The 13 ATPL Subjects

Ground school training consists of studying 13 ATPL subjects, each intended to teach different skills, knowledge and systems you’ll need to know as a commercial pilot. ATPL Subjects

This guide will give you an understanding of the 13 ATPL subjects, what is involved within the topics, the number of questions you will have in your exam and how long you will have to answer them.

This ATPL subjects guide applies to the EASA and UK CAA, ECQB 2021 ATPL(A) syllabus exams.


Number of Questions: 60

Exam Duration: 1 hour 30mins

In Instrumentation, you will learn about the various systems and instruments onboard an aircraft that are essential for a pilot to understand. This includes speed, navigation and system monitoring.


General Navigation

Number of Questions: 55

Exam Duration: 2 hours 15 mins

With a focus on charts, plotting, great circles, temperature, heights and speed. General Navigation covers the navigational topics and skills you will need to fly an aircraft (although some may say this topic is outdated due to modern GPS navigation systems). This subject requires a good level of math skill.



Number of Questions: 84

Exam Duration: 2 hours

Meteorology is the study of the air environment and how different weather, cloud and atmospheric conditions, can affect flight operations. This topic is essential for every pilot to understand as you will encounter different weather systems and patterns across the world. A good understanding of Geography will help when learning this topic.


Human Performance and Limitations

Number of Questions: 48

Exam Duration: 1 hour 30 mins

This topic goes into the factors that can affect the human body whilst being a pilot. This includes physiological, sleep and health problems that can arise when flying at high altitudes for long durations.


Radio Navigation

Number of Questions: 66

Exam Duration: 1 hour 30 mins

In radio navigation, you’ll learn about the different radio navigation aids that are used during day-to-day operations. These include instrument landing systems (ILS), performance-based navigation (PBN), Satellite navigation and distance measuring equipment (DME) to name a few.


Aircraft General Knowledge

Number of Questions: 80

Exam Duration: 2 hours

Aircraft general knowledge takes you through the construction and components of an aircraft including their purpose and how they work. You’ll need good knowledge and understanding of an aircraft’s systems in order to pass this exam, so a basic understanding of how an aircraft functions will give you a head start in this subject.


Air Law

Number of Questions: 44

Exam Duration: 1 hour

Whilst working as a commercial airline pilot you’ll be flying to destinations across the world, so you’ll need a good understanding of the different rules, regulations and governing bodies that regulate civil aviation. In Air Law, you’ll be expected to learn the laws and regulations that govern global air travel as well as airport signs, licensing and safety.


Flight Planning and Flight Monitoring

Number of Questions: 42

Exam Duration: 2 hours

For this subject, you’ll learn about the various rules and factors required when planning and flying a route. This includes knowing all the calculations needed for flight such as the cruising level, speed, fuel and ground clearance.



Number of Questions: 34

Exam Duration: 1 hour

Communications covers all the essential information you’ll need to know when communicating with air traffic control including general operating procedures, distress and urgency procedures and relevant weather information.


Operational Procedures

Number of Questions: 42

Exam Duration: 1 hour 15 mins

Whilst some operational procedures can vary by aircraft type and airline, this subject will go into detail about the number of regulations and procedures you as a pilot (and your crew) will need to know before a flight.


Principles of Flight (Aeroplane)

Number of Questions: 46

Exam Duration: 1 hour 30 mins

In principles of flight, you’ll be taught to understand the forces acting on an aircraft during flight, these include lift, drag, thrust and weight. You will also look into stability, limitations and aerodynamics. A good understanding of mathematics is required for this subject.


Performance (Aeroplane)

Number of Questions: 45

Exam Duration: 2 hours

Performance is one of the more complex ATPL subjects as you’ll be learning about how an aircraft performs in different stages of flight. You will be expected to carry out take-off and landing calculations as well as interpreting graphs for all stages of flight.


Mass and Balance

Number of Questions: 25

Exam Duration: 1 hour 15 mins

When studying mass and balance, you will learn how to calculate the center of gravity of an aircraft to ensure it is within limits during flight. This subject is one of the shorter ATPL exams and involves maths and graph interpretation.


Finished reading about the ATPL subjects?

Now it’s time to study them.

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