How to Prepare for the Air Traffic Controller Test [ATSA]: 7 Pro Tips

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If you’re looking to become an air traffic controller, there’s one step you can’t skip: preparing for the ATSA test.

The good news is that with the right tips, you can ensure you’re ready to ace it. This article will give you seven pro tips to help get you started:

Start Practicing As Early As You Can

The Air Traffic Controller Test is a challenging exam, and it’s essential to start preparing for it as soon as possible (visit our free ATSA practice test to start right now). This isn’t something you can cram for in the days leading up to the test – you’ll need to dedicate your time and energy to studying for several weeks or months if you want to do well.

Looking for the best ATSA test prep? We recently reviewed what we found to be the market’s most realistic ATSA test prep kit. Check our detailed review (with examples from inside the pack) here.

Read the Subtests’ Instructions Meticulously

Reading the instructions before every subtest is critical, even if you know exactly how the questions are answered, and read every article and forum thread about the test.

For example, some subtests penalize you for wrong answers or for leaving a question blank, while others don’t.

On test day, listen to every word of the instructor and read each sentence of the instructions. The FAA changes the ATSA test format every few years, and these changes may be minor but could significantly impact your performance.

Take Accurate Practice Tests That Simulate the Actual Exam

The Air Traffic Skills Assessment is a unique exam that looks nothing like other pre-employment assessments.

For its four gamified parts – memory (numbers and differences, variables), spatial/visual relationship, and ATC radar simulation, there are no “formal” practice resources you can study.

The best preparation method for these sections is practicing with tests that look and feel like the real thing.

This will enable you to get used to the time pressure and the unique format and help you improve the specific skills needed to succeed on these parts.

Additionally, realistic practice tests, explanations, and score reports enable you to identify areas demanding improvement and learn effective problem-solving tactics. So, take as many practice tests as possible before your ATC test day.

This test prep site accurately prepares for all seven subtests, including the four gamified tests mentioned above.

Focus on Avoiding Collisions Instead of Solving Math Problems

Your top priority when playing the ATC radar simulation should be avoiding collisions. However, if you have some time early on, try answering a few math problems since there aren’t as many planes and the difficulty level isn’t too high.

But once your screen starts to fill up, it would be better to avoid the math problems unless you receive an easy one.

Note that there is no penalty for answering the math problems wrong, only for not preventing a collision.

Don’t Forget to Prepare for the Personality Test Section

The personality test is the 5th subtest of the ATSA, and many candidates consider it a section you can’t or shouldn’t prepare for.

However, since your answers in this section are used for screening purposes, this is not something you should overlook.

While it may seem strange to spend time preparing for a personality test, doing so can help you present yourself best. This part of the exam is designed to assess your character traits and aptitudes, so being well-prepared will ensure that you show off your best qualities.

There are some general strategies that you should use to perform well in the personality test section:

  • Be honest. One of the most important things to remember when taking a personality test is honesty and accuracy. You won’t score points for guessing what the interviewer wants to hear, so it’s best to respond honestly.
  • Take your time. The ATSA allows you up to 45 minutes for the personality test section, so make sure you use that time wisely and don’t rush through it. You don’t want to miss important questions or provide inaccurate responses due to rushing.
  • Think before answering. Don’t just quickly scan the questions and give answers without thinking. Instead, make sure to read through each question carefully and take your time in forming an answer.
  • Avoid extreme responses. It’s good to be honest, but at the same time, you should try to avoid giving extremely positive or negative answers as they can come across as exaggerated.

Take ATC personality practice tests to help you prepare for and ace this section.

Master Useful Solving Methods to Get More Questions Right

This tip is especially relevant for the two memory games – (1) numbers and differences and (2) variables.

Here are a few examples of these methods:

  • Saying the numbers you see out loud or rhythmically singing them. But, of course, if you’re on the actual test, you might want to whisper them so that you don’t interrupt other test-takers.
  • Using your fingers to remember each number
  • Associating the numbers to different parts of your body

Find a method you’re convenient with and master it to perfection.

Put some of these techniques to the test in this guide, which covers the most challenging test sections.

Don’t Rely Only on Test Prep Mobile Apps

Certain mobile apps, such as the ATSAPro app, provide some practice for the ATC test. However, while it’s a solid starting point and given for an affordable price ($10), it can only help you to some extent.

First, the actual test is taken on a desktop computer with a physical keyboard. So, the app doesn’t prepare you for the real testing environment and for using the keyboard’s Numpad.

Second, it’s missing three important subtests – reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and personality test. When the competition for each open position is that fierce, you can’t afford to skip these sections.

So, it’s better to use a preparation kit on a desktop computer that includes practice tests for all seven sub-tests.


These were seven preparation tips and tactics to help you pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment.

So we hope you’ll find them helpful if you’re starting or have been studying for a while but haven’t seen the desired results. Then, with a clear plan of action, accurate study materials, and consistent practice, you’ll be ready to ace your assessment.