What to Expect from ATPL Exams

Bristol Groundschool students studying for their ATPL exams
A Bristol Groundschool student studying for their ATPL exams with our recorded webinars

After completing your PPL, your next step to becoming a commercial airline pilot is to study and complete your ATPL exams.

ATPL exams are created to check you have the correct level of theoretical knowledge that you’ll need to become a pilot and handle any situation that may occur whilst flying.

While some of our students may find the prospect of studying for their ATPL daunting, with the right study materials and support, many of our students pass their exams first time and go on to be hired within the aviation industry.

We’ve created this guide to help you understand what you can expect from ATPL Exams.

What do I need before starting my ATPL theory course?

Maths and Physics

Before you start the ATPL study, there is a module on Maths and Physics. This serves two purposes; first it is a refresher for you if you have not studied these subjects for a while.

Secondly, it satisfies the regulatory requirement that we ensure your level of knowledge is sufficient for the remainder of the course. The Maths and Physics module is conducted in our computer-based training software (ATPdigital) only and there are no EASA or UK CAA exams associated with it.

Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes (KSA)

During the first module, there are a series of lessons addressing the ‘Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes’ (KSA) requirements. This subject area addresses non-technical requirements known as pilot competencies such as communication skills, workload management, leadership, and situational awareness.

Private Pilots Licence (Modular Training Route)

If you choose to complete your ATPL along the modular route,  you must have a PPL(A) issued to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. This is a mandatory requirement and you will be asked when you register for your course for your licence number, so please ensure that you have this to hand when signing up.

Class 1 Medical and Eyesight

We recommend before embarking on the time and expense of commercial flight training you should satisfy yourself that you will be able to obtain a class 1 medical. If you are looking to achieve a UK CAA licence you will need a medical certificate issued by the UK CAA; for EASA licences by the EASA state you wish to issue your licence.

If you have a prescription from the opticians we would recommend you complete the UK CAA visual system form or your EASA state’s equivalent when you start your training.

What subjects do ATPL exams cover?

There are 13 exams contained within the ATPL syllabus that you are required to pass prior to commencing your practical training. Subjects are broken down into three modules, and within them are the subjects you’ll need to revise before your exams. Below is the breakdown of modules for ATPL(A) qualification. ATPL(H)IR modules differ slightly to the list below.

ATPL(A) Module 1:

  • 022 – Instrumentation
  • 061 – General Navigation
  • 050 – Meteorology
  • 040 – Human Performance and Limitations

ATPL(A) Module 2:

  • 062 – Radio Navigation
  • 021 – Aircraft General Knowledge: Airframe and Systems, Electrics, Power Plant and Emergency Equipment
  • 010 – Air Law
  • 033 – Flight Planning and Flight Monitoring
  • 090 – Communications

ATPL(A) Module 3:

  • 070 – Operational Procedures
  • 081 – Principles of Flight
  • 032 – Performance
  • 031 – Mass and Balance

What do ATPL Exams consist of?

The exams consist of multiple-choice questions (4 options) and calculations. The UK CAA use a quadrant system that consists of multiple-choice questions, type in questions and select from the following options. The exact number of questions per exam changes and depends on the syllabus you’re taking, but a typical exam paper would consist of around 60 to 70 questions.

For a further look into ATPL exams, check out the video below with our MD Alex Whittingham being interviewed by Ian Seager from Flyer magazine about the ATPL exams.

How long are ATPL exams?

Exams range from 30 minutes up to two hours depending on the subject for both EASA and UK CAA.

If I complete them via the modular route, how long will it take to complete all of the ATPL exams?

This depends on how much time you can dedicate each week to your learning. Most of our students complete their ATPL course in around twelve to sixteen months of studying part-time, however, if you choose to study full-time, the course can take as little as six months.

How many attempts am I allowed to pass?

You have a total of 6 sittings to pass all the exams and no more than 4 attempts at any one subject within those 6 sittings. From your first exam sitting you have 18 months to complete all of your ATPL theory exams.

What is the pass mark for ATPL exams?

The pass mark for each of the ATPL exams is 75%.

Where can I sit my ATPL exams?

If you choose to study with us, you have the option to sit either UK CAA exams or Austro Control exams at Bristol Groundschool or at an EASA exam venue anywhere in Europe.

How much do the exams cost?

Keeping in mind that the cost of your exams is not included in your course fee, UK CAA exams are £74 per exam, these can be booked via the CAA website. The Austro Control exams are £80 per exam if sat at Bristol Groundschool and can be booked on our website.


Ready to take your next step?

 Bristol Groundschool is a world leader in modular tuition for fixed-wing and helicopter pilots. Our extensive and innovative suite of learning materials contains all the knowledge you need for success, allowing you to learn at your own pace and track your progress with ease.

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.

We turn today’s students into tomorrow’s pilots. And we can do the same for you.

Find out more about our modular ATPL and CPL training courses by clicking the buttons below.

ATPL (a)    ATPL (H)/IR    CPL (A)    CPL (H)


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

Starting your ATPL theory soon?

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