Stage Three Written Exam or "You Can Lead a Boy to Flight School, but You Can’t Make Him Think. – Anon."

I think I mentioned Jim, my classmate, at the start of this. Jim and I have much in common. Jim is a computer geek. So am I. Jim drives a hybrid. So do I. And, of course, Jim has a similar budding interest in aviation.

Jim and I have always worked together on some of the more tough classroom problems, often sharing little tips we’ve learned from our flight instructors and comparing answers, which is encouraged. We find ourselves asking each other questions and providing answers when one of us is stuck.

When it comes to study habits, however, we differ drastically. I’ve recounted my lack of discipline when it comes to all things academic, so I won’t repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that Jim is the polar opposite. He always comes to class prepared with questions, and engages in discussion with the instructor, Brad, regularly.

As we did for the two previous written tests, just before we scored them, we compared answers. That consisted of casually comparing the dots on his mark sense form to the dots on mine. Usually, they were damned near exact. Tonight, however, my dots were in different places.

Lots of different places.

Most of the first column of 25 questions were identical. I think there was perhaps one different. But the second column looked substantially different. I started counting where my dots were different and got discouraged and stopped after I counted three. Since Jim is such a genuinely outstanding student and more likely to provide the correct answer, I was really sweating my final results of the exam.

Upon viewing our papers together, we began whispering back and forth to each other things like “This was a hard test!” or “I struggled with a few of the (fill in the blank) questions,” achieving unanimous consensus that this test was NOT a cake walk.

At 7pm sharp, Brad started the class and we finished the chapter on weather graphics that we’d skipped over some weeks back. But of course, the time eventually came for us to score our tests.

It works like this: Brad has the answer sheet and reads out the question and its associated answer. If we get it wrong, we’re to mark it as incorrect on the mark sense form and fill in the correct answer. That way, we can go back and resolve the particular problem. The final percentage gets recorded on the top of the form and that grade is transferred to the official record. (“This is going to go on you permanent record, young man!”) So Brad starts:

“Number one is B.”

“Number two is C.”

… and so on and so forth.

Et ceterahhh, et ceterahhh, et ceterahhh.

I started to sweat as I reach the tenth dot. “OK,” I thought to myself, “at least I got the first ten right.”

Brad continued revealing the answers to the test like a seasoned game show host, one by one, through the teens and on to the twenties. I hold my breath with each pronouncement of the correct answer, waiting for a discrepancy in Brad’s answer and mine.

“Twenty one is A.”

“Twenty two is C.”

(I should note to anyone using the Jeppesen course materials that these answers are NOT the real answers to the Stage III Written Exam. Just so you know.)

“Twenty three is C.”

“Twenty four is A.”

Holy crap! I’ve gotten to 24 and I still haven’t let the red pen touch paper.

“Twenty five is A.”

Amazing! I didn’t think I had done all that well, but here I am with half the answers and all of them are correct! Yeah, that second column has got to suck big time.

You may remember that this was a take-home, open book test. I did it last night spreading out on the king-sized bed about 7:30 last night figuring it would go fairly quickly.

Not so fast, Kemosabe!

Some of these questions were particularly tedious, requiring actual problem solving skills and the use of complex and unfamiliar navigation instruments. I worked on one problem for about 40 minutes before I gave up and moved on. This was a poor exhibition of my rusty test taking skills, and I won’t make that mistake on the real written exam. By about midnight, I had actually answered all the questions to the best of my ability. But as I reviewed the answers one last time, I realized that for many of the more complex questions, I couldn’t easily recreate the process. So I went back and did the more complex ones again, showing my work in my notebook so that I’d be able to review my logic. I finally hit the sack about 1:15 am and was up for work at 7.

Today, I reviewed the questions during my lunch hour, foregoing the usual daily lunch with the boss. So I genuinely put quite a bit of time into the test, confirming my suspicion that I was WAY under prepared.

Back to question 26.

Brad called the rest of the second column from 26 to 50. (Actually, it was more like calling Bingo than a game show host.) I wound up marking just three questions I had answered incorrectly, all of them in just one subject area. (Radio navigation, if you must know.) Doing the arithmetic, i discovered much to my surprise and delight that I scored a whopping 94%. Whodathunkit? For a guy with crappy study habits, I did OK.

The next big step is the FAA written exam. It’s a computer-based, multiple-guess test not unlike the written tests in ground school. They offer the student a random sample of 60 questions from the question bank of 900 questions, all of which are listed in one of my textbooks. So now the task is to go though all 900 questions over the next week or so, answer and understand the answer for each and every one of the 900. Most of the questions are just ones you have to know. So there will be a lot of rote memorization over the next couple of weeks.

Jim did well, too, though I haven’t a clue what his score was. And really it doesn’t matter, because I still think he has a fluency with the material that I have yet to achieve. Regardless, I’ve been delighted to have Jim’s acquaintance these last eight weeks. He’s not only been a good classmate, but a good friend as well.

Jim solos on Saturday. I hope I am not too far behind.

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