A comprehensive private pilot study guide comprising key study materials.

how to study for private pilot written exam

This is a complete private pilot study guide for student pilots. I included only the essential PPL study materials and how to study using these resources.

A student pilot will precisely know what they need for different stages of private pilot training without spending money on unnecessary study materials.

I divided this private pilot study guide into different sections for each stage of PPL training and the resources you can purchase on a budget.

  • SECTION 1: Ground school/Self-studying to obtain aeronautical knowledge;
  • SECTION 2: Study materials to pass FAA PPL knowledge test;
  • SECTION 3: Resources to become competent in actual flying and safe operations of aircraft;
  • SECTION 4: Study materials to face your examiner with confidence on your private pilot checkride.

I shared this private pilot study guide for student pilots to quickly master each stage of private pilot training and obtain the license with ease.

Obtaining Aeronautical Knowledge. Preparing for FAA PPL Knowledge test.
1. Online Pilot Courses.1. Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Workbook.
2. Rod Machado’s Private Pilot Handbook.2. Gleim’s Private Pilot Test Prep.
3. Jeppesen Private Pilot Manual.3. FLY8MA’s Written Test Prep Bootcamp.
4. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.4. ASA Private Pilot Test Prep.
Private Pilot Study Materials to Obtain Aeronautical Knowledge.

Seeing all these resources on the table may seem overwhelming. A student pilot doesn’t need to study all these books. One book/course from each column is adequate to pass your private pilot written test.

Continue reading this PPL study guide to make the best out of limited study materials if you are on a budget.

SECTION 1: Ground school/Self-studying to obtain aeronautical knowledge.

This section of the private pilot study guide includes ground schooling materials for obtaining a private pilot knowledge test endorsement.

It’s essential to have adequate aeronautical knowledge to become a competent pilot. You can acquire aeronautical expertise by going to ground school at your flight school or selecting an online private pilot ground course for self-study.

You might wonder why can’t you have a book for self-studying to understand aeronautics?

PPL ground school classes and online pilot courses are structured. By having a structured approach, you will complete studying quicker.

Nevertheless, the critical reason for taking an online course or a physical ground school is to prove that you are well educated in aeronautics.

After completion of private pilot ground school, you will get an endorsement. Without approval from the instructor, you cannot take FAA private pilot knowledge test.

Both the online ppl course instructor and ground instructor at your flight school can endorse student pilots for the FAA PPL knowledge test.

RELATED: Online ground school vs. Physical classroom.

Assuming you are looking for self-study materials for private pilot training, you can pick online pilot courses without hesitation. Once you complete the online method for private pilot training, you will receive your endorsement from the instructor through email.

It’s not FAA’s concern about how you get the endorsement.

FAA’s priority is to ensure that you are ready to take the FAA private pilot knowledge test and your flight instructor approves it.

So, you can enroll in an online pilot course or a physical ground school course.

Online courses are affordable and convenient for self-studying. I recommend online courses to all student pilots to acquire aeronautical knowledge and the private pilot knowledge test endorsement.

I recommend only my favorite study materials for private pilot training in this study guide.

These are the only study materials you genuinely need for becoming a private pilot, and if you want to be a competent pilot, you must learn from the veterans.

Who can be a better instructor than someone with over 40 years of experience in the industry? Hence I constantly study and practice using Rod Machado’s study materials.

  1. You will get your PPL knowledge test endorsement once you complete Rod Machado’s PPL ground school course and pass the tests.
  2. Rod Machado is an excellent instructor with 40 years of experience. Thus, learning from him is a privilege.
  3. His explanation techniques are understandable, and you will remember topics concisely.

Often student pilots struggle to keep pace with the overwhelming information in a physical ground school course.

You can repeat and re-watch lessons by taking an online ground school course like this.

RELATED: Online ground school vs. Classroom.

Although you purchase an online ppl course, having a free syllabus to study is a good idea. You can have Rod Machado’s free ground training syllabus for reference while learning.

There are many books available for aspiring private pilots.

You can pick either one of these books for your private pilot studies:

Use these books to study and use this free syllabus to obtain ample aeronautical knowledge for the private pilot knowledge test. I recommend buying Rod Machado’s Private pilot handbook if you learn using Rod Machado’s Free Syllabus.

Anyone training for a private pilot license knows about Jeppesen’s private pilot manual. Without a doubt, this book is excellent for learning the fundamentals of flying.

Aeronautical subjects are overwhelming initially, and studying everything you get your hands on will lower your chances of failing the private pilot written exam.

Capt. Elite.

Lastly, I want to mention ASA’s Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. This book is available online in PDF versions.
ASA’s books are always easy to read and understand. So if you have the time to read something extra, you shall get a copy of this book.

Purchasing any one of these books is excellent for student pilots.

SECTION 2: Study materials to pass FAA private pilot knowledge test.

Test PrepsPrice (USD)
1. Rod Machado’s eWorkbook.19.95
2. Gleim’s PPL test prep.25.99
3. FLY8MA written test Bootcamp.149
4. Dauntless PPL test prep.49.99

This section will discuss a student pilot’s materials to pass the FAA private pilot knowledge test.

Students practice answering multiple-choice questions using test preps. There are two types of test preps available:

  1. Traditional books with multiple choice questions and answers;
  2. Digital tools to practice answering questions similar to actual knowledge tests.

You can use either one of the systems to study for your Private pilot knowledge test.

I usually recommend using the online tools for practice answering questions because the online tools are very similar to the actual FAA knowledge/written tests. On the contrary, traditional test prep books are good for memorizing the answer to a question.

I don’t support memorizing the answers because the FAA frequently changes the questions. However, you can purchase either a digital version or a traditional book to practice for your knowledge test.

Memorizing a complete book is not reasonable, but grasping the facts as to why an answer is correct can be crucial.

Thus I mention the materials in this PPL study guide to help you understand the facts. Likewise, remember the subject during your written test to answer correctly.

The best resources to test your aeronautical knowledge are:

There are numerous benefits of using test preps to practice before the PPL written exam. You can find here a list of the best private pilot test preps.

Test preps are essential for the private pilot studying method. A critical aspect of using test prep is answering multiple-choice questions using a timer similar to the actual test.

Thus I prefer the Dauntless Aviation test prep software. This test prep has been very popular since 1997 among student pilots.

It isn’t easy to pass the private pilot written test solely by reading a textbook. You need at least some idea of the type of questions you will see in the exam. A test prep software exactly helps you to do that.

RELATED: How difficult is the private pilot written exam?

As a student pilot:

I memorized all the questions and answers from Gleim’s test prep and passed the exam with 90%+ marks.

However, today it’s more competitive, and to test a pilot’s aeronautical knowledge, FAA modifies the questionnaire.

Failure to understand a topic, you may fail your private pilot knowledge test. Therefore, online pilot courses are essential to understanding and mastering aeronautical subjects.

If you are looking for a list of books for private pilot refresher then read here: Books to study for private pilot license refresher.

Step by Step guide to studying for the private pilot written exam.

Most important is to set a deadline. Select a date on which you will take your FAA private pilot knowledge test. The best practice is to develop a date for three months from now.

The steps described in this article are not only to pass your exams but to achieve a 90%+ score.

Step 1: Buy only the books necessary.

The common mistake of student pilots is they collect many study materials. Student pilots believe they must study vigorously to pass the FAA private pilot knowledge test. However, many times they purchase study materials they never read.

So to pass your PPL knowledge test, get access to only one resource that can be either digital or a book.

My recommendation would be Rod Machado’s eWorkbook. As in this private pilot study guide, I recommend mostly Rod Machado’s products; hence Rod Machado’s eWorkbook is most relevant for the student pilots.

RELATED: The only books you need as a student pilot.

Step 2: Make a routine.

  • Study for 2.5 hours each day;
  • Use an hour to practice answering at least 20 questions and answer from the eWorkbook;
  • Another hour to read Rod Machado’s Handbook.

This system is just an example. You can make your routine which you think is suitable.

Rod Machado’s workbook is similar to Gleim’s test prep and designed for student pilots to practice in MCQ style. However, to understand why an answer is correct, you must refer to Rod Machado’s private pilot handbook.

Fortunately, the chapter and book’s page numbers are mentioned next to each question in the workbook.

If you want to study in-depth about any topic, refer to Rod Machado’s handbook for better understanding.

Books to Master Flying.Passing Oral and Check-ride.
1. Rod’s How to Fly an Airplane Handbook.1. ASA’s Private Pilot Oral Exam Guide.
2. ASA’s Airplane Flying Handbook.2. Gleim Oral Exam Guide.

SECTION 3: Resources to become competent in actual flying and safe operations of aircraft.

This section includes the study materials and an online course to improve your actual flying.

Many student pilots naturally acquire flying skills quickly. On the contrary, some student pilots don’t bother getting their first solo flight quickly.

Nevertheless, many student pilots miss out on the fact that:

Student pilots who take longer to get their first solo flight flies more hours than the required 40 hours to obtain a private pilot license, and the entire process becomes lengthier.

Capt. Elite

Typically the Civil Aviation law requires student pilots to fly a minimum of 20 hours solo or PIC within that 40 hours.

So in the scenario, if a student takes 40 hours to get the first solo, he will have to fly another 20 hours as PIC, and the total hours logged would look like this: 40 Dual hours + 20 solo hours = 60 Total hours.

If that is the case for you, you will have to spend more money, time, and energy obtaining your private pilot license.

Books to Improve Overall Flying.Course to Improve takeoff and landing.
1. How to Fly an Airplane Handbook by Rod Machado.1. The Art of Takeoffs and Landings.
2. Airplane Flying Handbook from ASA..
Study materials to improve flying skills.

Assuming you don’t want to be in such a situation, you must study at least one book that explains how to fly an airplane.

As a pilot, this book by Rod Machado helped me understand stick and rudder flying quickly.

I applied the tips and techniques in my actual flying, enhancing my flight performance.

Often I feared maneuvering the airplane because I didn’t know my airplane’s limit.

Reading this book boosted my confidence, and I understood tiny details that I had ignored before. I missed the information in front of me because I didn’t know what to do with it.

Some techniques in this book will teach you what small changes in aircraft operation can land the aircraft smoothly.

Similarly, what actions keep the airplane flying as comfortable as possible during your flight.

So to get the most out of this book:

  • Note where you struggle the most during your actual flight;
  • After each flight, remember which phase you were struggling with and refer to Rod Machado’s how to fly an airplane handbook‘s particular chapter to polish up.
  • After studying that chapter, you can apply your new lessons on your next flight and practice regularly to become better at flying.

Most student pilots struggle with their landing. Hence in the USA, Canada, Australia, and South Africa, it is common for students to acquire a private pilot license after flying 50 to 60 Hours.

Nevertheless, it’s possible to get the first solo flight within 15 hours of dual flight time.

For that, a student pilot needs to understand the VFR approach and landing fundamentals. These are not complex study material, but the flight instructor often forgets to share the tiny details.

You can take this inexpensive online course by Rod Machado to grasp minor changes that can significantly improve your landing to obtain your first solo flight quickly.

SECTION 4: Study materials to face your examiner with confidence on your private pilot checkride.

Checkride Preparation MaterialsPrice (USD)
1. ASA oral exam guide.13.09
2. Airmen Certification Standards. (FREE)FREE

This section includes necessary study materials for the private pilot checkride.

Private pilot checkride has two parts:

  • The oral exam: The DPE will ask scenario-based questions relevant to your navigational Flightplan;
  • The practical exam: It’s a cross-country flight, and you will demonstrate maneuvers according to the ACS.

At this stage of your private pilot training, you will naturally be ready to answer all the questions of your designated pilot examiner. However, it’s better to recognize the questions to anticipate during your oral exam.

To prepare for a private pilot checkride, study the Oral Exam Guidebook.

The private pilot oral exam guide aims to boost your confidence. You don’t have to memorize the answer to the questions from this book. Just read the book thoroughly.

Imagine knowing the questions your designated pilot examiner put together for you. By knowing what questions your DPE has for you, you can answer correctly, assuring your examiner that you are ready for your PPL license.

You already have all the essential information to become a safe, private pilot, and the Oral Exam Guide will take you a step further.

RELATED: Checkride Prep Materials.

Secondly, use the FAA Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) and read this book thoroughly.

On your private pilot checkride, the check pilot will not ask anything beyond the Private Pilot Airmen Certification Standards. Thus, the ACS is an excellent resource for preparation.


If passing the FAA PPL knowledge test is your only concern, you can refer to SECTION 1 and 2.

To become better at flying, refer to SECTION 3.

SECTION 4 will prepare you for the checkride.

You may wonder: Why do you need to pass the exam with a better score?

Once a student pilot passes the FAA private pilot written exam with excellent scores, the check ride becomes easier for the pilot.

There are two reasons for that:

  1. You have adequate knowledge of aeronautical subjects and can answer check pilot’s questions quickly;
  2. Likewise, when the check pilot sees your excellent score in the written exam, they avoid asking too many questions.

If you follow all the instructions in this private pilot study guide, you will ace your written exam and be overall a better pilot.

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