams

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Check out our new ebook on how to study and pass your ATPL exams. Discover what you’ll need to know about ATPL theory including:

  • What each ATPL exam includes
  • What to expect from each ATPL subject
  • Choosing the right ground school for you
  • How to study your ATPL theory
  • Note-taking techniques
  • Tips leading up to exam day