Last Updated on April 13, 2022
Are you looking to enjoy the benefits of being an Air traffic Controller like high wages, great insurance, and challenging, meaningful work? If so, you’ll need the ambition to succeed, but that’s not all. You will also need to pass the air traffic controller aptitude test. The AT-SA exam.
In such a competitive and rigorous field, you’re going to need a high score on the AT-SA. And if unprepared, this tough test can knock some candidates on their back. So if you are nervous about an upcoming test, remember practice and prepare key to understanding what the test is, how it works and how to ace it.
Below you’ll find the tools you need to decimate the competition and set yourself up for your career in the control tower. Read on to learn what the exam is and how to dominate it.
Bring your smarts and skills—we’ll help you with the rest.
Table of Contents
What is the AT-SA Exam?
First things first. What is the AT-SA exam? The AT-SA exam stands for Air Traffic Skills Assessment. This exam is taken in person and all test takers must provide two forms of identification. Only United States citizens are eligible to take this exam.
The AT-SA replaces the air traffic selection and training (AT-SAT) exam that was previously used to assess potential air traffic controllers. The exam is divided into seven subsets and will take a little less than three hours to complete.
This exam is notoriously challenging, and scores are classified in one of four ways: Not Referred is the lowest classification, followed by Qualified, Well Qualified, and Best Qualified as the highest score classification. Because of the competitive nature of the air traffic controller field, test takers strive to receive a Best Qualified classification in order to be referred to a job in the field.
AT-SA Exam: Broken Down by Section
Let’s talk about each of the seven subtests within the AT-SA exam. Applicants should strive to do well on each of these subtests in order to boost their qualification score. The best way to ensure a high score is to practice each of these subtest types and to do special practice in areas where you are less confident. That way, on the day of the exam, you will be ready to ace the test.
Biographical Assessment/Personality Test
This portion of the test determines whether your personality is compatible with the responsibilities and atmosphere of an air traffic control tower workplace setting. These questions are to be answered in a “rapid fire” approach since there are 108 questions and only 20 minutes to answer this portion of the exam.
Essentially, you will see three statements. For each statement, you will be asked which of these statements is most or least like you. Approach these questions honestly, and consider which aspects of your personality are most likely to lead to flourishing in an air traffic controller workplace.
Here’s an example:
Mark which of these statements best describes you and which least describes you:
- Most of the time I feel relaxed
- I like to plan out the future
- Competition brings out the best in me
For more examples, click here.
This can be a difficult portion of the exam for some test takers. It’s a good idea to practice many questions in this portion to get used to the types of answers that make sense for you.
Two Memory Games
There are two memory game tests in the AT-SA.
The first memory game test utilizes subtraction and categorization to determine your ability to think quickly while keeping information aside within your mind.
A number will appear on the screen and then disappear. You must remember this first number. Then you will see another number on the screen. Subtract the second number from the first and type this number in.
Next, a third number will appear. Subtract the third number from the second and type this number. Remember *not* to subtract the third number from any of the numbers you typed earlier. You are being tested on your ability to do simple math as well as your ability to keep different pieces of information separate.
Be sure to practice this portion of the test. You will only have about two seconds to remember each number that pops up, so you’ll want to build up experience with this process.
The second memory game test has three sections. Each section consists of ten questions. As you move from section to section, the test questions become harder.
At first, you will be told that a certain number will be represented by a certain letter. For example, A equals 1 or B equals 2.
Then you will see letters flashing out of order, and you will be asked to insert what number is being represented by these letters.
Next, you’ll also be given numbers represented by letters, but you will be asked to complete equations using these numbers. The equations will be completed using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Finally, you will find two-variable equations.
Practice these types of tests and determine the best way you know to answer the questions. You may find it easier to tap or whisper in order to keep track of the letter and number substitutions. Also, if you haven’t done arithmetic in some time, get used to performing these functions quickly.
This portion of the exam focuses on the applicant’s ability to understand a passage and utilize deductive reasoning and inference. You will be asked to determine the main idea of the paragraph.
This section has 18 total questions with 15 minutes allotted for completion.
The word problem subtest engages the applicant’s logical reasoning as well as the ability to locate information by reading charts. For this section, be sure not to miss answering any questions or you will be penalized. Therefore, if you do not know the answer, use the information given to make the best possible selection.
If possible, use the process of elimination to determine which answers make the most sense of the multiple choice options.
For this portion of the exam, you will need to be able to imagine the orientation of several airplanes from different perspectives. You may see two planes on the screen and be asked whether, from the perspective of the large plane, it is true that the small plane is on the LEFT side.
Then in the next section, you will be given a picture of an eye which stands for a third viewpoint. From this new viewpoint, is it true that the small plane is on the LEFT side of the large plane? This question is answered true or false.
When the eye symbol is present on the screen, it is typically (but not always) pointing at the large airplane. If you are running out of time, you can reverse the view of the large airplane to get your answer for a question with an eye symbol. This is a time saver but it is not always accurate.
Air Traffic Control Simulation
This simulation is set up like a video game. The purpose of the game is to avoid collisions by marking down the number associated with one of the two balls that are set on a collision course. As the simulation progresses, you will also be asked to answer basic math questions while also avoiding collisions.
The key is to make sure your balls do not collide. While answering the math questions is optimal, it is more important to make sure there are no collisions. This test assesses the ability to view objects in space while also prioritizing different tasks in time and simultaneously considering multiple variables.
How to Excel at the AT-SA Aptitude Test?
If you want to be an air traffic controller, the AT-SA test could be one of the most important test taking opportunities in your life. Some may find themselves becoming anxious about the difficulty level and amount of questions on the test.
Others may be confident in their abilities but would still benefit from a lot of preparation beforehand. In fact, everyone who takes the test can improve their final score by putting in a lot of practice. Gaining access to a test prep program is the best way to achieve a score of Best Qualified on the AT-SA test.
This score could lead to a tentative offer letter (TOL) that advances the hiring process along. In short, this test stands between you and your career goals, and that’s why it’s essential to put in many hours of work to become an expert at every aspect of the assessment you’ll encounter during the AT-SA itself.
You’ll want to practice to get used to the types of questions. You’ll also want to answer those questions in a timed environment that is similar to the test-taking scenario you’ll encounter during the actual exam. It’s a good idea to see which portions of the test are your strong suits and which need a little extra practice.
Hone in on the more difficult portions of the test and recognize which specific skills you need to work on. Not only will this help you ace the test, but it will help you succeed if you eventually become an air traffic controller.
Why Take the AT-SA?
If you have strong attention to detail and enjoy using your brain, a role as an air traffic controller may be the perfect career for you. This lucrative profession is financially rewarding and endlessly challenging, providing opportunities for problem-solving and connecting with people from all over the world.
Not only that, but the job is vitally important for the continuation of our modern society. How many others can say that about their professions? If you want to become an air traffic controller, practice for the AT-SA. Build confidence and get ready to enter the exciting and challenging world of the control tower.
Related Study Guide:
- Royal Air Force Aptitude Test: Study Guide with Practice Questions
- Pilot Aptitude Test: Prep Guide with Sample Questions
- Transport Security Administration Computer Based Test – How to Prepare?
- How Long Does it Take to Become a Pilot?
- How to Become an Air Traffic Controller?
- Airman Selection Test – Ultimate Study Guide
The 2.5-hour exam will home in on five key related areas, including: Visual perception, fine detail, spatial orientation, logical reasoning, and multitasking. The passing score on this round is 70%.What does the atsa consist of? ›
The Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA), a computer-based, entry-level employment-selection test battery, evaluates the required critical knowledge, skills, abilities, and other personal characteristics (KSAOs), to help the FAA determine the candidates best qualified for an ATCS position.Are Air Traffic Controllers difficult? ›
Becoming an air traffic controller can be a high-stress job, but the work comes with good pay and benefits. Air traffic controller Cedrick Earley explained to Insider that he enjoys the challenges of the job. Controllers must go through rigorous training and testing, and have mandatory retirement at age 56.How can I prepare for atsa? ›
A. The ATSA is an aptitude assessment; therefore no studying or preparation is necessary.How long is the atsa test? ›
How Long Is the ATSA Test? The ATSA Air Traffic Control test is two hours and 49 minutes long. During the test, you will be permitted to take breaks of up to a maximum of 30 minutes in total. For example, you can choose to take six breaks of five minutes each, two breaks of 15 minutes or one 30-minute break.How long does it take to hear back from Nav Canada? ›
For non-air traffic services (ATS) roles, our recruitment process varies by type of position and location, but we aim to complete the entire process within two to three months.What is the name of the assessment that all air traffic controllers must take? ›
The Air Traffic Skills Assessment (AT-SA) Exam is the latest version of the aptitude test required to become an Air Traffic controller. The test was formerly known as the Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT) Exam, which was a lengthier exam.Where is Nav Canada Training? ›
NAV CANADA's training centres are located in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Moncton and Gander.Is air traffic controller a federal job? ›
As a federal employee, air traffic controllers receive a benefits package that rivals, if not surpasses, those offered in the private sector - with a variety of insurance, retirement, leave, and flexible spending options for employees and their families.How do I become an air traffic controller Reddit? ›
They must have a combination of three years of education and/or work experience. They are also required to pass a medical examination, security investigation, and FAA air traffic pre-employment tests. Applicants must be willing to work anywhere in the U.S. Agency staffing needs will determine facility assignment.
Air traffic controllers, who maintain the flow of aircraft in and out of airports and in flight, are key to aviation safety. This is well recognized as one of the most stressful jobs, requiring total concentration.Can you be an air traffic controller with ADHD? ›
No, the FAA has a strict medical policy for air traffic controllers and having ADHD and being medicated for it would disqualify you from employment.Who is the highest paid air traffic controller? ›
Air Traffic Controller Pay Distribution
The average pay for an Air Traffic Controller is $135,628.81. The highest paid Air Traffic Controller made $226,579 in 2021.
ACT®. org, the test-makers, maintain a website that can be a very helpful tool for students. Just reading over the materials there will familiarize you with the mindset of the organization and you're sure to find helpful tips and practice materials.Do you get calculator on atsa? ›
Hat. Nope, no calculators, pencils or paper allowed. They even have you leave all watches and cellphones, etc. on the table as you walk in.Is there Math in air traffic control? ›
Air traffic control is a fast-paced job that requires a mathematics background. The required math knowledge includes geometry and calculus. Additionally, air traffic controllers must understand geography and weather conditions, engineering, computers, aeronautics, and aviation regulations.How long does it take to become an air traffic controller? ›
A candidate must have either 3 years of progressively responsible work experience, a bachelor's degree, a combination of postsecondary education and work experience totaling 3 years, or obtain a degree through an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program.What is the name of the assessment that all air traffic controllers must take? ›
The Air Traffic Skills Assessment (AT-SA) Exam is the latest version of the aptitude test required to become an Air Traffic controller. The test was formerly known as the Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT) Exam, which was a lengthier exam.How do I practice radio calls to ATC? ›
Sound like a PRO on the Radios! | Mastering ATC CommunicationsIs there any physical test for AAI ATC? ›
Only those candidates who are found physically fit will be allowed to appear in the written test. The candidates will be allowed to appear in driving test / physical endurance test subject to passing the written test.
- You need to complete training with either Airservices Australia or the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to work as an Air Traffic Controller. ...
- Registration with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority is required.
Is There an Age Limit for Working as an Air Traffic Controller? Yes, the FAA requires you to apply for air traffic controller training before your 31st birthday. They also require you to retire at the age of 56.Is there Math in air traffic control? ›
Air traffic control is a fast-paced job that requires a mathematics background. The required math knowledge includes geometry and calculus. Additionally, air traffic controllers must understand geography and weather conditions, engineering, computers, aeronautics, and aviation regulations.Why do air traffic controllers make so much? ›
Air traffic controllers get paid six-figure salaries because the nature of their work is stressful, exhausting, and leaves no room for error. While there are various routes to become one, air traffic controllers have to undergo lots of training as the safety of the aircrew and passengers is on the line.What does clear for the option mean? ›
CLEARED FOR THE OPTION- ATC authorization for an aircraft to make a touch-and-go, low approach, missed approach, stop and go, or full stop landing at the discretion of the pilot. It is normally used in training so that an instructor can evaluate a student's performance under changing situations.What radio do I need to listen to ATC? ›
To listen to your local air traffic control, you'll need to obtain a radio scanner that's capable of receiving frequencies between 118.0 and 136.975 MHz.Can I listen to ATC in UK? ›
Unfortunately, UK law puts a stick in the spokes to listening to the ATC at Heathrow, the busiest airport in Europe and an AvGeek delight, with dozens of airlines from all over the world. Pascoe said the UK prohibits listening to ATC, let alone rebroadcasting it.Will there be ATC exam in 2022? ›
AAI ATC Score Card 2022 has been released. Candidates can now download AAI JE ATC score card for CBT from the official website. The AAI ATC exam was held on 27th July 2022. AAI released the AAI ATC notification for 400 vacancies for the post of AAI Junior Executive (Air Traffic Control) on 7 June 2022.How many students use AAI ATC? ›
The exam was taken by thousands of students across the country. There were a total of 368 vacancies that have been released by the AAI authorities this year.Can final year students apply for AAI ATC 2022? ›
Yes, candidates in the final year of graduation are eligible to apply, subject to the condition that at the time of document verification they will submit the final result.
How much does a Air traffic controller make in United Kingdom? The average air traffic controller salary in the United Kingdom is £50,000 per year or £25.64 per hour. Entry level positions start at £38,000 per year while most experienced workers make up to £73,004 per year.Is air traffic controller in demand? ›
Also known as:
The FAA regulates the hours that an air traffic controller may work. Controllers may not work more than 10 straight hours during a shift and must have 9 hours' rest before their next shift. Controllers may rotate shifts among day, evening, and night, because major control facilities operate continuously.