Mental preparation for studying for ATPL

Deciding on starting an ATPL(A) course is the first serious step towards becoming a professional pilot. Here, the fun at aeroclubs comes to an end and an actual serious stage of your flying career begins. Your attitude towards learning will affect the process of forming the attitude of a future professional pilot within you, whereas the knowledge you’ll acquire while studying will not only be put to practical use, but will also come in handy during an airline recruitment process. For these very reasons, you should take on a professional approach to training and studying.

Focus on the goal

Studying for ATPL exams requires tremendous mental, intellectual, and physical effort. Don’t adopt a ‘somehow things will work out’ approach to this challenge or I can guarantee it will only make the studying time longer.

First of all, ask yourself the question: Why am I doing this? Write down your goal. Visualise the goal. Visualise it every single day, so that each day, especially in the moments of doubt you’re sure to experience, you always have the goal in front of you. You can hang on the wall a large poster with an aviation-related theme that visualises the goal, e.g., a photo of a cockpit. This will allow you to see the meaning in the long hours of studying and denying yourself pleasure each and every day, which is unfortunately a must.

What will distract you from studying?

It’s best if you realise from the very beginning what will distract you from studying and what kind of temptations you’ll have to face. Decide on the very beginning how you’ll dead with them. These distractions might involve:

  • Social life – your social life is the thing that will suffer the most during your preparation for ATP exams. Your friends will repeatedly try to persuade you to attend social meetings, nights out, and trips. Social life in general has a considerable impact on learning that can be estimated. By going to a party, you waste the time you could dedicate to studying in the evening and, moreover, you certainly don’t get up early on the next day to hit the books. You rise several hours later at best or take much time to ‘recover’ at worst. Either way, you lose from just a few to nearly twenty hours of studying. That’s a lot. Additionally, your body spends the next several days on fixing your diurnal rhythm, which doesn’t improve your learning or focus either.
  • Flying – obviously, you’ll yearn to fly. If it’s only up to you to decide whether to build some flying hours or not, at the very beginning take some time to think what will your approach be when you study. If you’ve got building hours required for starting CPL training course ahead of you and you can postpone it until having passed ATPL exams, it’s worth taking into consideration, since there’s almost always enough time to fly; this way you can remain 100% focused on studying and then on flying – with benefit for both. Studying for ATPL exams combined with building hours for CPL will reflect in hindered dedication to learning and building of valuable flying hours.
  • Family and relationships – family and relationships are time-consuming.  House chores will surely require much of your time. If you’ve got a family, be ready to face vast amount of study material over a couple of months. Arrange your family life in a way that will allow you to dedicate yourself to studying with good conscience. If you’re not in a relationship and you’re not feeling any butterflies in your stomach, resist from pursuing any unnecessary romantic endeavour, as you won’t be able to dedicate yourself in 100% either to the other person or to studying for ATPL.
  • Gadgets, time killers, etc. – take some time to identify the thing that serves you as a time killer and leave it. It might be taking on the phone, social networking platforms, games, apps, etc. That reality no longer exists for you. You’ve got new ambitious goals and you’re taking up a struggle to make your dreams come true!

Learning space

You’re going to spend several hours a day studying. You’ve got to make your surroundings comfortable. Get yourself a proper space that will make you feel cosy and keep your mind focused. Tidy up the place, hide all the unnecessary stuff. If while studying you notice something’s distracting you, change it or hide it, so that there are no items that absorb you. Find yourself the best place to sit on and your favourite position, be it on an armchair, a couch, a chair or at a desk.

Arranging to-do lists

Ensure yourself mental comfort while studying. Before hitting the books to prepare for ATPL exams, consider things pending on your ‘to do’ list. I can assure you that if there’s anything on, it will distract you from learning. Attend to tasks that need to be done and leave others to be attended to in the future to give yourself that mental comfort of having nothing urgent to do.

Freeing the mind while studying for the exams

Take some time to think what thought are you thinking when you catch your mind on being somewhere else than it should be while studying. If you’ve got any tasks or chores to do, do them right away or plan a proper time to attend to them. You can set a reminder about a given thing you should do at a specific date and time on your cell phone. This way you’ll free your mind from thinking about other tasks that await you. Use this or other methods to eliminate all such concerns.

Handle work-related issues in a similar way – it might not be easy, but try to leave your workplace with all business-related thoughts or tasks off your mind.


Take note that studying in summer is by far harder than in winter. Days are long and the weather’s tempting you to do activities you simply cannot engage in during winter. Moreover, you’d certainly want to fly in summer. Autumn and winter are the best time to study.

Attitude towards studying

Your attitude towards studying for ATPL exams is vital. Naturally, you’ll be terrified by the vast amount of study material you’re supposed to work through and that’s understandable. Your horror will be intensified by the stories told by your friends learning for the exams or who have already passed them, as well as by posts of other people on online forums.

The truth is, many people study for ATPL exams only to pass – they’re not diligent in their effort and, consequently, sit the exams prepared only to the extent that merely allows them to pass. Obviously, in such cases they often fail the exams at the first attempt or even at subsequent attempts. It is at those times that myths about certain subjects being impossible to pass or highly difficult are formed. Naturally, these myths are accompanied by stories of someone who couldn’t pass an exam due to poor quality of printed appendices he received at the exam or errors in the question bank. Surely all of us have heard such stories.

For that very reason:

  1. As soon as you’ve got your learning plan devised, follow its objectives and don’t pay any attention to what others do.
  2. If anyone’s telling you ATPL exams are impossible to pass, smile and do your thing according to the learning plan.
  3. Don’t read posts on online forums.