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Study Strategies During Flight Training

As you may be aware, flight training is not a walk in the park. There is a vast amount of information a pilot must learn, so utilizing effective study strategies is critical.

There are four levels of learning:

1. Rote (memorization)
2. Understanding (perceiving & learning)
3. Application (skill to apply and perform)
4. Correlation (associating learning to previously learned)

Before any information becomes useful, a pilot must be able to retrieve such information from their memory, and they need to understand the information thoroughly.

Study Strategies

Follow these general steps for any new information:

1. Learn from a primary or reliable source.
2. Write down new information.
3. Organize and prioritize the information
4. Write all questions down
5. Meaningful repetition
7. Apply and use

Principle of Primacy

When first being introduced to new information, it is important to learn the correct information first. Learning something wrong the first time can be very difficult to unlearn. This is why it is important to use primary sources when learning new information.

For example, if learning how to talk on the radio, it may be tempting to watch a few videos on YouTube or find a random article about such topics, but this could contain incorrect information. In this case, it would be best to read straight from the AIM and take notes. If you are using a paid video course designed for training, they usually reference such information. This is known as the Principle of Primacy – what you are introduced to first sticks with you, even if it is incorrect.

Write Down New Information

If someone gave you their phone number and you don’t write it down, you’ll forget it quickly. No matter how much you intend on studying the information, if you don’t store it somewhere in the meantime, you’ll have to go to the source again.

There are many ways to store new information, and none is particularly better than the other. You can use a notebook, take a picture, record audio, take a video, take notes on a computer, etc. No matter how you do it, just be sure to be relatively organized so you can come back to your notes later.

Organize Information

Many students fail to organize information; don’t forget to complete this step. For any new information, organize it into groups and prioritize the information. There are many ways this can be accomplished, but an easy and often preferred method is to create flashcards.

When creating flashcards, it is often a good idea to draft your flashcards in a document. Make sure flashcards are grouped together by similar topics. Also, keep your flashcards VERY simple. A long, complex flashcard should be broken down into multiple flashcards. If a chunk of information is too large, it can’t be studied effectively all at once.

Furthermore, avoid using someone else’s flashcards. The creation of your own flashcards is a great way to better learn the information. Also, other people’s flashcards are not reliable and are often filled with errors, and studying the wrong information is very harmful.

Write All Questions Down

At any point when studying, ALWAYS write down any questions you may have. New questions and confusion often come up when first introduced to information and when trying to organize information. Write down any question and find your answer from an OFFICIAL source. If there is any confusion left, or if you couldn’t find an answer, ask your instructor. Your instructor will help you find the answer and show you how to find it. It is important that you can look up information from official sources as a pilot.

Meaningful Repetition

Meaningful repetition is everything! If you want to memorize information, it must be retrieved from your memory over and over and over and over again.

What is the difference between meaningful repetition and normal repetition?

Normal repetition may mean seeing the same information over and over again. This is a common mistake when using flashcards. If you look at the term and the answer every time, you aren’t exercising your memory. Sure this will need to be done the first time, but after that, an effort to retrieve it from your memory is imperative. Meaningful repetition may require you to look at a flashcard and the answer, then look at the term and force yourself to recall the information. Then continue to do this until you can recall the information at any time.

Apply and Use

This is another form of meaningful repetition, but it is even more effective. The more you have to use or apply what you have learned, the better. After learning about Lift, try and make an observation of the mechanics of lift next time you fly and verbalize it to your instructor. It helps show the instructor to understand, and it helps you remember this information. This step is why flight instructors are able to remember and explain so much information so easily; they use it all the time!

Practical Example

The new information:

The Cessna 150 fuel system is a gravity-fed system. The fuel is stored in two tanks in the wings. The fuel tanks are located close to the fuselage. The normal fuel used for a Cessna 150 is 100LL, and it holds 22.5 gallons usable and 26 gallons total. A Cessna 150 burns approximately 6 gallons per hour. The fuel runs from the fuel tanks though fuel lines to the fuel valve. The fuel valve can be used to shut off the fuel flow. The fuel flows from the shut-off valve to…

1. Learn from a primary or reliable source

Let’s say this information was found on a reputable aviation website with appropriate references.

2. Write Down New Information

Hit the highlights & write down what you need to know.

– Utilizes a gravity-fed fuel system.
– The fuel tanks hold 22.5 gallons of usable fuel and 26 gallons total.
– There are two fuel tanks. One in each wing near the fuselage.
– The fuel burn is about 6 gallons per hour.
– The fuel runs from the tanks to the shut-off valve.
– The primary fuel type is 100LL.

3. Organize and Prioritize Information

Let’s create a flashcard group called “Cessna 150 – Fuel System”

Fuel System Type = Gravity fed
Fuel Capacity = 26 gallons
Usable Fuel = 22.5 gallons
Fuel burn = 6 gph
Fuel type = 100LL
Tanks & Locations = 2 wing tanks near fuselage
Fuel from tanks to… = …the fuel shut off valve

4. Write All Questions Down

a. What is the difference between total fuel and usable fuel?
b. What does 100LL mean?
c. To instructor: Could you show me exactly where the fuel tank is located?

5. Meaningful Repetition

Using whatever method you prefer, force yourself to recall this information from memory on a regular basis. For every hour of flight training, plan on two hours of studying. Also, avoid breaks in studying. Anything more than a two-day break could be harmful to your learning. Even 15 minutes per day will make a massive difference.

6. Apply and Use

Here are some ways this information can be applied:

– Thinking about the fuel system during the next refueling.
– When checking the fuel shut-off valve during a checklist, recall that the fuel comes from the tanks through that valve to the engine.
– When planning a flight, recall the average fuel burn and use it to calculate flight duration.

Next, I highly recommend reviewing our article about study tools. Use these tools to apply these study strategies more effectively.

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