If you google about BIR experience, there is a good chance that you won’t come across any reference. Whatever be the reason, that was the case with me and I think we fellow pilots ought to change that. So, I am taking the initiative.
I bought Aviation Exam Subscription to go through the question bank in January. My goal was to go for the exam sometime in April, then it became August. Holiday periods with three kids, in retrospect, it wasn’t a wise decision.
Finally I scheduled 7th November as it appeared good for studying after all holidays period. It was indeed but I couldn’t devote as much time as it required to feel confident. I was continuously leaning, except on the weekends or holidays. I would sit with my iPad would spent roughly 2 hours going over the material but in reality it was perhaps half the time due to my mind wandering or other interruptions.
As the date closer, I felt confident about one module. Until this point, I had adapted the following strategy to study AE questions:
I decide to go through the entire module’s questions multiple times. Each time you schedule a test/study session, AE presents questions in somewhat random fashion. There is more to that, but it doesn’t matter for the preparation purposes. The advantage was starting each question without any preconception. For example, I was not in Air Law or Meteorology mode. The disadvantage was that I took a long time to finish the module. It was perhaps more than two weeks for Module#1.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the best method for me. For module#2, which was my last module in preparation sequence, I studied by topics and I think it served me better.
I hadn’t touched module#2 and module#3 only a few times. Needless to say I didn’t feel confident enough 10 days before the exams and, therefore, decided to postpone it by a month.
Almost a week before the scheduled date, I was confident enough about module#1 and 3. I was scoring more than 80% on any attempt.
At this point I decided to go through all the questions in module 1 and 2 and mark the questions that I was still getting wrong. It was a good strategy but I underestimated how long it would take me to complete even one module. Even when I knew the questions and didn’t need to read through each possible answers and I had knowledge and I was in flow, module 1 took me over 6 hours to complete. This might be one day for others, but with three kids and professional commitments, it meant almost 3-4 days. I had now the questions marked that I got wrong and had planned to review the day before the exam.
I didn’t have much time left and I was yet to mark the difficult questions in module#3, which has more than 700 questions. Yet another pleasant feature of Aviation Exam is essential question. Since these were nearly half of the entire catalog, the strategy felt sound enough. As you could imagine it wasn’t a walk in the park going through that many questions. My rate was a bit over an hour for 100 questions.
Just a few days left and I just started with module#2. To my dismay, I found the module most difficult as I had to tackle many unknown terms IAF, IF, Barrette and concepts. What I mean here is the comparison to subjects like Meteorology or Aircraft knowledge, which were covered during PPL and do not appear so foreign. Module#2 is where we study approach charts and procedures. To uninitiated like me, it took me longer than usual to read, understand, and answer each question. With charts, it is sometimes hard to find the waypoints in question due to unreadability of long/lat lines. Just a note: during the exam you also get paper charts on B5 and readability isn’t a problem.
As mentioned before, I studied module#2 by topics and felt good about it. The knowledge grows with questions but you’re also more aware of subtle to minor differences between apparently similar questions. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for me to prepare this module and I failed it with 66%. The charts were a surprise even when I found them onerous at start. Once you see the solution, all appears to be there, including the answer and you just have to find it. Well almost, some questions require calculations and those could be difficult to deal with.
During the exam, it is your luck that decides how many questions you see from the AE catalog. For me it was 50 percent. You bet that I didn’t feel that lucky. Many questions appear as I had seen them but there were many with slight differences. Some asked for slightly extended concept and others had different options. On whole, I would say if you just remember each question and the corresponding answer, you might find yourself in the wrong side of the needle. However, if you read through explanations and understand the concepts somewhat, there is a good chance of passing the exam. Naturally success is guaranteed if you supplement your studies with additional question banks and books.
I told my wife the day before exam that I felt alright about module #1 and #3. Since I didn’t prepare module#2 so well I would be happy with two passes and one fail. To my surprise I came close with 66% in module#2. If only I had got 4-5 additional questions right, I would have come out agog with happiness. Only time I spent on studying charts was in the hotel room a day before. Considering that it wasn’t a bad outcome.