Let us start with a few basic tips on how to pass your FAA Practical Test (Checkride).

First, it is worth noting that it is just that, a practical test. Although memorizing acronyms, lists, and regulations may help you prepare (especially for the written test), the check ride is designed to evaluate your ability to understand, apply, and correlate what you have learned. Examiners use a scenario-based method because it allows them to better confirm that your knowledge and skills go beyond just the rote level. Keep that in mind as you prepare.

Your preparation should include an understanding of the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) appropriate to the certificate or rating sought. The examination guidance is specific and your review of the ACS should eliminate most of the surprises. Knowing what is expected of you may also have the benefit of increased confidence that you are ready.
Finally, be the Pilot in Command (PIC). It should be obvious that the primary goal of the practical test is to verify that you are capable of performing that role to the level described in the ACS.

How do I demonstrate my ability to be the PIC?

Making timely, informed, and prudent decisions is, in this examiner’s opinion, the key to success. For example, the Private Pilot Airplane ACS (IX Emergency Operations, B Emergency Approach and Landing, PA.IX.B.S3) requires the applicant to demonstrate his or her ability to select a suitable landing area considering altitude, wind, terrain, obstructions, and available glide distance. When the examiner simulates an engine failure, you must FLY THE AIRPLANE and decide where to land. It is your decision to make. Make the decision promptly. Losing an engine is not an ideal situation so do not waste precious time and altitude in a search for the perfect place to land. Make your decision with your best understanding of the winds based on the information available. Are there external clues (dust, smoke, etc.) or electronic data available? If not, what were the winds at our departure airport if you are still nearby? Of course, your decision must be prudent given the circumstances. Landing in the open Arizona desert may not be desirable but it is likely more sensible than deciding to land in the power lines. We all have different backgrounds and experience. Another pilot or examiner may have made different decisions than you did during a test. That does not make it unacceptable even if it becomes a subject for the debrief. We can all learn from the post-flight discussion. 

How will you prepare for your next practical test? Please enter any comments or questions below so that we can all benefit. Include any other areas of the practical test you would like to discuss.