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How To Prepare For Your Instrument Checkride

Beginning the instrument checkride calmly is a good way to establish the pace and tone of the rest of the event. Read more tips below on how to prepare!


Studying for the instrument checkride requires a great deal of time, cockpit practice, simulator rehearsals, and dedication. It can seem intimidating to prepare your checkride, during which a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) or DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) will determine whether or not you have acquired the skills necessary to fly in a wider variety of weather conditions. Your instrument checkride, officially known as the practical test, is the culmination of several weeks of preparation. However, as long as you have prepared properly and have done the correct amount of work the right way, there is no need to worry about the outcome.


What Does Your Instructor Say?

A good, ethical flight instructor is always honest with his or her student. Every student must receive a logbook endorsement stating that he or she is fully prepared for the practical test. Your CFII (Certified Flight Instructor- Instrument), who is permitted to teach other pilots how to prepare for the instrument rating should have thoroughly prepared you for obtaining your instrument rating, and in the course of that preparation, your CFII should have become familiar with your learning style and flying abilities.

If the CFII hesitant to provide this endorsement, perhaps more study time or practice is required. By this, actual study is necessary, not merely sitting in front of an instruction manual while undertaking ten other tasks. If more time acting as pilot in command (PIC) is needed, it is important for the student to undertake the actual flying, not the instructor. The student pilot must have demonstrated that he or she is capable of acting as pilot in command under instrument conditions.

In the event you feel you are ready to take your instrument checkride but your instructor disagrees, and you have fulfilled the FAA requirements for time acting as pilot in command under instrument conditions or are well past this number, perhaps consider seeking a second opinion. Asking an experienced pilot or another flight instructor to fly with you “under the hood” or under instrument conditions can help you to identify weak areas that your original instructor might not have identified, or is not explaining in a way which is useful to your learning style.


Recall What You Have Learned

The best way to prepare for the instrument checkride is to stick to your ground school materials and in-air training as closely as possible. If you have not been referring to your textbook all along and faking it through your sessions in the cockpit, you’ll probably have difficult checkride.

When you truly understand the underlying principles of instrument flying and how to safely work with your aircraft under these conditions, you have an excellent chance of passing your checkride. The majority of instrument flight instructors conduct a mock instrument checkride before providing a logbook endorsement, so if this practice checkride is a disaster and you had no idea what the instructor was asking you to do, it might be time to go back to basics.

Rote memorization is not enough. Ensure that you understand the “why” behind all of the topics the checkride will cover. Not only do you stand a good chance that your examiner will delve into these issues, knowing the “why’s” of an issue ensures that you have a full understanding of the aerodynamic and safety principles behind each issue. Since part of your instrument checkride will consist of an oral exam in addition to the flight itself, it is a good bet that the examiner can easily tell if you are bluffing or guessing.

During the flight itself, the examiner will almost surely institute an “emergency”. This is in order to ensure that you understand how to safely operate the aircraft under these stressful conditions. The best way to prepare for this is practice until it becomes second nature. This includes understanding the importance of each step in the process.


Practice Good Self-Care Before Your Instrument Checkride

What applies to a traditional classroom environment also applies to the stress of taking a checkride. It is vital to schedule the checkride for a time which does not take place along with additional upset in your household, or when some sort of distressing event is taking place just after or just before the checkride. Understanding how you process emotions and being in touch with what your mindset and body are telling you is key.

It is no secret that completing the instrument rating can be difficult; in some ways, it is even harder than completing the private pilot certificate. Instrument checkrides require much more extensive study is required and the information can be more complex. Instrument flying is much more precise than what the FAA expects of a private pilot. However, with diligent hard work and thorough study throughout the process, student pilots who have received their logbook endorsements are usually ready.

Therefore, trust the opinion of your flight instructor or a longtime pilot who you regard as safe and competent.

It is up to you to ensure that you are eating well and getting enough sleep in the few days before you take your instrument checkride. Crashing for twelve hours before the exam if you have been skimping on sleep for the entire week beforehand is not a good idea, and neither is slamming a heavy meal if you have not had time to eat properly for the past few days. Skipping meals and pulling an all-nighter is not recommended, either.



On the day of the checkride, ensure that you get to the airport in plenty of time and allow a few minutes to get to know your examiner. You can familiarize yourself with the weather, take a peek at your aircraft, and ensure that you aren’t feeling frazzled and frantic. Beginning the instrument checkride calmly is a good way to establish the pace and tone of the rest of the event. Do not let events control you—remember that you are acting as the pilot in command. Have confidence in your abilities and knowledge.

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