I am off to Florida to learn to fly during February.
Whilst it is possible to spend the time flying during the day and studying for exams in the evening, I decided to make it easier by getting the study done in the UK.
There are 7 written exams. These are multi-choice papers that can be taken at most flying schools. Each question has four answers and you need to answer at least 75% of them correctly. The number of questions and time allowed depends on the subject. For example in 'Navigation' you need to answer 25 questions and are allowed an hour and a half. This time is required because you will be plotting routes on a chart and using your flight computer. In 'Radiotelephony' there are 30 questions to be completed in 40 minutes.
The 7 topics are 'Air law', 'Meteorology' 'Navigation', Aircraft general', Flight planning and performance', Human performance' and 'Radiotelephony'. These topics can be studied at home using a series of text books. I used the set produced by Jeremy Pratt of AFE. There is also avery good book called "The PPL Confuser" which has a lot of practice questions (and answers) that can be used to test yourself to indicate if your knowledge is to the required standard.
In this post I shall just cover Meteorology. It is important to be able to know where to get weather information and forecasts, as well as how to interpret the information. There are 170 pages in the text book on this topic and it does need to be learnt. The effect of changing air pressure upon the indicated altitude is particularly important if you want to avoid flying into the ground.
Ignoring weather information can cause problems
PPL pilots can only fly in conditions where they can always see the ground and understanding weather forecasts should prevent you from not arriving at your intended destination due to low cloud and having to have to turn back.
I passed the exams over a 6 month period and it was good to be able to study when the weather was too bad for flying.
More about the other topics next time.