Practical Test Standards

9794By the time you’re endorsed for your checkride (but hopefully much sooner), you will have heard about this mysterious document known as the Practical Test Standards or PTS.  Think of the PTS as an FAA Directive of all of the knowledge and skill areas that you’ll be expected to be knowledgeable of, and proficient in, for your practical test.  Put another way, it will be your examiner’s playbook when administering the test.  And guess what?  It’s not a secret.  It’s available for all to see and is critically important for your preparation.  The FAA publishes this document for all to see because it’s seen as a vital tool for communicating what is important for certification.  It also ensures practical tests are administered fairly and relatively uniform by outlining specific examiner responsibilities.

At first glance, the PTS could appear to be overwhelming, but as your training progresses step by step, you’ll begin to see how the pieces begin to fit together seamlessly.  The document is organized in to several sections all with a dedicated purpose.  The introduction section describes the organization and creation of the document and also outlines practical test requirements, responsibilities, expectations, satisfactory and unsatisfactory performance considerations and also any special emphasis areas.  While it’s easy to skip immediately to the required standards for your required maneuvers, familiarizing yourself with the introductory section will result in valuable insight as to how your exam will be administered.

The PTS is not a stagnant document.  Contrary to standard government speed, the PTS is very much a living document that evolves and allows the FAA to wield immediate influence over topics they deem most important and even requiring special emphasis.  In fact, in 2012 alone, the Private Pilot PTS has received three official changes.  This provides even greater credence for staying connected to this certification guide.

A training resource such as Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course takes care of the seamless integration piece and ensures you’ll stay connected to the PTS for your desired course of training.  It does so using conventions and strategy unique to the daily flight training activities of Sporty’s.  With an active flight school, FAA-approved curriculum and a designated pilot examiner on staff, this approach to training has a storied history of success.

1)                  Sporty’s integrated PTS Guide provides the current PTS document in a well-organized, easy-to-follow format.  This includes a detailed table of contents and the complete introductory section so you’re not caught off guard come test day.

2)                  Sporty’s integrated PTS cross-references each element of the PTS to where that information is found within the course.  No other resource can provide this level of detail and organization.  The cross-referencing allows you to jump immediately to sections of video training that address the very element you are reviewing.  This will make for efficient preparation for your flight lessons and checkride.  While using Sporty’s online or app versions, this is as simple as a button click from the PTS section.


3)                  Sporty’s Training Course Outline ensures all required maneuvers are completed to the current PTS.  Sporty’s included flight training syllabus features lessons complete with lesson objectives and completion standards.  You can ensure at the completion of this syllabus (that will connect your at-home study with that which you’ll do in the airplane), you will have not only covered each element of the PTS, but you also will have performed each element to the current PTS or better making your checkride flight just another lesson in the standard progression of training – no added pressure or anxiety.



An important point when reviewing the PTS, especially early on in your training, is to understand published standards are the end goal.  In the interest of establishing manageable goals, it’s best to focus on the completion standards of the lesson you’re working within or better.  Completion standards found within the Sporty’s TCO are realistic and will ensure you’re progressing toward more stringent parameters.  Like anything, there will be some elements that will come easier than others.  The most important measurement is improvement.

Incorporating the PTS in your preparation is well worth the minimal time investment.  It will create a better awareness of your certification environment and reduce any test anxiety.  Involve your instructor as well as he’s sure to have additional insight.

Safe flying!