how to study for instrument rating

Becoming a competent IFR pilot requires a lot more effort than becoming a private pilot.

Nevertheless, it is not an impossible task. I described how a private pilot could study for an instrument rating in four steps:

  • Step 1 – Study for instrument written test;
  • Step 2 – Practice for actual instrument flying;
  • Step 3 – Prepare for the oral check;
  • Step 4 – Ready yourself for the IR check-ride.

Studying for an instrument rating seems more stressful if you don’t follow a guide. Study in a disciplined manner by knowing what to practice after which.

Not doing so step by step, and you will struggle to obtain your instrument rating.

Without effort and not following the steps will only de-motivate you from instrument flying. As a private pilot licensee, you might soon hold you are not worthy of an instrument rating.

But don’t lose hope, follow the steps in this article, and ace all instrument flying aspects quicker.

How to study for instrument written test?

Instrument rating is challenging. Regardless, I find studying for the instrument written test is straightforward. Aeronautical knowledge amusing to learn, and IFR theory is a little more in-depth.

Hence, many fail the instrument rating written test as they have difficulties following too much information on instrument flying.

There are numerous courses online to study for instrument written test, but I prefer a more traditional approach.

I consider these two materials are adequate to prepare for IFR written test:

Step 1

Use the book by Rod Machado to study the basics of instrument flying.

This book will teach you all you need to know for your instrument rating. This book is full of information on instrument flying, charts, weather, and about airplane systems in-depth.

As an instrument pilot, you need to learn a bunch about things happening outside the airplane.

As a private pilot, you learned how an airplane works and visual references to operate flights safely.

Now you have to master stuff outside the airplane for instrument rating, such as airport operations and the weather.

Hence Rod Machado’s instrument pilot’s handbook explains all the subjects in-depth.

Rod Machado elaborately explains why something happens and what you must do to correct it during your instrument flight.

Curious about why it is essential to know why something happens and how to resolve a problem?

Step 2

At this stage, the Dauntless Aviation test prep software is essential. We all know that the FAA database is not the same as it used to be decades ago. The FAA frequently updates the database of questions for the written test.

So you can expect to see many questions out of the usual. Regardless if you comprehend a subject, you can figure out the right answer.

That’s where the Dauntless test prep comes into play.

Dauntless IFR test prep has hundreds of questions and multiple choice answers. Use this software to practice your knowledge of instrument flying.

If you answer a question and find out the answer is wrong, you can refer to the software’s correct answer section. On the right side of your wrong answer, you can learn why the answer is right and the other choices are wrong.

You will be ready to take your instrument rating written test by repeating these tasks.

One more tip:

Clarify any wrong answer you picked by referring back to the section where Rod Machado explained in his Instrument pilot’s handbook.

Following these steps, you will solve answers to problems by yourself and not fail your instrument written test.

To become a safer instrument pilot, one must presume how the airplane will behave and the weather en-route.

Following this studying technique will help you realize all these.

RELATED: A guide to achieve maximum score in IFR written test.

How to practice and educate for actual instrument flying?

Instrument flying is the most challenging phase I think to overcome in instrument rating.

Forget everything you have achieved as a private pilot.

Being a better instrument pilot is genuinely something different and nothing impossible. If, by now, you have already passed your instrument written test, you are knowledgeable about the instrument flying fundamentals.

That is not enough as instrument flying is a whole new thing from VFR flying.

There are too many things to do in IFR flights quickly and to become better at instrument flying.

It would help if you did the following:

  1. Learn the instrument approaches and departure procedures;
  2. Memorizing the approach plates, you often use;
  3. Practice acronyms to brief your CFII during instrument flight.

Learn the instrument approaches and departure procedures.

To become an excellent IFR pilot, you quickly need to grasp the necessary materials first.

Approach and departure procedures are a critical phase of an instrument flight.

Knowing how to depart from an airport using the instruments and arriving at an airport following the instrument approach procedure, and land the aircraft safely will make you an excellent instrument pilot.

There are many elements to study for instrument pilots. But remembering the procedures and applying them will distinct you from other pilots.

There are two sources of leaning IFR flying procedures that I find very useful for instrument flying:

  1. Secrets of Instrument Approaches and Departures by Rod Machado.
  2. Instrument procedures Handbook by ASA. (Free PDF link here)

Learning from these two resources is sufficient to improve your instrument flying operations.

Number 1 is an 8 Hours online course by Rod Machado. The online course is very affordable and by a veteran instructor like Rod Machado.

Rod Machado is famous for teaching only the essential materials. In the course, he focuses exclusively on Approaches and departures.

As an instrument pilot myself, I find approaches to be somewhat complicated. Knowing indispensable techniques from this online instrument course will improve your IFR flying.

Number 2:

I recommended the ASA’s Instrument Flying Handbook to learn a lot more about the en-route operation and overall instrument flying procedures.

This book is not technical but will benefit your instrument flight training.

You can get the FREE PDF or order a physical copy online if you prefer.

Utilizing these two resources to study for instrument rating will improve your instrument flying performance massively.

You have to study and practice in your actual flight to develop.

Studying for an instrument rating can be overwhelming even after getting your private pilot license, but knowing only the essential flight materials will make you a better pilot sooner.

Memorizing the approach plates you often use.

Now that you know how to follow the instrument procedures and progress your performance, you can level up your instrument flying by merely memorizing the approach plates.

I am not saying you must memorize hundreds of approach plates.

Just figure out the airports you frequently fly to and memorize the approach plates.

If you find it challenging to memorize the approach plates, take some time before each flight to study the approach plate not to find yourself lost during the flight.

The last thing you want is to fly into a congested Class B airspace and get lost in your approach plate.

You should be able to glance at your chart and be ready for the approach procedure.

Practice acronyms to brief your CFII during instrument flight.

Memorizing some acronyms helps during IFR flight. During instrument flight training, it may be tough to remember the flow of tasks or radio communication.

Memorizing acronyms and practicing their application before flight and during the instrument ease the tasks for pilots.

There is a PDF file available in Google where you can find only the essential acronyms for instrument flying. Take the time to memorize them, and you will not find yourself in an uneasy situation during your flight.

It is crucial to think and stay ahead of the airplane in an instrument flight. A few seconds difference can mess up the whole phase of your flight. So think ahead of the aircraft to stay ahead of the aircraft.

Memorizing acronyms will help you:

  • To think quickly and ease your tasks operating an instrument flight;
  • To brief your CFII before the approach.

Your instrument flight instructor will undoubtedly ask you to brief before each approach. You don’t want to refrain at this stage.

If you struggle to identify what happens next, you will fall behind the aircraft and ultimately mess up the whole approach.

You will end up getting lectured by your CFII. Take the time and memorize the acronyms.

That way, you will grow as a safer instrument pilot, and your flight instructor will always be satisfied with your performance.

How to prepare for the oral check?

Let’s assume you have adequate instrument flying experience.

Yet there are things your Designated Pilot Examiner(DPE) may ask you, and you can’t answer the question.

The DPE will likely ask you questions relevant to flying in instrument meteorological conditions, aka IMC.

If you are knowledgeable about weather flying, then you will answer the question without effort. What if you are not?

I am suggesting a good book for gaining knowledge of flying in adverse weather conditions before your oral instrument check.

You passed your written test, studied the books, and took the online course. There is no doubt about your knowledge of the fundamentals of instrument flying.

Regardless, take the time and study Weather Flying by Robert N. Buck. You will be a step ahead of many instrument-rated pilots.

Many of us do not recognize the importance of learning the weather during instrument rating but learning about weather flying is a crucial aspect of IFR flying.

If you have some instrument flight hours remaining, you must practice instrument flying in the actual Instrument Meteorological Conditions(IMC).

Flying in harsh weather using the instruments will grow you as a pilot. If you practice flying in extreme weather, you will level up as an instrument pilot too.

At this stage, studying the weather flying book can be beneficial.

Likewise, we always forget that instrument flying is not about operating the aircraft but about working safely without visuals.

You need to know why the weather behaves in such a way and when to avoid weather.

If you utilize all your resources and you can pass your oral check effortlessly.

Not just that, your DPE will be satisfied, and it is so common for the DPE not to pressure or ask too many questions to private pilots during instrument check-ride if the private pilot answered the DPE’s questions during oral check.

Thus it is crucial to pass the oral check excellently.

How to study and be ready for the instrument rating check-ride?

You don’t have to study much to pass your instrument rating check ride if you passed all other stages with satisfactory results.

There is still something I want every private pilot studying for instrument rating is to memorize the basic flow of an instrument flight.

  • Compared to VFR flight, there is a lot more to remember and execute in an IMC condition;
  • A pilot has to act fast, and they need to think ahead of the aircraft.

Therefore, memorizing an instrument flight’s basic flow will help you think quickly, and you will not be hesitant on your check-ride.

During your instrument check-ride, you can confidently show your DPE the instrument flying procedures.

Likewise, if you act before your airplane does, you will have excellent flight performance in your IFR check-ride.

If you are unwilling to fail your IFR check-ride, you must memorize the flight’s basic flow and practice them during your instrument rating training flight.

That way, you will never be lost in IMC and acquire your instrument rating with proficiency.