Pilot Aptitude Tests
Updated May 17, 2022
If you are looking to become an airline pilot, it is not just your practical skills employers will look out for. You might also be asked to take a pilot aptitude test at the beginning of the interview process for hiring managers to gauge your competencies.
This could include abilities such as cognition, math, language, problem-solving and speed of decision making.
The airline industry is expected to get even bigger within the next 10–20 years, with thousands of new pilots joining, so the hiring process must move with the times when it comes to recruitment.
It is not just your flying ability they are looking at, but several traits and soft skills you will need to be successful.
Even if you are a pro at tests, and usually score quite highly in intelligence-based exams, a pilot psychometric test for commercial or private pilots reveals a pilot’s more natural abilities and personality traits and less so their intellectual competencies.
The airline that you are applying for will have a benchmark you need to meet to be successful and progress to the next stages of the interview process.
Scores and benchmarks will be detailed later within this article, as well as the test’s format and some sample questions.
In brief, a pilot aptitude test is a quick way for airline recruiters to sift through many applications for the same role.
Hiring managers can eliminate candidates that might not reach their benchmark before taking them through to the next stage.
This is not only an efficient way for the employer to work, but it also ensures the candidate does not waste any time on a lengthy interview process only to be unsuccessful.
If you already have an advanced skill set when it comes to flying and overall flight knowledge, the pilot aptitude test will not investigate these skills. It is testing your cognitive abilities, potential and how well you might work in a pressured environment.
The pilot aptitude test can be used for commercial airline pilots, RAF, cadet recruitment and even freight pilots.
Being a pilot is challenging, so it is no surprise that an aptitude test designed specifically for pilots can be difficult.
Each test contains a series of puzzles, logic questions and quick-thinking conundrums that you might never have had to answer before.
As a pilot, you are tasked with a lot of responsibility, and you could potentially find yourself in a situation where you might have to make important decisions at speed.
This is what the pilot aptitude test measures. So, if you are looking to join the RAF or become a commercial pilot, it is a good idea to get prepared, even if you are not a fan of exams.
Each airline uses different criteria, but the main things hiring managers will want mostly remain the same.
Here are some skills passing a pilot aptitude test requires:
Multitasking – A pilot’s job contains a lot of multitasking. Whether handling the plane while instructing staff, or planning a route whilst waiting for updates, multitasking is a key skill for a pilot.
Working under pressure – Flying can come with a lot of pressure. Pilots must work to set schedules while dealing with varying weather conditions, delays and other factors (depending on the type of pilot). So, working well under pressure is a key attribute that airlines look for.
Reasoning – Reasoning questions measure a candidate’s problem-solving skills and ability to use structured thinking. They can show themselves in different ways, for example as a statement you must complete or something based on logic.
Spatial and situational awareness – For a pilot, spatial awareness is an obviously necessary skill, but how these types of questions present themselves can be tricky to decipher. For instance, you might receive a set of icons like cubes or mirrored reflections that you have to mentally rotate.
Literacy – Even though there is much practical work involved in being a pilot, you will also have to write flight plans and reports, amongst other things. So, your literacy skills need to be on par if you want to become a pilot. There will be some language questions to assess your literacy competencies.
Numeracy – As with literacy, you will be provided with some numerical questions to test your math skills and ability to work with numbers. This is because pilots must be able to determine information such as speed, mileage and flight trajectory on the fly.
Mental arithmetic – You cannot use a calculator during a pilot aptitude test, as calculations when flying a plane must often be done quickly and in your head.
Psychomotor – You need to have good psychomotor skills to operate any machinery, whether it be driving a car or flying a plane. You will be tested to see how quick your reflexes are as well as your hand-eye coordination.
Aviation knowledge – If you are taking an advanced aptitude test like advanced COMPASS, then your aviation experience will definitely come in handy. If you are just training to be a pilot, now is the time to test your aviation knowledge before the final exam.
There are, of course, other cognitive skills needed to become a pilot, as well as the obvious practical skills you might already have acquired.
There are a few variations of the pilot aptitude test. Here are a few of the aptitude tests you might see if you are applying for a pilot’s role:
COMPASS – The COMputerized Pilot Aptitude Screening System aptitude test is used worldwide by a selection of well-known airlines and flight schools. This screening system comprises six individual tests, assessing a pilot’s hand-eye coordination as well as the skills listed above. Since its introduction in the '90s, the COMPASS test battery has been taken by thousands of candidates worldwide and has been recommended by the EPST.
Advanced COMPASS – As with the original COMPASS test, there is an advanced version that more qualified pilots take if they are looking to get a higher-ranking job within the same airline. This test can be harder than the original, but this will depend on what position you are applying for. The advanced test is for licensed pilots and consists of eight individual tests.
PILAPT – This is another type of cognitive ability test used by a variety of airlines and flight schools to assess talent at the beginning of the process. The PILAPT has been around since 1997 and has been used by both the military and commercial aviation industry. As it is used worldwide, the test comes in all different languages and is a popular method of assessment amongst pilots.
CUT-E – A lot of recognized brands around the world use these tests, including, Norwegian Air, Aer Lingus and EasyJet. CUT-E tests are a bit newer than some of the others and have been around since the early 2000s. They are designed to be taken online, which is a cost- and time-saving measure. The CUT-E tests are a big part of the recruitment process.
DLR BU/GR – Used by the likes of Cargolux, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Kuwait Airways, SunExpress and Luxair, the DLR BU/GR test is another common pilot aptitude test. The test program was constructed for both trained and fresh pilots and features six DLR modules. In training mode, you can set the timer manually and restart questions.
Talent Q – Mainly used by Qatar Airways, Talent Q tests have been around since 2006. They feature psychometric questions to assess candidates on numerical reasoning, spatial awareness, logic and more.
As for many tests, preparation is key when it comes to a pilot battery test. As the exam is one of the key elements for getting through to the next stage of the recruitment process, it is important to do your homework.
Here are a few things you can do to prepare:
Use online testing platforms – The best way to prep for a test is to do several practice runs. There are many platforms out there that offer sample tests to help you get used to the format of the test and see the type of questions you might receive. Check out sites like WikiJob or JobTestPrep for sample tests.
Practice to be perfect – When you are doing practice exams, take note of the areas you might not be fully competent in. For instance, if you have taken a few sample tests and do less well at the numeracy questions, then it is in your best interest to brush up on these skills. Try taking daily numeracy tests and reading helpful guides.
Play brain-training games – There are many games and apps out there that can help stimulate your brain and prepare it for quick thinking and spatial reasoning questions.
Practice logical thinking – There will most definitely be problem-solving questions on the test, so it is in your favor to particularly expand your logical thinking skills.
Stress management challenges – Stress management is both about reducing the overall stress in your life and increasing your tolerance for stressful situations. Look for activities that can help increase your stress tolerance, such as physical exercises at the gym or scenarios you set yourself to problem solve in a stressful environment. Deliberately put yourself under pressure but make it fun! Get a friend to set you some playful tasks under a time limit and see how you do. This will make you more resilient to the stress of the time-limited pilot aptitude test.
Get good sleep – In the time before the test, develop a stable bedtime routine that ideally gives you an hour to wind down without screens before sleep and lets you get six to eight hours sleep a night. Particularly make sure you get plenty of sleep before the exam so you are well-rested and can do the test with fresh eyes.
Pen and paper at the ready – You cannot use a calculator during the test, but you will be able to show workings out on a paper. Have this ready and waiting next to you before you begin so you are not scrambling to find it while the timer is running.
Find out what testing platform is being used – You should be able to ask the hiring manager what platform they intend to use for the test. This means that you can investigate the formatting and requirements for the specific platform and ensure you have everything necessary.
The Pilot Aptitude Test is a pre-employment screening test that is used both for experienced pilots and for those that are heading for initial pilot training.
The assessment is usually comprised of a battery of tests that evaluate competencies, skills, and aptitudes beyond the ability to fly. These soft skills are important for a pilot to have, and include:
- Numerical reasoning
- Verbal reasoning
- Mechanical comprehension
- Ability to multitask
- Reaction time
- Work under pressure
- Long-term memory
- Logical thinking
- Hand-eye coordination and psychomotor skills
- Personality traits
The pilot aptitude test is used as part of the recruitment process because it is a straightforward way to assess many applicants, reducing large candidate pools for pilot training and recruitment for flying jobs at commercial airlines, freight companies and the military.
In most cases, you will need to pass the pilot aptitude test before you will be invited to take part in pilot training.
The pilot aptitude test assesses candidates on things like numerical and verbal reasoning, mechanical knowledge, the ability to multitask and work under pressure, reaction time and more. It is not about the level of education or specific qualifications, but about inherent abilities.
The pilot aptitude test is used as a screener in the application process, so the training school can choose the top applicants. If you don’t pass the aptitude test you are not likely to be taken further in the process. You might be allowed to reapply for training school later and retake the aptitude test, but the best thing to do is give your best at the time and achieve the highest marks so you get into the training program.
When you are applying for a pilot role or to get into a pilot training school, you can give yourself the best chance by preparing well beforehand.
One of the most important things you can do is practice.
There are free resources all over the internet that allow you to take practice pilot aptitude tests, and these are invaluable in allowing you to see whether there are any areas you might need to revise while helping you get familiar with the typical structure and layout.
If you know which of the pilot aptitude tests you will be taking, you can find practice versions on JobTestPrep or on the test publishers’ website which are more accurate.
You can also practice your logical skills and aptitudes daily by completing logic puzzles and reading widely – and for those that enjoy an app, there are ‘brain training’ games that you can download to your smartphone and play too.
As a pilot, you will need to remain calm under pressure. Working on ways to improve your stress management will help you perform better in the tests but will also make you a better pilot when you get the job. Look into different ways of keeping your cool.
As you come closer to test day, look after your body and mind. Get a good night’s sleep, and make sure that you eat a healthy meal so that you can work at optimal levels. Hydration is also important to your performance.
Several different assessment publishers have created aptitude tests used in pilot recruitment, which means that there are different types of questions in each assessment. However, they all tend to cover the same aptitudes in similar ways.
- Cognition – this covers mechanical comprehension of basic physics principles, as well as verbal and numerical reasoning
- Psychomotor – hand-eye coordination and multitasking
- Aviation knowledge – aerodynamics and instruments of an aircraft
The questions might have different formats throughout the battery – multiple choice for most, but some will have a completely different structure. For example, the psychomotor assessment usually takes place as a game to be played with a joystick.
You can take a practice pilot aptitude test in several different places, and where you should look depends on what test you are facing.
There are several different publishers of pilot aptitude tests, including:
- COMPASS/Advanced COMPASS
- DLR BU/GR
- Talent Q
If you know which publisher has created the test you are taking, you can visit their website to practice tests there – and to find out more about the test itself too.
If you are not sure of the publisher, or you want to take a wider range of practice tests, then JobTestPrep has a wealth of resources available to you.
The free practice tests are based specifically on publisher layouts and types of questions, but there are general tests available too. For even more help, advice, hints, and tips as well as revision material, the Prep Packs have everything you need to boost your score and improve your chances in your pilot application process.
To be a good screening assessment, the pilot aptitude test needs to be challenging. It is used to ensure that the applicants have all the skills, aptitudes and competencies that are needed to be successful in the future.
You will be put under exam pressure, whether you take the test online in your own time or at an assessment center. Each part of the test is likely to have a time limit, and you will put yourself under pressure to do well so that you can achieve the score you need.
Taken out of context, the content of the pilot aptitude test is simple, needing a basic understanding of numeracy, literacy, and physics. With the multiple-choice options for most of the questions, you can usually work out the right answer without the added pressure.
However, under the pressure of the testing environment, even simple questions can be challenging.
To give yourself the best chance, make use of practice tests to get familiar with the structure, layout, and time limits of the assessment so you can take the pressure off yourself.
As the pilot aptitude test is an integral part of the recruitment process for becoming a pilot and for joining a pilot training program, if you fail the test, it is not likely that your application will be taken further.
This does not mean that you cannot still become a pilot, however. Many airlines and training programs will allow you to reapply if you are unsuccessful in your application, which allows you to retake the pilot aptitude test (and pass).
Of course, the easiest way to ensure that you get into the career of your dreams is to practice and prepare for the pilot aptitude test so that you do not fail and get the best score you are capable of.
The pilot aptitude test can be taken in one of two ways – either online in your own time or at an assessment center.
In both cases, you will need to know how to perform basic functions on a computer.
There is no need for advanced programming knowledge or the ability to create code to take the pilot aptitude test.
You will usually have to use a mouse or pointer to select the right answer or use a joystick to play an assessment game or perhaps write some text in a box.
Advanced computer knowledge might help you answer some of the mechanical comprehension-style questions, however.
The pilot aptitude test is an assessment of inherent skills and potential, so it is not based on learned knowledge and skills. Revision and practice will help you get a better score.
There are practice tests available online for free with content and layout based on the various publisher tests.
Taking these tests under exam conditions using a timer will help you understand how quickly you must answer, and how best to answer under pressure. It will also help you to see where you might need some revision – any missed or wrong answers should help focus your preparation.
You can improve your general aptitude daily through brain training games and puzzles – whether that is on your smartphone or even using paper and pencil.
As you get closer to the day, make sure that you get adequate sleep to allow your brain to function at its best. Eating healthily and drinking plenty of water will also help with this. Give yourself the best chance to perform well by looking after your body and mind.
You will only be able to take a pilot aptitude test once per application. If you fail or do not reach the required score, your application will be rejected and you will not be taken further in the recruitment process.
However, in some cases, you might be allowed to reapply for the role in the future, after a short waiting period. This means that you would also be able to retake the pilot aptitude test.
If you are looking for in-person coaching for the pilot aptitude test, you might be able to get tuition from an ab initio flight training company like CAE.
If you want to use online resources, then check out the employer page for the company you want to work for as they often have resources to help. If you know who publishes the test you are taking, you can look for practice tests on their website as well as other information to help you prepare.
For an all-around experience that is designed to give you the best chance to succeed, the resources at JobTestPrep are perfect.
From free practice tests to paid-for Prep Packs, the content at JobTestPrep is carefully curated to give candidates the knowledge and skills they need to ace the test and nail that perfect role.
Although only a small portion of the pilot aptitude test is taken on a gamified platform, there are some PC games that you can play to help you perform better during the assessment.
Some of the flight simulation games are well-known for their realism, so they are a good start. They aren’t necessarily going to help your motor skills, but they will help you with multitasking and using different cockpit instruments.
For the most part, the psychomotor tests are looking for hand-eye coordination, so any PC game that needs fast reactions will help. Even games as basic as Space Invaders are perfect for this.
Pilot aptitude tests are used in the recruitment process for several different pilot roles.
They are used for cadet and training programs as well as for freight, commercial airlines and even the military.
There are different publishers of pilot aptitude tests, and you can often find mock or practice tests on the publisher's websites.
There are other places where free practice tests are available – and one of the best places is JobTestPrep.
Here you will find lots of practice assessments based on the pilot aptitude tests built by different publishers, as well as information about what to expect in the test itself. The Prep Packs have even more resources including revision sources, techniques to answer the questions and tips for success.
Being a good pilot is more than having flying skills – there are a lot of competencies and aptitudes that go towards making a brilliant pilot. These include:
- Clear communication
- Leadership and teamwork skills
- Calm under pressure
- Technologically aware
- Situational awareness
- Good judgment
- Mentally and physically healthy
- Quick thinking and adaptable
This is not an exhaustive list, but these are traits that are found in successful pilots.
There are so many different personality tests available, which makes it difficult to define a personality type for most pilots – but a 2004 study by NASA determined that there are shared traits that pilots tend to have.
The personality test that was used is based on the Big Five traits of Extraversion, Openness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Agreeableness.
From the results, pilots are not usually anxious, remain calm under pressure and are confident. They are usually sociable and seek excitement, but they can be aggressive.
Pilots are often arrogant and hard-headed, but they are also straightforward and honest. Some of the most obvious traits of a successful pilot include being organized, competent and disciplined.
An IQ test is not part of the recruitment process for a pilot, and is not used at any point in the training process either – and this is because it is not widely recognized as a useful measure of operational intelligence.
There is no minimum IQ requirement to become a pilot, but the role does tend to attract those with a higher level of intelligence because of the amount of learning in the training period and the nature of the job itself.
Pilots, whether commercial, military or freight, often have a reputation of being arrogant and egotistical. Some of this stems from being confident and self-sufficient, which are desirable personality traits for a pilot, of course.
Being a pilot means surrendering to long hours, irregular working schedules and a lot of time away from home – but the rewards of worldwide travel and a generous salary might be just enough to make up for it.
Becoming a pilot is a sought-after position as they can earn a six-figure salary.
More and more candidates are applying for the roles available within the aviation industry.
If this industry is calling you, then you must ensure you are fully prepared for all that the pilot recruitment process might require of you, which will include some form of psychometric-based aptitude test.
If you have asked the right questions before the test and have brushed up on all the necessary competencies, then taking the test should not be a problem. The more prep you do, the higher you will score.