Pilot Aptitude Tests
Updated 7 April 2021
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.
What Are Pilot Aptitude Tests and Who Takes Them?
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.
What Skills Are Airlines Looking For?
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.
What Are the Different Types of Pilot Aptitude Tests?
COMPASS – The COMputerized Pilot Aptitude Screening Systemaptitude 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.
How to Prepare for Your Pilot Aptitude Test
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.
Here are some example questions you could get on your pilot aptitude test battery.
EasyJet is selling tickets for its long-stay parking lot. It has sold 40% of the available parking spaces and still has 420 spaces available to sell. How many EasyJet spaces were free to begin with?
The 420 remaining spaces are 60% of EasyJet’s total spaces. One way to find the total amount is to calculate what 40% would be and add that to 420.
40% is 2/3 of 60%. Therefore, divide 420 by 3 (140) and multiply by 2 (280). Add this to 420 and you get 700 – the answer.
This guide can help you with finding percentages and fractions.
A quick way to divide a multiple of 10 by any other number is first to remove the 0 from the end – here giving you 42. Then divide that by the number – here, 3, giving 14. Then add the 0 back on – here, 140.
Calculate the area of the wall pictured below in square meters. It is part of an aircraft’s hold and comprises the dimensions stated in the imagery.
a) 85 meters squared
b) 84 meters squared
c) 79 meters squared
d) 87 meters squared
Answer: 79 meters squared
This hold is divided into three shapes – a rectangle and two right-angle triangles.
First, calculate the area of the rectangle by multiplying its length and breadth – 6 x 7, which is 42.
Then, to calculate the area of a right-angle triangle, multiply its height and width then divide by 2.
Here, the smaller triangle is 3 x 6 (18) divided by 2 (9).
The larger triangle has the same width as the rectangle (7) and its height 14 minus the rectangle’s height (8) – 7 x 8 is 56, divided by 2 is 28.
Add these three areas together to get the total area: 42 + 9 + 28 = 79.
Which of the below is a type of energy?
a) Air resistance
This question simply tests your knowledge of physics. Try to learn and memorize as much as you can.
You might also receive factual questions where your history of aviation will come into use; these are usually formatted into a true or false scenario and can be quite lengthy, so ensure you read the question through thoroughly before you answer.
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.