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Studying for ATPL exams: tablet versus a laptop

When studying, you’re likely using one of the databases for ATPL exams (Aviation Exam, e-ATPL or some others). Contrary to appearances, choosing the right device for this purpose is highly significant.

When choosing a device for studying, consider the following criteria:

  1. System speed
  2. Effect on vision
  3. Device temperature
  4. Mobility
  5. Operating environment

System Speed

Bear in mind, that you’ll be learning for the exams for a few months. The ATPL question bank comprises several thousands of questions. Since you’ll be doing revisions, you’ll see some questions at least twice and some others more often. This means, that throughout your studying time you’ll work through tens of thousands of questions. With such a large number to cover, uploading a question a few seconds longer translates into a noticeably longer studying time.

While studying on your PC, refreshing and uploading of questions takes a few seconds. Although this might not be apparent, it’s a huge waste of time! On an iPad, you instantly proceed to the next question. Saving a few seconds can save from several days to over a fortnight in the entire learning period.

Effect on Vision

Studying for such a long time causes severe eye fatigue. Therefore, I don’t recommend studying on a smartphone with a small display, which makes the process hardly comfortable.

Learning Environment - ``Sterile Cockpit``

Equip yourself with a device that will allow you to learn in a way that minimises the number of distracting factors. These include all applications, communicators, etc.  Ideally, the tablet should have only those applications you use for studying.

Effect on Sleep

The radiation emitted by computers and the blue screen light have a large impact on sleep, thus, scientists suggest a PC should not be used for 2-3 hours before going to bed.

In our case, this would be difficult to put to practice, since as a rule, you’ll be learning also before going to bed. Moreover, while studying for ATPL exams, it is vital that you regain strength in the most efficient way possible.

I’ve checked for myself that the quality of sleep indeed gradually decreased when using a PC before going to bed. Whereas while using an iPad, I observed no effect on sleep whatsoever. An iPad doesn’t get hot and, in order to reduce blue light emission and prepare the brain to go to sleep (the screen changes its colour at a specified time), it allows you to set the screen colour to amber.

Mobility

If you’re commuting to work/college on daily basis, use that time to study. By learning on a tablet while commuting for 40 minutes a day for 8 months you gain 160 hours in total – it’s as if you were learning for almost a whole month from Monday to Friday, 8 hours a day!

Conclusion

I studied for ATPL exams on a tablet, though I also gave it a shot with a PC. Considering all the criteria discussed above and my own experience, I wholeheartedly recommend using a tablet. In retrospect, I believe that it was an excellent decision – a tablet facilitates quick learning, is less strenuous to the eyes, and has a less negative impact on sleep. Since I often carried it with me, I managed to work through a lot of study material while commuting to work and on my way home. It’s far better than a smartphone due to a larger and more comfortable screen (less eye fatigue). In the end, I went for a tablet by Apple (iPad 4 Mini), as there are incomparably more aviation apps for iPads than for tablets with Android OS.