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What Is the ATSA Test?

The ATSA Test (Air Traffic Skills Assessment) is comprised of 7 subtests in different formats, including memory and basic math games, verbal and logic questions, and an actual air collision simulation. Replacing the old Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT) Exam, the ATSA Test measures your ability to perform the role of an air traffic controller (ATC).

How Long is the Air Traffic Contol Test?

The ATC test is 2 hours and 50 minutes long, plus 30 minutes of break time, which can also be divided into smaller breaks.

How Competetive is the ATSA Test?

Every year, thousands of applicants take the ATC test, usually in PSI testing centers around the US. If they score high, they get a TOL (Tentative Offer Letter) and move on to the next stage of the hiring process. The field of applicants is very competitive, so it is vital that you score high on the exam.

 

What's on This Page?

1. The ATSA Test - General Information and Sample Questions
2. Important Tips for the Candidate
3. The Requirements for Being an ATC Specialist

 

Air Traffic Control Test Overview Air Traffic Controller Test Overview

The FAA Air Traffic Controller Test, or the Air Traffic Skills Assessment, consists of 7 subtests given over 2 hours and 50 minutes.

After a long wait, we finally offer preparation for all 7 subsets. Take a look:

Memory Game 1 - Numbers and Differences

This subtest begins with a number (1-9) appearing onscreen for two seconds. Another number quickly follows. Using the number pad, type in the difference between these two numbers. After you type in your answer, a third number will appear. Now, determine the difference between the last number shown on the screen and this new number that has popped up on the screen. 

Tip: The most difficult part of this "easy" subtest is confusing the last number shown with the last answer you gave. For example, if the game shows '5' then '7', the first answer will be '2'. Then, if the screen shows a '4', your answer should be '3' (the difference between '7' and '4'), and not '2' (the difference between '4' and '2'). 

See for yourself how our NEW practice test looks like:

 

ATSA Test preparation

 

Memory Game 2 - Variables

This subtest consists of three progressively harder sections, each containing 10 questions. The first section flashes multiple letters that each equal a different number (i.e. A=1). Next, you will see on the screen the same letters, albeit this time randomized. Your task is to fill in the number to match the letter.

The second section consists of equations, such as A=B+2, B=1, and therefore A=3. This section uses only addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. In the third section, you are presented with two variable equations.

Tip: Find the best way to remember the numbers appearing and disappearing on the screen. Some candidates like to whisper to themselves the number and letter as they see them. Some use physical methods to remember the variables, like using your fingers or parts of your body.

ATSA Test solutions

 

Spatial/Visual Relationship

On this subtest, you need to quickly determine the location of two airplanes in relation to each other. You are shown an image with two airplanes, one large and one small, and a text box stating "right" or "left."

In the first section of this subtest, your point of view should be the point of view of the big plane (imagine you are sitting in it, looking at the small plane). In the second section, an eye may appear sometimes, changing your point of view to the eye's point of view.

In all questions, you will have to determine if the text box ("left" or "right") is correct or wrong, answering YES or NO.

 

For example:

If from the viewpoint of the big plane the small plane is on the left, and the text box says “left" you should answer YES. However, if the eye is present, your point of view is now the eye’s point of view and you should answer NO because changing the point of view has reversed the directions and now the statement in the text box is incorrect.

 

Tip: When the eye appears, it's usually looking at the big plane, and this point of view causes the reversal of directions from the big plane’s point of view. You can use this trick to answer quickly before you run out of time.

 

ATSA Test guide

 

ATC Simulation - Collision Avoidance and Math

This subtest contains two parts. During the first part, the screen displays a map, with numbered balls flying in from off the screen. You must eliminate balls before they are about to collide by typing in the number of one of them. In the second part, while avoiding collisions, you need to simultaneously answer basic math questions.

After very intensive work by our developers, we finally offer a practice game for the ATSA ATC Simulation. This is a beta version, and the game is improved every day following your feedback.

ATSA Test game

Important Tip: On the ATC Simulation, you must prioritize your tasks, like a real ATC Specialist. For example, it is obviously more important to avoid collisions than to answer a math question. Many candidates state that they got a high score on the ATSA, even when they answered a very small percentage of the math questions.

Word Problems - Logical Reasoning

This subtest contains approximately 15 questions that must be answered in around 20 minutes. You will be penalized for not answering all the questions.

Tip: In "seating arrangement" questions, where you need to sort or arrange a group of people/objects, these are the two most effective solving techniques:

  1. Drawing a chart/table/seating arrangement and filling it according to the rules
  2. Eliminating answer choices according to the rules

Sometimes, using both techniques together is helpful or even necessary. Try it for yourself:

For a two-day career event at a local high-school class, exactly six out of eight parents with different occupations - florist, gardener, historian, inventor, jeweler, locksmith, mailman, and optician - are chosen to introduce their occupations to the class. On each day exactly three different parents will speak to the class in three different time slots - morning, mid-day and afternoon, subject to the following conditions:

  • The florist can only speak on day 2.
  • The gardener and the locksmith cannot speak in mid-day.
  • If the gardener speaks on day 1, then the optician and the jeweler speak on day 2.
  • The inventor and the mailman will not speak on the same day.
  • If both the inventor and the locksmith are speaking, then the inventor speaks sometime before the locksmith.

Which one of the following could be a complete and accurate schedule of the two-day careers event (in order of appearance)?






 
Explanation

In a question asking for a possible complete arrangement according to the rules, every response that violates any of the rules should be eliminated.
The correct answer is the one that does not violate any of the rules.

(A) According to the rules, the gardener and the locksmith cannot speak in mid-day. Therefore, this response is eliminated.

(B) According to the rules, the florist can only speak on day 2. Therefore, this response is eliminated.

(C) According to the rules, if the gardener speaks on day 1, then the optician and the jeweler speak on day 2. Therefore, this response is eliminated.

(D) This setting does not violate any of the rules, and therefore this is the correct answer.

(E) According to the rules, the inventor and the mailman are not speaking on the same day. Therefore, this response is eliminated.

The correct answer is (D).

Personality Test

This subtest has 108 questions. You are given a list of three statements, and you must determine which of the three is most like you and which is least like you. Here is a sample from our complete personality study guide:

A Taste of the ATC Personality Study Guide

ATSA Personality Test Sample

Reading Comprehension

This subtest contains 18 questions that must be answered in 15 minutes. You are presented with six paragraphs, each followed by three questions. Questions may ask you to determine the main point of the paragraph or which statement is true. Here is a sample:

ATSA Test simulation

Why Prepare for the ATSA - Air Traffic Skills Assessment?

There are several reasons why preparation for the ATSA is imperative and:

  • The median annual wage for air traffic controllers in the US was $127,805 in 2016 (official FAA information).
  • Air traffic controllers get a minimum of 23 vacation days per year. As they build seniority, that number jumps to 36. They also receive full health, vision, and dental coverage, along with life insurance and a comprehensive retirement plan.
  • There are thousands of qualified controller candidates applying each year. Only a small percentage of them make it through the selection process. The best way to distinguish yourself as a prime candidate for employment is to achieve one of the highest scores among all applicants.
  • Over the next decade, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to hire and train more than 10,000 air traffic control specialists. The opportunities for those who pass the test are greater now than ever.

Air Traffic Controller Test Tips Tips and General Info for ATC Candidates:

  1. The FAA ATC hiring process can take a long time, so you have to be patient. There are many steps between the first application and the first day of work, and some steps can take several months. 
  2. You might want to read the US Department of Labor's Official Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) description for the role of ATC Specialist.
  3. Oral comprehension and oral expression are very important for being a qualified Air Traffic Control Specialist. Take that into consideration and try to prove your oral skills throughout the hiring process.
  4. You are allowed a total of 30 minutes of break time throughout the test. We recommend planning your breaks before the test while making adjustments at the time of the test, considering mental fatigue.
  5. Reading the instructions before any subtest is highly important! Even if you think you know exactly how the questions are answered, read the instructions thoroughly, as you might find out important information. For example, some subtests penalize you for wrong answers and/or for unanswered questions.
  6. You cannot use a pen and paper in the ATSA test. Keep that in mind when using the ATC Test Prep.
  7. Many questions on the AT-SA are unique and will not be found in any other test. Preparation can be crucial, at least to get familiar with the format. We highly recommend practicing as much as you can, starting a long time before the exam date. If you finished all the practice tests on a specific subject, it can be very beneficial to practice them again after a day or two of practicing other question types. Even if you know the answers, you can still gain familiarity with the timing, the format, and the anxiety and pressure that come with a timed test.

ATC Test Requirements How to Become an Air Traffic Controller?

From the official FAA Aviation Careers page, the minimum requirements for being an Air Traffic Control Specialist are:

  • Being a USA citizen
  • Being 30 years old or younger
  • Passing a medical examination
  • Passing a security investigation
  • Passing the FAA Air Traffic Controller Test (the ATSA)
  • Speaking English clearly
  • Having three years of adequate work experience or a BA degree (or a combined total of at least three years of college education and work experience)
  • Being willing to relocate

When applying for an air traffic control position, there are two applicant pools.

Pool 1 consists of all U.S. citizens who meet at least one of the following eligibility criteria:

  1. A graduate from an institution participating in the Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program who has received an appropriate recommendation.
  2. A veteran eligible for a Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) and who can provide a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty within 120 days of the announcement closing.
  3. An eligible veteran maintaining aviation experience obtained in the course of his/her military experience and/or a veteran entitled to veterans' preference.

Pool 2 consists of all other U.S. citizens who do not meet the requirements for Pool 1. Such applicants are considered "OTS" - "Off The Street" candidates. In the past, pool 2 candidates were required to complete and pass the BioQ biographical assessment. Since July 2018 the biographical assessment has no longer been relevant for any pool candidates.

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