How to study for instrument rating?

ifr study guide

IFR study is no joke, and pilots need a solid IFR study guide to pass the IFR knowledge test and oral exam.

I created this IFR study guide to pass the instrument knowledge test and oral exam and share everything you need to become a competent IFR-rated pilot.

As an instrument pilot, it’s not enough to learn theory stuff and comply with the examiner’s questions. An IFR-rated pilot’s job is to have adequate aeronautical knowledge and practice to fly in all types of weather conditions.

Therefore, I divided this IFR study guide into multiple sections:

  • Section 1 – How to study for the Instrument rating written test?;
  • Section 2 – What measures shall you take to prepare for your oral instrument test?;
  • Section 3 – What can you study to improve in your actual IFR flight?;
  • Section 4 – Ready yourself for the IR check-ride.

Your instrument flight training will be challenging without following the instructions in this study guide.

Study in a disciplined manner and follow the steps.

Without following the steps, your Instrument flight training will become stressful and de-motivate you from pursuing an IFR license. Many private pilots give up Instrument flying halfway because they believe they are not worthy of IFR flying.

Section 1: How to study for the instrument rating written test?

The instrument rating is challenging. But the purpose of this IFR study guide is to simplify the process of instrument studies for you.

The instrument rating written test is essential to check a pilot’s aeronautical knowledge.

Aeronautical knowledge is amusing to learn, and IFR theory is more in-depth. Regardless, I find studying for the instrument rating written test is straightforward.

The reasoning I used Rod’ Machado’s IFR resources to study for IFR rating. Rod Machado is one of the best flight instructors, and he is famous for simplifying complicated subjects to help students remember. Especially his methods are helpful for IFR training.

IFR studies contain an overwhelming amount of information for any pilot, and applying this knowledge at the right time is crucial.

Many pilots fail the instrument rating written test because they struggle to follow too much information of IFR studies.

Nevertheless, these three resources were enough for me to pass my Instrument rating knowledge/written test:

These three resources are not only about passing your FAA instrument rating written test but also sufficient to prepare for your IFR oral exam on checkride. But let us understand the IFR knowledge test studies first.

STEP 1: Use the IFR eGround school to remove the knowledge test from the IFR rating list.

There are two types of students:

  1. Some are visual learners;
  2. Others are readers.

If you are a visual learner, then you must purchase Rod’s Instrument pilot online ground school.

But I mainly recommend the eGround school because once you complete the eGround school and pass the tests within the course, you will receive an endorsement for taking the FAA instrument rating knowledge test.

Without an endorsement from a flight instructor, you are not eligible for taking the IFR written test. So completing the ground school is a must.

Now, those who are readers and hungry for detailed IFR studies can study Rod Machado’s Instrument Pilot Handbook.

Rod packed this book with instrument flying theories, charts, weather, and airplane systems in-depth. The book has all the fundamentals of instrument flying explained in easy language. You will learn all you need for your instrument rating.

  • As a private pilot, you learned how an aircraft works and utilized visual references outside to operating flights safely.
  • As an instrument pilot, you must learn about things that happen in nature and outside the airplane and operate flights without visual references.
  • You have to master airport operations and predict the weather for IFR.

Hence I included Rod Machado’s instrument pilot’s handbook in this IFR study guide for pilots to study subjects extensively after completing their IFR ground school.

Rod Machado elaborately explains why something happens and what you must do to correct it during your instrument flight.

IFR students from the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, South Africa, and anywhere worldwide can use the online IFR ground school. However, pilots training in the USA can use the FAA knowledge test endorsement.

If the pilots outside the United States prefer to purchase the Instrument Pilot’s handbook book, they can order the eBook if they are unwilling to wait for paperback delivery.

Step 2

At this stage, you need Instrument Rating test prep.

The FAA frequently updates the database of questions for the written test. We all know that the FAA database is not the same as it used to be decades ago.

So you can expect to see many questions out of the usual.

Regardless if you understand a subject thoroughly, you can figure out the correct answer. After taking the IFR ground school, you are supposed to be ready for any questions.

Yet, it’s crucial to study the questions and answers beforehand. That’s where the IFR test prep comes into play.

ASA test prep has hundreds of questions, and multiple choice answers divided into chapters. There is another alternative to ASA’s test prep which is by Gleims.

Gleims Tesp preps are pioneers in preparing a student for the FAA knowledge test. Gleim’s test preps are used by student pilots globally.

Use the multiple-choice question and answers to find the correct answer. If your answer is incorrect, refer to the right side of the question to understand why one answer is wrong, and the other is correct.

Both test preps by ASA and Gleim’s can help instrument rating trainees to review IFR topics.

Not only a reviewer but an excellent resource to ace your instrument rating knowledge/written test.

One more tip:

Clarify any wrong answer you picked by referring back to the section where Rod Machado explained in his Instrument pilot’s handbook.

Following these steps, you will answer problems by yourself and not fail your instrument written test.

To become a safer instrument pilot, one must presume how the airplane will behave and the weather en-route.

Following this studying technique will help you realize all these.

RELATED: A guide to achieving maximum score in IFR written test.

If you follow the instructions up until here, you would be ready for your IFR oral exam on checkride.

With the knowledge you would gather by taking the online ground school, reading the Instrument Pilot’s handbook, and passing the written test, you have learned the answers to your instrument rating examiner’s questions.

But the problem is you don’t know what kind of questions your DPE will ask. That’s why you need to follow the next section of this IFR study guide to prepare for the Instrument rating oral exam.

Section 2 – What measures shall you take to prepare for your oral instrument test?

There is a reason why many students fear oral checkride because it’s common for instrument rating students to fail their checkride.

We don’t know what the DPE might ask a pilot during the oral exam.

However, we can assume the questions. Most of the questions will be scenario-based on your actual flight plan of the checkride.

Similarly, if you get this far in IFR training and follow Rod’s Instrument ground school and read the Instrument pilot’s handbook, you can confidently answer all your examiner’s questions.

The DPE asks questions relevant to flying using instruments and in meteorological conditions. If you are knowledgeable about weather flying, then you will answer the question without effort.

There is no doubt about your knowledge of the fundamentals of instrument flying.

I was in the same place as you but until my friend told me to buy a guide that is in question-answer style. The book contains similar questions that the DPE might ask you on your checkride.

The Instrument Oral Exam guide is an excellent book to practice answering examiner’s questions and also boost pilot’s confidence. Imagine that you already know what questions to expect on the oral exam. You will already be ahead of many other pilots.

Not just that, it is typical for the DPE not to ask private pilots too many questions during the instrument rating practical test if they answered the DPE’s questions during the oral check.

Section 3 – What can you study to improve in your actual IFR flight?

Instrument flying is the most challenging phase to overcome in instrument rating.

Forget everything you have achieved as a private pilot. Being a better instrument pilot is genuinely something different and nothing impossible.

Anyone reading this IFR study guide, I suggest passing the IFR knowledge test first and then getting back to read this section of the article.

If you have already passed your instrument written test by now, you are knowledgeable about the instrument flying fundamentals.

That is not enough, as instrument flying is a whole new thing from VFR flying.

There are too many things to do in IFR flights quickly and to become better at instrument flying.

It would help if you did the following:

  1. Learn the instrument approaches and departure procedures;
  2. Memorizing the approach plates you often use;
  3. Practice acronyms to brief your CFII during instrument flight.

Learn the instrument approaches and departure procedures.

To become an excellent IFR pilot, you quickly need to grasp the necessary materials first.

Approach and departure procedures are critical phases of an instrument flight.

Knowing how to depart from an airport using the instruments, arriving at an airport following the instrument approach, and safely landing the aircraft will make you an excellent instrument pilot.

There are many elements to study for instrument pilots. But remembering the procedures and applying them will distinct you from other pilots.

There are two sources of learning IFR flying procedures that I find very useful for instrument flying:

  1. Secrets of Instrument Approaches and Departures by Rod Machado.
  2. Instrument procedures Handbook by ASA. (Free PDF link here)

Learning from these two resources is sufficient to improve your instrument flying operations.

Secrets of Instrument Approach and Departures is an 8 Hours online course by Rod Machado. In the study, he focuses exclusively on Approaches and departures.

You can find this course in Rod’s Instrument Pilot’s eGround School. But if you did not purchase Rod’s IFR ground school, you can individually buy his IFR approaches and departures course to improve your instrument flying.

As an instrument pilot myself, I find approaches to be somewhat complicated. Knowing indispensable techniques from this online instrument course will improve your IFR flying.

Secrets of Instrument Approaches & Departures by Rod Machado.

Second I recommend the Instrument Flying Handbook to learn more about the en-route operation and overall instrument flying procedures.

This book is not technical but will benefit your instrument flight training.

You can get the FREE PDF or order a physical copy online if you prefer.

Utilizing these two resources to study for instrument rating will improve your instrument flying performance massively.

You have to study and practice in your actual flight to develop.

Studying for an instrument rating can be overwhelming even after getting your private pilot license, but knowing only the essential flight materials will make you a better pilot sooner.

It would be best if you memorized the approach plates that you frequently use.

Now that you know how to follow the instrument procedures and progress your performance, you can level up your instrument flying by memorizing the approach plates.

I am not saying you must memorize hundreds of approach plates.

Just figure out the airports you frequently fly to and memorize the approach plates.

If you find it challenging to memorize the approach plates, take some time before each flight to study the approach plate not to find yourself lost during the flight.

The last thing you want is to fly into a congested Class B airspace and get lost in your approach plate.

You should be able to glance at your chart and be ready for the approach procedure.

Practice acronyms to brief your CFII during instrument flight.

Memorizing some acronyms helps during IFR flights. During instrument flight training, it may be tough to remember the flow of tasks or radio communication.

Memorizing acronyms and practicing their application before a flight and during the instrument ease the tasks for pilots.

A PDF file is available in Google, where you can find only the essential acronyms for instrument flying. Take the time to memorize them, and you will not find yourself in an uneasy situation during your flight.

It is crucial to think and stay ahead of the airplane in an instrument flight. A few seconds difference can mess up the whole phase of your flight. So think ahead of the aircraft to stay ahead of the aircraft.

Memorizing acronyms will help you:

  • To think quickly and ease your tasks operating an instrument flight;
  • To brief your CFII before the approach.

Your instrument flight instructor will undoubtedly ask you to brief before each approach. You don’t want to refrain at this stage.

If you struggle to identify what happens next, you will fall behind the aircraft and ultimately mess up the whole approach.

You will end up getting lectured by your CFII. Take the time and memorize the acronyms.

That way, you will grow as a safer instrument pilot, and your flight instructor will always be satisfied with your performance.

Learning about the weather.

Take the time and study Weather Flying by Robert N. Buck. You will be a step ahead of many instrument-rated pilots.

Many of us do not recognize the importance of learning the weather during instrument rating but learning about weather flying is a crucial aspect of IFR flying.

If you have some instrument flight hours remaining, you must practice instrument flying in the actual Instrument Meteorological Conditions(IMC).

Flying in harsh weather using the instruments will grow you as a pilot. If you practice flying in extreme weather, you will level up as an instrument pilot too.

At this stage, studying the weather flying book can be beneficial.

Likewise, we always forget that instrument flying is not about operating the aircraft but working safely without visuals.

You need to know why the weather behaves in such a way and when to avoid the weather.

How to study and be ready for the instrument rating check-ride?

If you follow the instructions in this IFR study guide, you will be pretty much ready for your checkride.

I still want every private pilot studying for instrument rating to memorize the basic flow of an instrument flight.

  • Compared to VFR flight, there is a lot more to remember and execute in an IMC condition;
  • A pilot has to act fast, and they need to think ahead of the aircraft.

Therefore, memorizing an instrument flight’s basic flow will help you think quickly, and you will not be hesitant on your check-ride.

During your instrument check-ride, you can confidently show your DPE the instrument flying procedures.

Likewise, if you act before your airplane does, you will have excellent flight performance in your IFR check-ride.

If you are unwilling to fail your IFR check-ride, you must memorize the flight’s basic flow and practice them during your instrument rating training flight.

That way, you will never be lost in IMC and acquire your instrument rating with proficiency.

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