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Home > Blog > Ppl Communications Theoretical Exam

PPL Communications theoretical exam

Posted 13 Jan 2023

PPL Communications theoretical exam

Passing these theoretical exams with at least 75% marks is necessary in order to qualify for a pilot licence. Scroll for more information on this process.

One of the most important aspects of operating an aircraft is communicating with other pilots as well as the crew on the ground. Without clear communication between different aircraft and air traffic control, the chances of things going wrong really do skyrocket. In order to ensure that the pilots are operating in a safe and secure environment, they must undergo training in radio communication.

In fact, a pilot cannot fly an aircraft without a valid Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL). This is to ensure that the pilot is well aware of the kind of language used when communicating via radio so that in the event that any assistance is required or there is a need to relay any necessary information, communication can be smooth and effortless.

There is a certain way of speaking when it comes to radio communication, which involves a set of phrases and terms that may mean something different in an aviation context as compared to a regular everyday situation.

Mastering these terms and phrases is a key part of becoming a good pilot, and it is a way to make certain that all parties involved in the flight, both in the aircraft and otherwise, are safe and are operating in a controlled environment.

Apart from the necessary practical training required to get a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) (or any other type of pilot licence for that matter), the trainee is required to sit a series of theoretical exams that test the pilot’s knowledge when it comes to various subjects such as air law, navigation, and radio communication.

Passing these theoretical exams with at least 75% marks is necessary in order to qualify for a pilot licence, and if a trainee fails to do so, it is mandatory for them to retake the tests before applying for a licence again.

Theory exams can feel daunting for those who are more involved towards mastering the practical side of pilot training, but it must be understood that this theory is necessary in order to become a safe and efficient pilot and maintain safety standards both on the ground and in the sky.

You should rest assured knowing that if you have done the necessary research and study, the exams are not at all difficult to clear. All you need is the right study material and perhaps a course that can guide you through what it is you need to master in order to ace the theory exams.

Thinking of the exams in conjunction with your practical training can help you see the ways in which this valuable theoretical information can aid you in becoming a better pilot. Sherburn Aero Club also offers dedicated courses for the communications section of the exam, so you can easily study with peers and be comfortable when taking the exam.

In order to find out more about what the exam includes and how you can prepare in order to get a good score, read on! You’ll find that there really isn’t all that much to worry about, and if you are passionate about flying and becoming a pilot, the exams will be sure to be a breeze!



PPL training at Sherburn aero Club and otherwise includes two aspects. The first is the practical aspect of the training which beginners undertake with Certified Flight Instructors (CFI) and the other is the theoretical aspect that includes multiple choice exams.

Both these aspects are necessary and indispensable when it comes to pilot training, and you will have to use the knowledge used in both in order to become the best pilot you can be.


Practical training

 Practical training is the accumulation of hours that beginners undergo in order to be eligible to apply for a PPL. In order to qualify for a PPL, the trainee must show a total of 45 hours of training, 10 hours out of which must be of solo flight.

Part of practical training can also be done on a simulator, although there is a limit to how much you can train via a machine and not while being in the cockpit of an actual aeroplane.

This part of the training is usually what excited new pilots since it allows them to fly aircraft and live out their aviation dreams, but it cannot be enough. The theoretical part of training is also equally important.


Theory-based exams

The PPL applicant must clear a series of nine theoretical exams, which include subjects such as Air Law, Navigation. and Radio Communication. A minimum score of 75% is necessary in order to be eligible to apply for the PPL, and failure to achieve this will mean that the applicant must retake the exams.

The theory section helps pilots familiarise themselves with what to expect while in the air and when prepping to fly while on the ground. While Air Law helps pilots understand what it is they are legally obliged to do depending on the airspace they are in. This is a necessary part of training since it helps pilots understand the legal dos and don’ts of flying.

The FRTOL exam, which is necessary in order to qualify for the licence and the PPL is needed so that the pilot knows the correct and standard way of communicating while flying.



The communications theory exam deals with how a pilot communicates with the crew, the air-traffic control, as well as the pilots operating other aircraft.

This exam is part of the nine theoretical PPL exams that are required in order to be able to apply for a licence. It is different from the exam undertaken when applying for a FRTOL. However, in certain circumstances, the written communications exam can be taken along with the practical radio exam.

If this is something that you would prefer, it would be a good idea to reach out to the service through which you are taking the exam. The exams are standardised and are designed by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom. This allows for continuity in the standard of the exam and fairness when it comes to the type of questions that are asked.

The syllabus is based on the standard guides provided by the CAA and EASA, however, since the split between the European Union and Britain, clearing the exam via the CAA does not automatically grant EASA approval. In order for that to happen, the candidate must apply for a Part-FCL rating which allows them to fly EASA-approved aircraft.



 The PPL communications exam includes the theoretical side of using your aircraft’s radio system, as opposed to the practical side of it. This written exam tests your ability to understand phraseology and use the correct terms given the context.

In order to excel at the test, you must ensure that you go through the standard list of terms provided by the CAA. These are standard words and phrases that are universal, and being used across the world. The language of communication in international airspace is English, so proficiency in the language is a necessity if you want to become a pilot.

Certain smaller airfields may use local language during communication but this is by no means the standard. English proficiency is a must-have. You must be able to speak and understand the language clearly and be able to use it even when under pressure.

Apart from the phrases, the exam will text you on the different ways that radio instrumentation can be used and the correct way to theoretically operate it, which will aid your practical understanding of the machinery.

Radios are key when it comes to dangerous and risky situations since clear communication can make all the difference between safety and a possible accident.



The results of the test are available as soon as you complete the exam when it is administered online. Once you have your final result, it is valid for 18 months. This is the time in which you are required to take all nine of your theory exams and pass them with at least 75%.

After getting the result of your first exam, you will have 24 months to take the necessary skills tests, following which you will finally be eligible to apply for a licence.

It is best not to give too long of a break between exams and the skills tests that follow, and getting them done in one go will save you quite a bit of time and energy. However, the cost can add up, so you also have the option of spacing out the tests so that it is not too heavy on your pocket.



While the exam can be administered on paper, most opt to take the test online. It is marked by a computer and the results are available almost immediately after you have the talent for the exam. The test consists of a series of 12 questions, and you are required to get at least 9 out of these questions right so that you can be given a passing grade.

Each e-exam costs a total of 50 GBP, which is the standard rate set by the CAA. Sherburn provides its members with the ability to take the test through the club. In addition to this, the club also offers a dedicated FRTOL course for those who are hoping to get their radio telephony licence as well.

In order to qualify for the FRTOL, the applicant must have already passed the nine required exams for the PPL. The questions on the exam are multiple-choice, with four options for each question. The duration of the exam is not standard and will depend on the difficulty level of the questions asked. If you happen to take an exam with relatively harder questions, you will be given more time than someone who is given relatively easier questions.

Since the exams are administered by the CAA, applicants must register through the official website in order to be eligible to take the exam. The CAA goes through each application individually, and once you have been approved, you can take the test through Sherburn Aero Club.



Every time you take the e-exam, you are given the opportunity to retake the exam a total of four times. If you are unable to pass the exam even after the fourth attempt, you will be barred from taking the exam for the next three months. After this, you can apply for the test once again and retake it.



Sherburn offers courses for those who are hoping to gain proficiency in both the practical and theoretical aspects of the training. You can call the club in order to figure out which course would be the best fit for you.



 Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers both private and commercial licenses.

Sherburn offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran. The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.

Sherburn also offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward. You are required to take medical exams to prove you are fit enough to take to the skies when applying for a licence, and the facility at Sherburn allows you to start your aviation journey on the right foot.

Our in-house AME, Dr Mark Bellamy, is rated to perform EASA Class 2 and LAPL. He also holds a fixed-wing PPL. Appointments are available every Monday and Tuesday, as well as on occasional Saturdays.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on the PPL exams and flight training at Sherburn Aero Club.

Photo by Pascal Meier on Unsplash 



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