Monday, March 14, 2005


Ground School Midterm Exam

We had a midterm exam in our ground school tonight, using questions from the FAA Knowledge Exam covering the areas that have been covered in class. My grade on this exam doesn't officially "count" toward anything, but I can't take the real FAA exam without approval from the ground-school instructor.

I scored 96%, missing two of the 50 questions. Both of my incorrect answers were due to carelessness. On one question, involving a graph, I looked at the 35-degree line instead of the 25-degree line, so I got the wrong answer. On the other, I read the words "decrease by 10%" but I increased the calculated value instead.

I'm glad that I didn't miss anything due to lack of study, but it bugs me that I made stupid mistakes. My perfectionism makes me obsessive over the two missed questions, but it was a lack of perfection that caused me to miss them. 96% is a lot better than what is needed to pass the FAA exam, but I want 100%.

Let me guess: crosswind calculation and landing or take-off distance.

Both errors could have been saved by sanity checks. Know what proportion is expected to be crosswind if the wind is 30, 45 or 60 degrees off the runway. Know the effects of a headwind and of a grass runway. Whether you're using a table or a computer, always sanity check the numbers that pop out.
Yes, the take-off distance chart said "Decrease by 10% for every 4 knots of headwind." The stated headwind was 8 knots, so I should have decreased by 20%. However, my brain recalled a test-review question about takeoff distance that had an increase of 20%, so that's what I did without thinking. More careful reading of the question, or two seconds of thought about the effect of a headwind would have caught the mistake, but I saw my incorrect answer as one of the choices, so marked it and moved on without spending those extra seconds.

The other one was a question about the difference in density altitude between 25 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit at a pressure altitude of 5,000 ft. Unfortunately, I looked at the grid lines for 35 and 50 to get my answer. I re-checked this answer before handing in the test, but my finger went to the same incorrect 35-degree line on that second try.

These mistakes may be a result of overstudy. Rather than reading the questions carefully and thinking through the answers on the exam, I'm just recalling answers from the test-prep guide.
After a little further thought, I guess I could have caught that density-altitude mistake by double-checking the calculation on my E6B instead of relying exclusively on the chart with the microscopic numbers. I'll do that from now on.
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