Hopefully helpful writings of a career minded pilot, working through the ratings in a Part 61 school while still managing to eat and find time to sleep and work.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fundamentals of Fail

Update! The FAA has apparently decided to re-calculate my test score, and I passed. Just barely, but still...woo-hoo!

I took the Fundamentals of Instructing written test last weekend (FOI) and only managed only a frustrating 66% (you need a 70% to pass). It's not because I didn't know the material, or because I didn't prepare, but because of a recent change that the FAA has made to their question bank which has AOPA and future CFIs all riled up - and rightfully so IMHO.

What happened is that the FAA had found that applicants taking the FOI had been breezing through it in 15 minutes and getting very high scores. The fact this test requires no calculator and only has one figure, it was an obvious decision to change the question bank as applicants were employing rote memorization to breeze through the test.

Up to now, I'm in total agreement of the FAA changing the test bank - I don't think you'll find anyone that isn't in favor of this. The problem is that the study material is simply the test source, the Aviation Instructor's Handbook. That is to say, there's no study guide, practice tests, etc... provided by the FAA. Naturally that leaves an opportunity for companies like Gleim and ASA to fill in the gaps and make some money as well. So once a year these companies will release books with all the questions and answers (and incorrect answers) that they obtain most likely through the FOIA from the FAA. Because these commercial products are all that exists for applicants to see before the test, naturally they are bought and used, and along the way a good deal of rote memorization takes place.

The problem mostly manifests itself with this particular test, the FOI. The questions are mostly educational psychology based and let's face it, the FAA is not on the forefront in the field. Even more obviously, the non-psychologist writing the test certainly is not. The questions are largely based on semantics and read as though someone without a conceptual grasp on the material had picked a few important looking words and wrote 'main idea' type questions around them. I'll give you an example:

Responses that produce a pleasurable return are called:

  • positive feedback
  • praise
  • reward

Go ahead...figure that one out. There actually is a right answer, and a justification for it, but tell me how anyone who isn't memorizing portions of the study material are getting this question correct? It's complete semantics, and it should have no place in the test. Unfortunately this is not the only question that is similarly dumb.

So now with a changed test bank, ergo; no study materials, what should we future CFIs do? Well, the way I'm looking at it is that the test so far has cost me about $160 total. $140 to take it, and about $20 in prep materials. It's going to take another $140 to take the test, so this little trick of the FAA is certainly costing me. I think what I'd like to do is study the text again, take extremely thorough notes, and try not to fail again. ASA's updates page are far better than Gleim's update pages, plus they represent closer to what I've seen on the test. There's some solace. Maybe I'll pony up the cash and try ASA's prep material? Should I wait for the June/July cycle to do it? Are the FAA going to keep changing test banks?

310 total time and counting...

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