There are over a hundred thousand flights per day worldwide. While most people would assume that being a pilot is the hardest and most demanding airline career, many often forget about one of the most challenging airline careers of all – being an air traffic controller. These men and women are the ones who make sure your flight gets on and off the ground without a hitch. With its $100,000+ salary, sick leave, health, and life insurance, and other federal benefits, being an air traffic controller can be very rewarding. It is also one of the few careers that does not require a college degree, but it is advised to get one. This job, however, can be fairly stressful, so it is not suited for everyone. To get these benefits, career opportunities, and more, you will first need to meet the basic pre-employment requirements and pass the FAA air traffic controller AT-SA test. The AT-SA test is a difficult test with only 8% of applicants passing the required exam.
To ensure you get the best results, read on and learn the best practice test tips, types of questions and answers to expect, and more!
How to Become an Air Traffic Controller: Passing the Air Traffic Controller AT-SA Exam
When it comes to taking on the challenge of guiding those in the skies, there are a few requirements that must first be met. A significant point to understand for job-seekers is that working for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is very competitive. This means that while you may pass the exam, you will still have to wait for job approval and will then be placed into a pool of applicants. There are three main types of air traffic controllers: tower controllers, en route controllers, and approach and departure controllers.
The requirements to become an air traffic controller are as follows:
Be a U.S. citizen
Pass a criminal background check
Pass a medical evaluation and a drug screening
Successfully complete a training course at the FAA academy (can take between two to five months)
Pass a pre-employment test including a biographical assessment
Take and pass the Air Traffic Controller Specialist Skills Assessment exam (AT-SA) with at least 70% or higher (it is recommended to score as high as you can due to the limited job openings available)
Be younger than 31 years of age when hired
Meet one of the following standards: 1.) Have at least an associates or bachelors degree in a college that offers an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program along with receiving appropriate recommendations. 2.) You are a veteran who has maintained your aviation experience throughout your service and/or are entitled to veterans’ preference. 3.) You are a veteran that is eligible for Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA). If so, you must also provide a certificate of release or discharge from active duty within 120 days of the announcements closing period. 4.) You are someone who has passed the biographical assessment upon submitting their air traffic controller application.
Have three years of working experience in a field related to aviation (an exception can be made for applicants who have a bachelor’s degree).
If you have further questions about air traffic controller application and job requirements, you can check the FAA’s website for more information.
What Is the Air Traffic Controller Skills Assessment?
The air traffic controller skills assessment exam, also known as the air traffic selection and training (AT-SAT), is given to measure an applicant’s ability to perform various tasks that are required of air traffic controllers. The air traffic controller exam is comprised of seven subtests and takes approximately 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete. Just note- On this exam, you will not be provided any scratch paper! Before you take the exam, you will need to make sure you bring two forms of ID and arrive at least 30 minutes early to your assigned assessment center. If you miss your day for taking the air traffic controller exam, you will not get to take the test. You will have to sign up all over again for another test day. Upon arrival, you will be called up to provide your two forms of ID, sign any paperwork related to the exam, and follow any other directions regarding personal effects, rules, and so on.
What Are the Air Traffic Controller Aptitude Exam Sections?
Reading comprehension This portion of the air traffic selection assessment (AT-SA) test will have you reading six passages. After each passage, you will be required to answer two to three questions. The questions usually ask for the main idea of the passage, true or false statements, and so on.
Word problems You will be given 20 minutes to answer at least 15 different questions. Failure to answer any questions in this section will result in a penalty. These questions test your ability to read charts, locate information, use logical reasoning skills, and other word problems related to the job.
Memory game This section of the test is structured to determine whether you can follow a sequence of numbers. You will start with a number ranging from 1 through 9, after which you will get a second number. You will then be asked to type in the difference between these two numbers. After you answer the first set, you will be given another number and will have to determine the difference between your last answer and the new number. Make sure you practice with this section as often as possible, primarily because you will only get to see the number for about two seconds before the screen changes, so timing is crucial.
Memory and variables This section of the air traffic controller assessment exam contains three subsections. Each subsection will be harder than the previous one. Each will include 10 questions. The questions are structured in a way where you will see a letter equal a particular number. You will need to memorize this. The screen will then randomize the letters, and you will need to fill in the correct number with each letter. The second section will use equations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The last part will have you solving variable equations.
Spatial reasoning and relationships This section is split up into two subsections and will determine how well you can recognize spatial differences between two objects. You will be given questions that show two planes and then asked to determine whether one plane should move left or right.
Air traffic control simulation (ATC) This section of the test will be assessing your ability to handle incoming data and react accordingly. The section is structured with two parts. You will be shown a simulation where balls are coming towards your plane. To get rid of the incoming balls, you need to type their correct number quickly. In essence, you can see this as a sort of reaction type video game.
Personality test (biographical assessment) This is one of the harder sections of the air traffic controller selection assessment and the most important. This section of the test is usually taken first. The AT-SA biographical assessment is comprised of 108 questions. You will be given three statements and asked to determine which of these statements are most like you and least like you. It is a psychometric test and is there to help determine whether an applicant’s personality is suited to the job of an air traffic controller. It is very common for test takers to fail this portion of the exam. The general idea is to be honest as much as possible but within reason of being someone who can do the job of an air traffic controller. A good AT-SA study guide will be able to provide you with plenty of sample questions to help you get an idea of what to expect. Try to be quick with each question since you will only have approximately 20 minutes for this section.
How to Prepare for the AT-SA Test?
Early preparation for the AT-SA exam is what will ensure you get a better overall score. The higher your score on the exam the better your odds are for standing out among all of the competition. Now that you have an understanding of what will be expected on the exam, the next step is choosing the best free practice AT-SA test. Familiarizing yourself with a wide variety of test questions and studying the correct answers will help you understand areas where you need the most work. It also helps to create your own AT-SA study guide that is best suited to your specific learning style. This way you will be able to grasp the gist of each section of the exam fully.
Why Is it Important to Use Air Traffic Control Practice Tests?
Taking as many air traffic control practice tests will help you become familiar with the many aspects of the test itself. You will be able to figure out where your strong suit is and where you are your weakest. You will also be able to practice the test’s time limits which can make all the difference for those who suffer from varying degrees of test anxiety. There are many AT-SA prep tests and books you can choose from to help guide you through your studying process and provide any explanations you may need. A good AT-SA test prep should include as many examples as possible for the biographical assessment/personality test portion, so you can familiarize yourself with what may be asked of you and give you pointers on how the questions are structured and the best possible answers for those questions.