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Flying Aptitude Tests (FATs) - My experience and advice


Evening folks,

Just a quick post regarding the Flying Aptitude Tests (FATs.)

I sat my FATs yesterday at RAF Cranwell and am pleased to say that I passed. However, I (and in fact all of the 15 candidates) found the tests immensely challenging.

My advice to those about to sit the tests would be much the same as the advice that’s already been given on this topic. A lot of the tests measure your natural abilities and really cannot be practiced for. However, some elements of the tests can be practiced to some degree.

I would estimate that around a third of the test battery consisted of some form of mental arithmetic or SDT calculation. Practice your mental arithmetic and your SDT calculations. I really cannot stress how important being fluent in SDT is. Also, for many of these tests you are not permitted to use a pen and paper and the numbers are often not divisible so mental calculation and estimation is critical. Practice your SDT.

I would also recommend practicing remembering sequences of numbers and letters. For one test, which requires you to remember sequences of up to 9 letters, I found it helpful to remember the sequence as an acronym. Figure out some techniques which help you remember numbers and letters other than simply repeating them in your head.

A basic understanding of the instruments in an aircraft cockpit is also very beneficial. Work at understanding how the readings on an Airspeed Indicator, Compass, Altimeter, Attitude Indicator, Vertical Speed Indicator and Turn Slip Indicator would affect the orientation of an aircraft as it appeared to an outside observer.

The verbal reasoning tests turned out to be one of the hardest sections due entirely to the sheer mass of information you are required to read and absorb. Practice in verbal reasoning example tests would also be of benefit.

I hope this is of some help to those going for their FATs. I’ll answer any questions as best I can. Remember: relax, get a good night’s sleep, drink lots of water and give it your best shot. And again PRACTICE YOUR SPEED DISTANCE TIME.

Best of luck


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What kind of questions did you get for the SDT/numerical stuff?

A typical question would involve a map with a journey you need to complete. You would be given the distance of the journey and a number of tables from which you can work out your speed, cargo weight or fuel consumption. You would then need to find out the time it takes to complete your journey or the fuel consumed.

An easier question may go like this:

“You must travel from A to B. The distance from A to B is 108 miles. If your speed is 12MPH how much fuel will you burn throughout your journey?”

For this you would use the distance and the speed to calculate how long the journey would take. You would then go to your fuel consumption table which would say something like: “at 12MPH your fuel consumption is 100 gallons/minute.” You would then multiply this number by the number of minutes you were in the air.

The math would look like this:

T = D/S

T = 108/12

T = 9 hours

Fuel consumption = 100x9x60

= 54000KGs of fuel burned

The numbers in this example are obviously easily divisible for ease of explanation but the numbers in the test will not be easily divisible so you will need to estimate. A more difficult question may go like this:

“You must travel from A to pick up a parcel at B and deliver it to C. The distance from A to B is 298 miles and the distance from B to C is 164 miles. Your aircraft weighs 200KGs empty and your package weighs 1300KGs. There is a tail wind of 90MPH for the first hour of the journey which then falls to 30MPH for the remainder of the journey. What is the latest time you can leave if you must arrive at C by 14:45?”

You would have a number of tables telling you how cargo weight and external factors such as tail winds would affect your aircraft's speed and fuel consumption.

As you can see these numbers and pretty nasty to work with, especially without a pen and paper. So your mental arithmetic, as well as your ability to apply said arithmetic to SDT calculations, needs to be sharp. As does your ability to draw information from tables.

Hope this helps.



Looks like i should start cramming... Haha Were the hand-eye coronation tests hard?

I found them very difficult.

There are two hand/eye/foot coordination tests. Your scores for these tests carry a lot of weight for your overall pilot aptitude score if that's what your going for.

This first one consisted of a ball at the bottom of the screen which you can move from left to right with a joystick. A stream of red dots descend from the top of the screen and your aim is to intercept as many red dots at possible. You hear a beep for each dot you intercept. You are given a practice run to get a feel for the sensitivity of the controls.

In the second test your aim is to keep a dot centered on a cross hair on the screen. You move the dot vertically using the joystick and horizontally using rudder pedals. The dot will randomly move off in any direction so complete concentration is critical. I found this to be one of the most challenging tests.

I don't believe you can prepare for these tests; you either have good coordination or you don't. My advice would be to spend as much time on the practice tests as possible as this allows you to familiarize yourself with the controls. I also found it helpful to take of my shoes to get a better feel for the rudder controls.
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War Hero
A tip with speeds is to see if they're easily divisible by 60 (or 6). If this is the case then you will find miles per minute a lot more convenient (and it's what's done in the real world). For instance 180 kts = 3 nm/min (180/60), so a 120 nm journey would take 40 mins (120/3). You can, of course, use the T = D/S but if the speed is a multiple of 60 (or even an easy fraction like 90 kts), you'll find miles/min a very convenient shortcut.


War Hero
A tip with speeds is to see if they're easily divisible by 60 (or 6). If this is the case then you will find miles per minute a lot more convenient (and it's what's done in the real world). For instance 180 kts = 3 nm/min (180/60), so a 120 nm journey would take 40 mins (120/3). You can, of course, use the T = D/S but if the speed is a multiple of 60 (or even an easy fraction like 90 kts), you'll find miles/min a very convenient shortcut.
:smile: think I will get me old dalton computer out, then i can put the wind speed and direction on with my red chinagraph , not for getting 8 degrees west variation from Osprey, and check out my RAS TO TAS .:laughing5: Iirc Sir:salut:
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War Hero
We know the truth, Scouse. You followed the coast for 15 minutes (assuming still air) and then turned round and followed the coast back to Osprey, landing on with min fuel.

I was playing with a posh Dalton the other day and looking at the CAS/TAS/Mach stuff on the back. It was then that I realised I've become a slave to the flight management computer because I'm damned if I could remember half of the stuff I used to be able to do. Nowadays it's all available of Progress Page 2 :smile:


There's a short walk between the Candidates' Mess and the testing centre. That's about the limit of the fitness tests.

I sat my FATs at the start of June and somehow, bafflingly, I passed ... I can only re-iterate that practicing speed/distance/time is of inestimable value. Actually I found some of the tests quite fun, in a masochistic kind of way.

They send you a document with a run-down of various tests on it when you get your dates; however, some are not included in the tests you sit for the FAA and some you aren't expecting turn up instead. For instance, the OP mentions steering along a row of dots - that wasn't included in my tests.

Prepare for a long day - we started at 0700 and I got my results at 1600. You get 5 minutes every hour and 45 minutes for lunch ... make sure you take all the rest time available and don't get upset if you think you're doing badly - it just puts you in a downward spiral that's hard to escape from. I felt pretty sorry for the 3 RAF candidates - they don't get told their results until the morning after - at least the Navy have the decency to put you out of your misery as soon as you've finished the last test.

The other thing to remember is that you spend the evening with the other candidates in the bar ... most of the guys I went through with sat around silently and brooded all evening - it doesn't hurt to chat to people to take your mind off things. A chap I know who passed spent his evening learning Italian ... there's no point worrying about the tests the night before, just make sure you get a good night's sleep and eat a massive breakfast. I took about 8 bananas with me and left them in the room outside the test hall and ate one every time I had a break. I'm not sure if it helped at all but even peeling a banana seems like a small victory if you've just come out of a test you think you've done appallingly on.

If anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to help!
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Waterwings is spot on. I sat my FAT's for pilot in May and passed literally by the skin of my teeth, however a pass is a pass. My mental arithmetic has always been pants but I looked at the FAT's as an experience rather than the make or break stage of my entire life as seemingly all the other candidates did. I spent the night before making the most of the £1.67 desperado's in the candidate mess, others went for a run and went to bed at half seven whilst others didn't come to the mess at all... Each to their own but relaxing with a beer seemed to set me up fine enough for the next day.

As people have said practice your DST calculations. Regardless of branch I'd recommend people get hold of Microsoft Flight Simulator and just go through the basic learn to fly tutorials, having flown in the past a lot of the instrument interpretation and spatial appreciation tests seemed a lot easier, I'm no pilot but having seen the instruments before and knowing how they operate makes the test less of a 'test' and more of a game.

Finally, do NOT beat yourself up after each test. I completely stuffed one of my maths based tests half way through the day and in the back of my mind 'knew' I'd failed... Evidently not!

It's easy for me to say because I love my current job and If I don't make the grade at AIB I'll just be glad I applied and got as far as I did but please don't hang all your hopes and dreams on these tests, relax and enjoy them.. Some of them are good fun!


That's what I used - the fuel calculations part of that uses horrendous maths but it's useful for the actual maths in the test. Just remember that in the FATs, lots of the maths isn't exact numbers, but requires estimation. The main S/D/T test also uses speeds in miles per minute, which may trip you up a bit if you've been practicing with miles per hour. It actually helps make the maths more straightforward for most of the questions. I wouldn't worry too much about the orientation test part - I didn't have a specific test for that, the navigation questions are more focused on situational awareness and memory.

There's also a more comprehensive test towards the end where you are allowed to use pen and paper, but having practiced so much mental maths I actually found it more difficult to use the pen and paper simply because I had read somewhere that you weren't allowed pen and paper at all and therefore when it came up I found myself wasting time writing down completely pointless things or working out 18/3 using long division like a prat. Just be aware there is a pen and paper test and practice SDT using that method too.

I also used:

for a few minutes every day - might have no effect whatsoever, but it's useful for practicing the multi-tasking tests - it's vital to remember in the tests that each task is important, and you must remember to keep track of everything you're meant to be doing. Keep on top of each task equally, because you can bet that when one thing goes wrong all the other things will take that opportunity to go wrong too. It's much easier to maintain the equilibrium than it is to try and recover, because it upsets your rhythm. Just get into a cycle of checking things in order and trying to prioritise what will need adjusting so your brain can remember it in the background and remind you to check at appropriate times.

Lastly, don't worry if you think a test has gone stunningly badly - one of the tests requires you to remember the actions of about a million spitfires over a 20 second clip and I honestly thought I was just guessing wildly for each one and had completely failed it, but I got 138 overall. Remember that you don't know how the tests are weighted so it's pointless trying to analyse your performance as you're doing it, just stay in a positive mindset and you'll get the result you want.


i have found after just a few hours of SDT in my head i really struggle to do it written, hopefully it will all come together


one of the tests requires you to remember the actions of about a million spitfires over a 20 second clip and I honestly thought I was just guessing wildly for each one and had completely failed it, but I got 138 overall.

They're tucanos. Tut tut. :p


They're tucanos. Tut tut. :p

These ones?

Or was it sarcasm? I'm useless at detecting it unless it's laid on with a trowel.
Hi there. I have two questions.

1. For the memory tests where you need to remember strings of letters, do they read the string to you or do you get it on a piece of paper? and how long do you have to remenber the string for?

2. For the long division, some of it is almost impossible! If you have to divide 153/26, could you simplify it to 150/25? Or do they need an exact answer?



The memory tests come in a few different varieties:

- during the CLAN test you'll get shown a letter string for maybe 10 seconds. There's then quite a long gap before they flash up 4 pretty identical letter strings in each corner, maybe a minute or so.

- during the hand-eye tests (flying through the tunnel) there is a lot of memory related testing. You have to fly a ball down a tunnel and complete a number of tasks (going through certain gates, remembering callsigns, dealing with radio chatter, interference, getting audio instructions, remembering a 4-8 digit number, pulling the trigger when you hear a certain noise etc)

You'll get a number read out to you through headphones fairly early on and then towards the end they'll ask you to input the number - the gap in the middle is really long (or it seems to be!) ... most of the guys I spoke to afterwards said that they had completely forgotten the number by the end. It starts at 3 or 4 and works up to about 8 digits. I found that repeating the number constantly in my head the whole way through the test worked, it kinda sunk in. Use groups of numbers, say it in a rhythm in your head, it certainly made it more memorable for me. The problem then is remembering the other tasks!

Remember that each task is equally important. They're testing to make sure you can handle a workload, so if you do 3/6 tasks amazingly but forget the other 3, it's not going to get you a good mark.

- There's a number string question right at the end too, where you have to remember the amount of a certain digit in a string up to 15/16 numbers. This was more a case of scanning for me; you only get 5 seconds - make sure you just see how many of each number there are, don't try remembering the number of the sequence!

I used to practice.

The whole point of the maths is that it's designed to replicate maths you could be doing mid-air without any aids, so estimation and a moderate amount of guesswork is necessary. The speed/distance/time questions for instance, which give you a map and some fuel/payload tables, definitely require you to simplify things - the number sometimes isn't exact.

Many of the questions are a bit sneaky like that - if it takes you 11.6 minutes to fly from A to B, and you need to be at B at 1708, you need to minus 12 minutes to get 1656 to ensure you make the waypoint on time, that sort of thing.

With your example, that approximation is fine to use. The answers you give are to whole numbers - you round your answer up or down to get the nearest whole number - and the answers they provide you to choose are generally that too. However, don't forget to remember your approximation.

The question might look a bit like:

'You are at Kilo and travel to Juliet via Whisky. You are carrying a payload of 400kg. What time should you leave Kilo to arrive at Juliet at 1446?'

A. 1415 B. 1418 C. 1420 D. 1425 E. 1440

Map shows distance Kilo - Whisky is 56 miles
distance Whisky - Juliet is 97 miles.

Payload tab shows that carrying 400kg you do 6 miles a minute (360 mph)

.: calculation would be 56 + 97 = 153

153 /6 => 6/15 = 2 carry 3, 6/ 33 = 5 carry 3, 6/30 = 5 .: 25.5 minutes

1446 - 26 (round up) = 1420

You have to leave at 1420 to get the payload to Whisky by 1446.

You get a minute for each question, but obviously the test is to get the answer as fast and accurately as possible. Some questions will give you options to pick from which are normally quite similar, others require you to input a figure into a box.

Hope this helps!
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I really cannot stress how helpful that was 'waterwings'. Thank you so much for your reply! I am very grateful. This should keep me on track for my test! Have a good day!
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