Starting June 2016, the FAA has made it a requirement for commercial drone pilots to secure a Part 107 remote pilot certificate, or drone license, before they can fly their drones for profit. The biggest hurdle in getting a drone license is passing 60-item Part 107 knowledge test, which will require you to learn some level of aeronautical knowledge. If you’re planning to take the test, and still don’t know how to start preparing for it, then read on for our tips and suggestions for preparing and taking the test.
Before the Test
1. Search for study materials that work for you
There are dozens of study materials for the Part 107 knowledge test available online. If you’re on a budget, you can settle with using free study materials such as the study guide released by the FAA and our very own free study guide. If you have some cash to spare, then you can take a paid training course that can cost as much as $500.
Whether you use free or paid study materials, what is more important is that you learn using a medium that works for you. Some people retain information better by reading long texts, and some people are more visual – meaning instructional videos will probably work for them better. Whatever study method you prefer, there will surely be an available resource out there for you.
2. Devote more study time to specific topics
The knowledge test covers a variety of topics, but the FAA gives special emphasis to particular ones. Based on accounts of people who have taken the test, more than a third to about half of the questions cover aircraft operations. This means you should definitely pay attention to learning how to read aeronautical charts and maps.
The next topics you need to prioritize while studying are weather (understanding METAR weather reports and weather forecasts) radio communication standards. The other topics are also important and you should definitely not skip them, but the top topics we mentioned should help you allocate your study time wisely.
3. Take as many sample tests as you can
Almost all study materials provide some form of sample questions or tests. We suggest taking as many of these as you can so you can gauge how well you will do with the actual test. Take note, however, that the test questions you will receive on your actual Part 107 test will be lifted from a pool of possible test questions. This means that no two tests will be the same – and your actual test will definitely be not the same as that sample test you took.
The way to properly use these sample tests is to attempt to answer them, and identify which questions you missed. This will give you an idea on which topic you will need to brush up on. The 3DR website has an excellent set of 120 Part 107 sample questions. We also have a free list of sample questions in our website, neatly organized into distinct topics.
4. Commit to a study schedule
Most people recommend around 12 to 15 hours of total study time in preparation for the Part 107 knowledge test, while some claim to have only needed around 8 to 10 hours. However long you choose to commit, make sure that you designate a focused study time free of distraction. We also recommend doing this only a week or two before your test schedule so you can still retain the knowledge by the time you take the test.
5. Prepare a cram sheet
A cram sheet is a very short summary of quick facts and abbreviated notes of the most important topics that you have studied. Preparing it yourself can make it easier for you to retain the knowledge. It also gives you something you can quickly glance on a few hours or minutes before the test.
6. Make sure you to submit an ID with your correct name
You will be required to submit an ID with your photo, signature, and full name before you can take the Part 107 test. Make sure that the name stated in your ID is absolutely correct, right down to the middle name. Any discrepancy in this matter may result in long delays in the issuance of your drone license.
During the Test
1. Know what you are allowed to bring
The test administrators will give you a pencil and scratch paper when you start the test which you can use for long-hand calculations. However, you are actually allowed to bring a calculator which can help you in making quick and error-free calculations. Some questions require you to consult charts and maps, and you are allowed to bring a visual aid (such as a magnifying glass) to allow you to inspect the figures in higher detail. If you are especially hard of seeing, this is a measure that you may take.
2. Know where to find symbols and figures
The test will require you to consult specific figures, charts, and maps over the course of the questions. This is where the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement Book, which you will be provided, will come in handy. This book provides more detailed and higher resolution charts and maps. It also contains a list of common map symbols and a legend, meaning you will not need to memorize them.
3. Don’t get any bright ideas
The administration process of the Part 107 knowledge test is quite standardized, so you will receive the same experience no matter which testing center you choose to take the test in. Upon receiving the materials, you will be directed to a testing room wherein you will be constantly monitored by cameras while you take the test. Engaging in any funny business while taking the test will definitely be detected, so don’t even consider it.
4. Don’t freak out
There may be questions that appear to be so easy (such as those on flight attitudes) that you may tend to overthink them. Just go with your gut feel, and recognize that some topics really should be common knowledge.
However, there might be questions on topics that you don’t even recognize and might throw you for a loop. In these cases, just eliminate the most obviously wrong options (the test is multiple choice, after all) and make the most intelligent answer you can come up with. Keep in mind that you only need to answer 70 percent of the questions correctly to pass the test.
5. Take your time
You are given 2 hours to complete the test. Most people who have taken and passed the test claim to have finished it in about an hour, which means you have plenty of time. If there are answers you are unsure of, then you still have the luxury to go back and reconsider them. Just take it slow, make well-thought answers, and keep in mind that there is very little time pressure.
The final word
Since the inception of the Part 107 regulations, there have been more than 60,000 pilots who have taken and passed the knowledge test. This is a sign that the FAA is actually supportive of commercial drone flight, as long as they are done within the legal restrictions and that drone pilots have developed a level of aeronautical and legal knowledge. If thousands of people have done it, then so can you. Best of luck on your test!