‘Higher education’ – How to study smarter for your CPL exams

‘Higher education’ – How to study smarter for your CPL exams

Last week I looked at hour and training requirements for gaining your Commercial Pilots License. We saw to gain your CPL, there are, among other things, theoretical examinations that need to be passed.

For some these exams can be quite daunting, so I wanted to take a closer look at what is involved in the CPL course.

Firstly then, you may have heard the number of exams being talked about ranging from 13 to 14. There are 2 sets of exams that you can take – CPL(H) or ATPL(H) and if you are unsure about where you want your Commercial License to take you, I would recommend sitting the 14 ATPL(H) exams as certain sectors and multi crew operations may require you to have the ATP theory completed. If you know for definite what you will be using your CPL for, then stick to taking the 13 required.

So what exam subjects are covered?

Most people choose to study for their exams through a professional theoretical course provider, for example Bristol GS or Oxford Aviation who utilise distance learning courses with online question banks and published study material. They also include ground schools for you to attend in person, right before you take your exams to get any extra instruction you may need.

The topics that you will need to study are:

Air Law

Radio Navigation

VFR Communications


General Navigation


Human Performance and Limitations

Airframe & Systems, Power plant and Emergency Equipment

Flight Planning and monitoring

Operational Procedures

Principles of Flight


Mass and Balance

IFR Communications (ATPL ONLY)

Normally the exams are split into modules so that you can focus on only a few at a time, and you will have a total of 6 sittings to pass all the exams, with no more that 4 attempts at any one subject. In order to pass each exam, you must achieve a 75% mark or above and you will need to complete all the exams within 18 months of your first sitting. Unlike for PPL, the exams must be taken at a UK CAA Examination Centre – you will need to register with the CAA and get a sign off from your approved course before you can book anything.

Initially the volume of material to study can be very intimidating. Remember however that you have already passed 9 exams for your PPL and are now just expanding what you already know! The focus is on helping you deal with situations as a Commercial Helicopter Pilot – with increased knowledge and awareness, hopefully comes a better understanding of safety!

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