How to prepare for checkride day

8 min read

No one enjoys being evaluated, but the checkride is a necessary step.

Checkride day is finally here – the end of one chapter in your aviation journey filled with many triumphs and challenges unique to flight training.  Only the satisfaction of putting your knowledge, skills and decision-making ability you’ve accumulated into the checkride remain.

While it’s important to understand, by virtue of your instructor’s endorsement, that you’ve met all of the requisite knowledge, experience, and skill elements to become a pilot, it doesn’t completely alleviate the inevitable checkride jitters. A good examiner will approach the checkride of the mindset that you’re a licensed pilot unless given reason to believe otherwise. This is an important distinction from the belief that it’s up to you to prove your worth.

I’m convinced no one actually enjoys the checkride environment. The thought of an examiner, who may be someone unfamiliar, carefully analyzing your every response, decision and input can rattle you to the core unless properly managed. There are those who possess more confidence, either through preparedness or ignorance, and those who naturally excel in the high-stakes checkride setting. But given the option between evaluation and not, suffice it to say we’d all retreat to safety and comfort.

But no matter the side of the coin you find yourself on, the checkride is the necessary and required step for certification so let’s look at what to expect, how to prepare, and how to settle the nerves.


Don’t wait until checkride day to meet your examiner.

1) Don’t wait until checkride day to meet your examiner. While the onus should be on your CFI or flight school to ensure you’re property introduced and briefed as to what to expect from the examiner, do your part and insist on learning as much as you can about the individual and the exam profile. No, this isn’t cheating. Quite the contrary. This is a wise, prudent step in preparing for the big day. Nearly all examiners have their “thing” they may wish to emphasize or teach and if it’s important enough to test, it’s important enough to teach and learn.

Does the examiner have a typical cross-country and diversion scenario? Does the examiner prefer to combine maneuvers? Is there an airport the examiner enjoys visiting? Does the examiner have a preferred emergency scenario? Will the examiner insist on examining aircraft logs? Does the examiner fully embrace your electronic charts? For an IFR checkride, what are the most likely instrument approaches?These are some questions you may consider answering in advance of the checkride.

2) Set the stage for success by ensuring the details are complete. This begins with a review of experience requirements for the certification itself. It’s wise to be versed in these requirements and know where the elements are documented in the logbook. Written test results should be in hand with an understanding of deficient knowledge areas. Be sure to have payment in an acceptable form at the ready. Sporty’s offers interactive checkride checklists within its online courses to ensure you’ve complete the details.


Complete your performance planning before the checkride.

3) Know the certification standards which are the examiner’s guidebook. Have a thorough understanding and even a copy of the standards with you so it may be referenced if necessary. Don’t panic if you haven’t spent much time in the certification standards. Your instructor will have been teaching to these standards along the way, but it would still be a worthy investment of your checkride preparation time, to familiarize yourself with the guidance.

4) Have aircraft logbooks and/or records available. Many examiners will expect the pilot to demonstrate aircraft airworthiness with a review of the aircraft logbooks. While you may be able to recite, chapter and verse, the required aircraft inspections, you may be asked to take it a step further by locating those required checks in the aircraft and engine logs. Don’t make checkride day the first time for opening an aircraft log.

5) Complete weight and balance, performance, and cross-country planning. A basic expectation of any checkride is flight planning. You may be asked to prepare a cross-country flight plan. Suffice it to day, weight and balance and performance data should be a part of this preparation. Check and double check your work and be prepared to explain how the information was derived especially when using flight planning apps. Most examiners will use the flight plan as a means to exploring other areas of the certification standard typically contained in the oral phase. Even if you’ve transitioned to the flight phase of the checkride, oral questioning can and likely will continue.

6) Take charge and be in command. Transitioning to the flight phase, consider that part of the examiner’s evaluation includes your ability to make safe, sound decisions and be the pilot-in-command. Take control (command) of the situation and make your own definitive go/no-go decision and carry this mantra all of the way though your flight. If you don’t like how a situation is unfolding, take action. Perfection is not a passing requirement, but good decisions are.


Review the required ACS maneuvers so the procedures are fresh.

For your checkride, DO:

  • Learn the examiner ahead of your checkride and study the expected profile.
  • Complete the details – 8710 application, logbook, written exam results, flight plan, payment all in order.
  • Review all of the airspace and chart symbology along the cross-country route ahead of the checkride to ensure that it is understood.
  • For an IFR checkride, review all likely instrument approach procedures
  • Study your aircraft’s limitations and memory items. Examiners are fond of using these elements as starters for many of your oral questioning.
  • Relax in between maneuvers and don’t rush.
  • Be the PIC and fly as you’ve trained.
  • Review the appropriate ACS to ensure that you are comfortable and familiar with what is to be expected.
  • Review popular oral exam questions. Sporty’s offers oral exam flashcards as part of its checkride preparation module with questions and answers of likely oral exam questions. Review a sample from the Instrument Rating Course below:

[qdeck summary=”true” align=”center”]

[q] Do the airworthiness and federal registration certifiates for the aircraft expire?

[a] The airworthiness certificate does not expire, but the registration expires seven years after the last day of the month in which it was issued.


[q] What can a pilot do to improve the effectiveness of vision at night?

[a] Allow 30 minutes for eyes to adjust, avoid bright lights, utilize off-center viewing and be aware that depth perception is degraded.


[q] To exercise the privileges of BasicMed, what additional documents must the PIC have?

[a] A current and valid driver’s license, the completed CMEC checklist and documentation of completion of the BasicMed course.


[q] When tracking in bound on the localizer, which of the following is the proper procedure regarding drift corrections?

[a] Drift corrections should be accurately established before reaching the outer marker and completion of the approach should be accomplished with heading corrections no greater than 2°.

Drift corrections should be small and reduced proportionately as the course narrows. By the OM, drift correction should be established accurately enough to permit completion of the approach, with heading corrections no greater than 2°.

[q] (Refer to the figure below) ATC has cleared you for the ILS 6 approach to BDL. The ceiling is reported at 400 feet AGL and visibility is 1 mile. After intercepting the glideslope, ATC notifies you that the approach lighting system is inoperative. How should you proceed?

[a] Increase the visibility minimums to RVR 4000.

The approach chart indicates that Runway 6 features ALSF-2 approach lighting. The top left of the chart states to increase the RVR to 4000 when the ALSF-2 lighting system is inoperative.

[x] If you found this helpful, Sporty’s Instrument Rating Course  has flashcards for all topics on IFR flying.
Sharpen your skills or prepare for the knowledge test with Flashcard mode in Study Sessions.



For your checkride, DON’T:

  • Study obscure regulatory or AIM entries searching for the needle in the haystack.
  • Memorize answers. Learn the material, not someone else’s summary of the material.
  • Cram up to checkride time. Once you’re within a few hours of the exam, put the books down and relax.
  • You can always be better and no one expects perfection. When your CFI says you’re ready, go for it.
  • If you make a mistake, own it and move on.
  • Depart from your routine. Begin and end your days as you ordinarily would.
  • Second guess. Your first instinct is usually correct.

Examiners have a job to do, but they are people and pilots just like you. If there is some question of what is being asked, ask for clarification. Communication is key to the examiner understanding your thought process and decision making. Checkrides have plenty of emotion and pressure that will hopefully allow you to excel. Don’t bring unnecessary pressure or emotion to the flight by overreaching or trying to do too much. Fly like you’ve trained and be the PIC.

Eric Radtke