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06 Jun 2021 3 min read
Transitioning from Military to Commercial Aviation: How hard how could it be?
Once you have successfully completed your interview and have been approved for either rating, or both, you can now take your written exams! That paperwork does not have a completion time limit, until you take your first exam. Regardless of whether you pass or fail you have 24 months from the date you took the first exam to complete your license, or you must restart the examination process. Refer to link to review FAA Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) guidelines for General, Airframe, and Powerplant Knowledge Test Guide:
From here, there is bias on what study materials to use as test prep, so at this point you’ll be getting information from the route I went. You can always take a look at the AMT General, Airframe, and Powerplant Knowledge Test Guide (link above) to see all the different technical references the FAA gave a nod to.
The FAA provides some free study materials on their website that you can print out and do practice tests with (some questions also in the link above). Additionally, they provide the books from which the tests are derived as a PDF for free. You can go online and purchase them as books, which will be cheaper than just printing them out at home if you prefer paperback. Refer to first link to AMT Handbooks for General, Airframe Volumes I & II, and Powerplant Volumes I & II PDFs. Refer to second link for practice tests:
While the books provide the knowledge you will need to pass, you’ll want to find a way to test yourself. A testing environment can be nerve wrecking, so if you become used to the way questions are worded, then it will be easier during crunch time to recall the information. There is test prep software that allows you to run practice tests at home. The software I used was from a company called ASA. They refer to their software as AMT Prepware and even provide apps, so you can have something more portable, though these apps can’t house all the questions you get from purchasing a computer version.
What you’re studying for will depend on what package you’ll want to purchase. You can buy the software for each individual portion of the test or buy bundled versions that are a bit cheaper depending on what you need. I chose this software because of the customizable nature of tests and being able to track my results. Bouncing future tests off my results allowed me to isolate my weakest areas and test those more frequently.
The software also has a study session option that allows you to build study sessions of each chapter and the amount of questions you want from each. Those sessions provide a sort of open book question environment that has a review as to why the answer is the answer. Lastly, if you wanted to find a specific question the software also has a search option. Refer to the link to find prepware available:
I would highly recommend you have a pass rate of 85% or higher for any portion you’ve been doing practice tests on before you go in for an official exam. The passing minimum is 70%, but the questions in any prepware are not going to cover new questions you can and will be tested on. That means that your practice score is extremely likely to be higher than your official test scores.
Finally, I would suggest taking the General Exam first. It covers the widest net of information and has the least margin for error only asking 60 total questions as opposed to the Airframe and Powerplant portions that ask 100 questions. This makes the General Exam traditionally harder of the three to pass. Once you jump that hurtle things tend to get easier.
When you are ready to take a written exam, you’ll want to find a handful of testing centers close to you and call them for pricing. Testing centers can charge you what they want, of course it’s in their best interest to stay competitive with other test centers in their area. The normal going rate is around $150 - $165 per exam. This may change, for better or worse, depending on your area. Remember to bring a government ID, your 8610-2 form, and anything else they may require with you. If you decide to get reimbursement for the exam, which is deducted from your educational benefits, make sure you keep an invoice or receipt to mail to the VA later. Refer to link for computer testing facilities:
After you pass your written exams you’re faced with the oral and practical exams. Whether you’re doing your General portion with either Airframe, Powerplant, or both you will need to study. There are so many things you can be tested on, and much like your written exams, each test is randomized. This means you won’t know what you’re going to get tested on, so you’ll need to have a good understanding of it all. Refer to link for the testing guidelines on General, Airframe, and Powerplants:
As with the written exam test prep, there are many study materials for the Oral and Practical exams. For this test part, I recommend a company called Jeppesen. They have AMT Oral and Practical Exam books covering each test portion that you can purchase online that includes practice questions. Make sure you are reading both question and answer out loud in order to acclimate yourself to the Oral component of the test. If you can get used to hearing the questions and answers it will be easier to recall the information in that same test environment during your actual exam.
On top of the Jeppesen books I also recommend using the app, Quizlet. There are so many electronic flash card quizzes you can download and search that other people created. Both of these combined were a huge help when I was going through this part of the testing along with a refresher course I took.
You can find an in seat Oral and Practical Test Prep, but this is going to require some research and phone calls on your part. There are some schools, training, and refresher courses, but just know that the prices will vary wildly. Some of you may have to travel long distance and some of you may not. Typically, these courses are about a week long per rating, so two weeks if you are going for both, longer if you fail an exam. My recommendation, if you decide to use this type of service, is to find people that used the service you’re highly considering and ask them how good the program was and how prepared they felt during their O&P's. The higher pass rate, the better your chances.
Now that you’re ready to jump the last hurtle of your examination process you’ll need to find a Designated Mechanic Examiner (DME). This is another step I recommend you do research on because not all examiners are created equal, and neither are their rates. Things like facilities, types of equipment, and age of equipment will play a part in how much they charge. Just because someone charges very little or very much, doesn’t necessarily mean they are better or worse. Again, make some phone calls and conduct some research. Refer to link to find DME’s in your state:
Finally, you may be able to receive reimbursement for your testing fees. If you went the route of a prep course, that is unfortunately not covered. You will need a copy of your passing score, a receipt or invoice, and a completed VA form 22-0803 mailed to the appropriate processing office. What you do need to know before going this route is that using this means that you lose one month of educational benefit per test that the reimbursement is being drawn from. With this information in mind, it may be more beneficial to use the reimbursement option for the testing fee of the Oral and Practical portions only. Good Luck!
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