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Pass your Cadet Pilot Assessment

I reviewed the ‘Cadet Ultimate Bundle’ in collaboration with ADAPT/Symbiotics. You can find the original article here. 

As a pilot, you are assessed throughout your whole career. Several times a year, pilots are required to demonstrate proficiency in simulator exams. Training, testing and checking: it is part of the job, but did you know that the assessments start right from the beginning, when applying to a Flight Academy? How can you pass a cadet pilot selection process and what about that first job interview? Preparation is key! Let’s talk about what you can expect, and how you can prepare to pass a pilot assessment.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Eva, and I have been working as an airline pilot for eight years. I passed two First Officer job assessments; one for the Boeing 737 as a low hour cadet, and one for my current position, which is Boeing 747 First Officer. When I decided to try and become a pilot, I applied at two different Flight Schools. I did assessments for both. My first assessment, I failed miserably, however I was accepted as a cadet for the second Flight School, after I passed their assessment successfully. The difference was preparation. The first time I showed up completely unprepared, and not knowing what to expect. For the second assessment, I prepared thoroughly. I did my research on the different stages of the selection I could expect, and I found ways to prepare and to improve. I learned my lesson, and later I applied the same strategy for both my airline pilot interviews.

Reviewing the Cadet Ultimate Bundle

The road to an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), and to a pilot job, can seem challenging – and it is! All flight academies have their own selection process, and they are normally very thorough. An interview and a flight simulator assessment are a certainty and, in most cases, you can also expect to take several psychometric tests.

Recently I have been given the opportunity to review Symbiotics’ most extensive online preparation package: the Cadet Ultimate Bundle. It is created for Ab-Initio/Cadet pilots, designed to cover everything you may come across during the flight academy recruitment process. Let’s have a look at what the Cadet Ultimate Bundle contains:

The bundle gives you a set number of attempts at each of the online tests over a three months period. After purchasing, you can log into the online portal, which shows you when your access ends, how many test attempts you still have left, as well as which tests you have completed and which ones you still have to do. It is all very clear.

As I think back to the days of my own Flight School assessments, I start with the first test.

Personality Questionnaire with feedback

The Adapt Personality Questionnaire (APQ) is an in-depth test, concerning my interests, preferences, opinions, values and motivation. There is no right or wrong: all I need to do is stay true to myself in my answers, as to reflect my natural behaviours. There is no time limit to complete the test, but the aim is to finish under one hour.

Some example questions. – Choose the answer resonating the most with you.

  • At work I believe: Rules are there to follow / Rules can be changed if necessary.
  • If the pay were the same I’d prefer to be: A counsellor / An engineer.
  • When working on a project, it’s more important: For everything to be just right / For things to be completed on time.

And some example statements. – To what extent do you agree?

  • I get excited by new or unusual ideas.
  • I know that even if I make mistakes in what I do, nothing is likely to seriously go wrong.
  • Sometimes I don’t deal with situations well.

These are just a few examples, so you get an idea. Many questions get repeated in a slightly different wording over the course of the questionnaire. The questionnaire is very similar to the personality test I had to do during the assessment days for my current job. Once completed, Symbiotics reached out to me to schedule an online video feedback call. On the feedback call, Emma Akhurst, an Aviation Psychologist at Symbiotics, debriefs me on my test report. She explains how my results are presented as a ‘sten score’, where my scores get compared to a large comparison group of individuals who took the test in the past. Many airlines and flight schools use similar tests, in addition to an interview and other assessments, normally to confirm their impression of a candidate. She explains the scores, and how a selection committee can interpret them. There is time to discuss questions and concerns and Emma encourages me to reach out if I have any additional questions later.

One of the graphs of the ADAPT personality Questionnaire Report.

After the debriefing I find the complete report in my e-mail inbox. In small radar graphs my scores are explained in detail, giving a profile of my character, work environment preferences and personal style. It also contains a ‘silhouette’, reflecting my preference to certain styles of information processing, work ethic and motivation. Completing the APQ gives me great insight into how seemingly random questions can lead to an extensive report on my personality.

Mock Interview with a Psychologist

The mock interview takes place via an online video call. As soon as Symbiotics Principal Occupational Psychologist Karen Moore appears on the screen, I can tell she is an excellent and supportive coach: someone who can really put ab-initio pilots at ease for their first interview, and help them to present themselves at their best.

Though I do get to experience a mock interview, I also get the opportunity to ask her questions to learn how she approaches it. Karen informed me that “I will explore the candidates self-awareness, motivation, industry awareness, and will ask questions to see if they have an understanding of the role of a cadet and what they know of the training organisation they apply to.” She continues: “Most candidates are sensible, and I can offer them feedback and give suggestions. Also a major part of a mock interview is helping to remove what we call ‘test environment fear’, the not knowing what the process is going to be.”

She finally puts me on the spot with a couple of unexpected questions. “When it comes to leadership, when did you have to defend an unpopular decision you made?” “When was the last time you made a decision which required careful analysis?” As I keep rambling on, she reminds me of the STAR technique in answering interview questions: Situation, Task, Actions, Result.

Personally, I think the mock interview is the most helpful tool to prepare for your cadet assessments, and especially for the first one! It can be very useful to get some constructive feedback from a ‘stranger’, on your first impression, and on how you answer the practice interview questions. It is, in all honesty, my favourite tool in the practice bundle. Having completed the APQ and the Mock interview, I move onto the pilot aptitude tests within the bundle, which look to measure a candidates knowledge and skills.

Maths, Physics, FAST, Coordination and Cognitive Reasoning Practice Tests

It’s been almost two decades since I worked my way through Maths and Physics classes, so I am curious what to expect. The Maths and Physics practice tests are similar in structure: 20 multiple choice questions, getting more advanced as the test progresses. They are timed and to be answered in 30 minutes – you are not allowed to use a calculator.

After completing the test an instant report is generated, telling me how I scored and providing me with personal revision guidance. The Maths test includes fairly basic distance calculations and a Pythagorean theorem exercise and I am pleased to have scored 100% for it. But I definitely found the Physics test more challenging! For Physics the report tells me that ‘the formulae for electrical resistors, both in series and parallel may be tested.’ It would also be time to review the formulae for springs, both in series and parallel. ‘Revise both the effect on extension length and resistance.’ OK, I will! These tests are an excellent tool to find weaker areas of knowledge.

The Cognitive Reasoning practice test brings me back to my first assessment at a flight school, which as mentioned earlier, I failed. I wish I had invested some time in practicing numerical and verbal reasoning tests, along with working memory, spatial and relationship reasoning exercises. These are all covered in this test and I highly recommend having a go at them to practice in order to get familiar with them.

Finally, to complete the Ultimate Bundle, the FAST and the Coordination practice tests are aimed at your dexterity, which is very important in any kind of simulator assessment. The FAST (Future Aptitude Selection Tool) is quite a challenging multi-tasking dynamic exercise requiring me to deal with multiple information sources simultaneously. Such demanding exercises are part of many assessments; in fact this one is very similar to a test I had to take at my second (successful) flight school assessment. So again, this test makes for great practice. Many flight school selections will subject candidates to a similar test, in which the demanding work environment in the flight deck is replicated.


With the Cadet Ultimate Bundle, Symbiotics have created the most thorough preparation package, with many useful tests and features, to cover everything you may come across in the recruitment process for a cadet role. The great thing is that all tests can be individually purchased as well, so if you feel you don’t need such an extensive preparation, you can have a look at the separate tests available and just purchase what you think suits you.

“Proper preparation prevents poor performance – good luck!”

Find the Symbiotics Practice Tests here: Symbiotics Practice Tests

About the author: Eva is a Hong Kong based Boeing 747 pilot and through her Instagram page @Flywitheva she shares her life as a pilot, aiming to inspire, inform and advise the next generation of future airline pilots.



How did I become an airline pilot?

Besides why I chose for this profession of soaring the skies at 37.000 feet, the next question is how did I manage to get where I am today? I get lots of questions of which school I attended, how I afforded this, and how I got a job. There are many different routes, but this is my story in short.

Regarding flight schools and taking the modular route or an integrated course, I researched mostly online. Internet will give you a ton of information, check for example here. I visited several information days of flight schools in Holland. I chose to follow an integrated course: this is 2 years of full time studying. Everything is done in this period to get a frozen ATPL: all theory exams, flight hours flying single engine and multi engine, an instrument rating, all practical flight exams and an MCC course. I applied to the Dutch flight academy ‘Nationale Luchtvaart School’ (now CAE Oxford Aviation Academy), and passed the assessments to start flight training.

Pilot loan

How did I afford it? Flight training is very expensive, so I understand this question. When I started my training in 2008, there was a Dutch bank that offered ‘pilot loans’. If you got accepted in a flight academy, you could apply for a loan at this bank to fund your studies. I afforded my flight training by getting a loan, and it took me 11 years to pay it off. The bank now stopped with this construction, so these ‘pilot loans’ are something from the past.

I started flight training in october 2008; this was exactly the start of the ‘global financial crisis’. All I could do now, was study hard: get the highest grades possible, and pass all my exams at once. I knew getting a job at the end of the course would be extremely difficult. In 2010, when I graduated, the market was full of cadet pilots, and hardly any jobs, not even for experienced pilots. Welcome in the pool of unemployed cadets.

Pool of unemployment

Two long years I did everything I could to get a job, and kept improving my skills and CV. I tried to find work in an airline: if it was not as a pilot for now, then in another position. I managed to get a full time job at Martinair operations, where I worked as a dispatcher and crew scheduler. In the mean time I applied everywhere. I considered every airline, big or small, business jets, turboprops, open applications. I networked, I called airlines, I uploaded my CV into countless online databases. I spent hours of checking aviation websites and forums online, looking for chances. I made summaries of all the theory subjects, and invested in some more reading material to keep my knowledge sharp.

Living for the future

And there was more. I completed a bush pilot course in South Africa. I joined the editorial staff of the Dutch Airline Pilots Association and wrote voluntarily for their magazine. To obtain a certificate that would increase my chances on the German pilot market, I completed a German language course. I trained regularly on an expensive Boeing 737 simulator, to be ready anytime for an assessment. I kept my license and medical valid. For two years my whole life revolved around getting a pilot job at an airline. All my time, money and energy went there. I was only living for the future.

Airline interview

Then one day, in september 2012, I got the invitation for an assessment at a big European passenger airline. I knew that my time was now, otherwise maybe never. I felt a lot of pressure. But the night before the assessment I slept ten hours nonstop! I was so tired of preparing, and at the same time relaxed; I knew I had done everything I possibly could to prepare. I was ready. With this attitude I started my simulator assessment. My nerves did not ruin things for me, and I flew the best assessment I could think of. This was followed by an hour of technical an personal questions.


To conclude the interview I got a firm handshake from the captain that had assessed me. He told me to start preparing for my type-rating on the Boeing 737: I had the job! This in now 4 years ago, and to recall this day still brings the biggest smile on my face. For those of you out there working hard to get a job, maybe for several years already: don’t give up! Keep working hard, keep improving. Many of us have been in this situation. Keep faith that you will get to that flight deck seat: you will, but it takes constant work, and the right attitude.