The Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Skills Assessment (AT-SA or ATSA) is one of the biggest hurdles in the Air Traffic Controller recruitment process. Even though the test is pass/fail you will be given a grade and ranked into bands based on your score. Those with a higher score will have a higher likelihood to land a position. Let's take a deeper look into the AT-SA and learn all about the exam and how to excel.
2022 ATSA Test Update
TThis has been a very competitive application year with 57,956 candidates. The candidates were broken up into two pools. Those candidates who are in pool 1 have been sent an email allowing them to schedule their Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA Test). Pool 1 candidates will be given an option to schedule their test throughout August or September. For those candidates in Pool 2, applications are being reviewed until the end of September at which time they can expect an email notification to schedule their exam. To register for the exam visit the FAA's official vendor site (Pearson Vue). For the latest information regarding COVID-19 exam requirements, health and safety practices, and any country-specific policies take a look at the Pearson COVID-19 information page.
What Is the AT-SA?
The Air Traffic Skills Assessment (AT-SA) Exam is the latest version of the aptitude test required to become an Air Traffic controller. The test was formerly known as the Air Traffic Selection and Training (AT-SAT) Exam, which was a lengthier exam. The point of the exam is test your aptitude for being a successful Air Traffic Controller. The FAA wants to ensure that you have what it takes to complete the job.
How Long Is the AT-SA Exam?
You have 2 hours and 49 minutes to complete the exam. You can take up to a 30 minute break. You can choose to divide that time into six 5 minute breaks or one longer 30 minute break.
How Many Sections Are in the Test?
The test is broken down into 7 sections. It is important to be aware that you will complete the fist four sub-tests then you will need to notify the proctor to administer and set up the last three sections.
What Are the Sections on the AT-SA?
- Memory Game
- Memory/ Variables
- Spatial/ Visual Relationship
- ATC Simulation
- Word Problems
- Personality Test
- Reading Comprehension
This subtest involves a number ranging from 1-9 showing up on the screen for two seconds, followed by another number. You will need to use a number pad to identify the difference between the two numbers. Another number will subsequently appear and you will need to identify the difference between this number and the previous one. It is important to note that all answers will be positive numbers. This subtest will have about 8 questions that run about two minutes each. You will not be able to change your answers.
Memory Game Sample Question
Solve for the missing variable:
A = B - 1
C = 5
B = C - 2
So that means B = 3 so A = 2.
This section is all about PRACTICE! You need to find what works for you, whether that's visualizing the equations, whispering them to yourself, using your fingers, or tapping your body. Try and think about what type of learner you are, is it visual, tactile, audio, or even a mix. Take a look at these sample ATSA memory test questions and start figuring out what method works for you.
This section includes three 10 question sub-parts which get progressively harder. The first part will display values for the letters A,B, and C. Then it will ask you the values of the letters in randomized order.
Memory/ Variables Sample Part 1: C=3, A=1, B= 4. So what does B=? C=? A=?
In the second part one of the letters will equal an equation e.g. B = A - 1. The equations will involve multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and the numbers will stay between 1-4.
Memory/ Variables Sample Part 2: B=C +3, A=1, C= 2. So what does A=? B=? C=?
In the third part two of the letters will now be equations.
Memory/ Variables Sample Part 3: A=B - 1, C=3, B =C/ 2. So what does A=? C=? B=?
ATSA Practice Test Numbers and Differences Question
What is the difference between the numbers?
The first answer will be '2'.
4 is the correct answer.
In the second part, if the screen shows a '4', your answer should be '4' because it's the difference between '8' and '4'. Many people get confused and put down '2' because they provide the difference between '2' (the previous answer) and '4'.
Spatial/ Visual Relationship
This subtest measures your spatial recognition skills. It is broken down into two parts each about 5-10 minutes long. In the first part, you will need to identify the orientation of a small and large plane. You will be given the viewpoint of the large plane and an instruction with either RIGHT or LEFT will appear. You must identify if this statement is true of false by indicating YES or NO using the keypad. In the second part an EYE might appear which will change your viewpoint.
ATSA Practice Test Spatial Relationship Question
True = 1
False = 0
False is the correct answer.
Because the eye is present we are looking from the eye's perspective in this question. From the eye's perspective the small plane is on the right of the large plane NOT the left.
TIME SAVING TIP
When the eye is in the question, it is most likely looking at the big airplane, and this perspective will give reversal of direction from the big plane's perspective. Keep this in mind to help you save time when answering the question.
This section gets progressively harder as it goes along. You will start with two small planes (balls) flying onto the screen and you will need to remove any of the planes you suspect will be heading for a collision (you will do this by pressing the number assigned to the plane). They start simple with two planes going slowly and end with about seven planes on the screen at once. Then there will be a transition to a second part, where in addition to avoiding collisions you will have to answer math problems which will appear for about 2-3 seconds. There are about 2-3 math questions per simulation. When it comes time to answering the math questions there will be some large numbers so you should be estimating. Remember the point of this activity is not to answer the math question perfectly but show how you prioritize and multitask. The point of the activity is to eliminate the fewest amount of planes necessary without a collision.
ATSA Practice Test Simulation Question
This is a snapshot of what the simulation will look like. In part 1 you will eliminate targets that will collide. Then part two gets trickier and you will be asked to answer math questions.
The point of this activity is to show you can prioritize tasks. IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO AVOID COLLISIONS. Do not get tripped up by answering tons of math questions. Those that got a high score on this section answered very few math questions.
To see a live simulation, check out these practice questions.
After the fourth section you will ask the proctor so set up the second part of the test. You will register with a testing company and finish the last three sections.
This section includes about 15 word problems and there is about 20 minutes to answer them. You will be penalized for not answering a question, so it is best if you guess. These questions can include graphs and charts.
ATSA Practice Test Word Problem Sample Question
5 people are in line at the store, Harry is ahead of Paul who is directly behind Margie. Bob is before Dave but behind Harry.
What can you determine from the question:
- Margie is first in line
- Margie is 5th in line
- Harry is ahead of Paul
- Paul is 1st in line
- Margie doesn't like Bob
C is the correct answer.
The personality test has about 108 questions with two appearing on each screen. You will be given three choices and you need to identify one which is most like you and one which is least like you.
ATSA Practice Test Personality Test Question
I like to follow instructions.
I don't like to go to parties.
I like to receive compliments.
You will mark MOST and LEAST next to the ones that apply.
You will have about 15 minutes to answer 18 questions. There will be six passages with three questions each. The questions will focus on comprehension, main idea, inferencing and deductions.
How Can You Pass the Air Traffic Control Test?
With a projection of over 10,000 new hires in the next decade Air Traffic Control is a hot career! The average salary is $123,676 with amazing benefits including; 23-36 vacation days, health,vision and dental insurance, life insurance, and a great retirement plan. We recommend going into this test prepared. We recommend taking a look at this ATSA practice test that includes ATC test simulation, ATSA memory variable, difference memory, reading comprehension, word problems, logical reasoning, personality, and visual relationship questions. You should start out by taking one full practice test and then assessing where your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus on those problem areas to use your time wisely.
ATSA Test Taking Tips
- Depending on the section you might be penalized for wrong answers so pay attention to the directions.
- Some of the questions will have a specific time frame associated with them. So, make sure you pace yourself correctly.
- For the ATC Simulation Math portion, it is best to estimate the numbers. The important part of the exam is how you prioritize the questions, not if you get the exact answers.
- There will be a sample question before each sub-test. Use this as a helpful guide! You can answer the same question multiple times.
- Most candidates are doing at least some ATC Test Prep in advance. Take the time to prepare for the Air Traffic Skills Assessment more than MOST applicants.
What Are the ATC Test Eligibility Requirements?
Per the FAA Aviation Careers page, requirements for Air Traffic Controller application submittal are:
- You must be a US citizen.
- You must be 30 years old or younger during the application period. Those with at least one full year of ATC work experience (FAA, civilian, or military) can apply even if they are 31 and older.
- You must pass a medical exam.
- You must pass a security investigation.
- You must pass the ATSA Air Traffic Controller test.
- You must speak English clearly.
- You must have any of the following; three years of adequate work experience, a bachelor degree, or a combination of at least three years of college education and work experience.
- You must be willing to relocate.
If you meet the qualifications, you can apply to an air traffic control trainee job opening. If after reviewing your application you are deemed as qualified, you will be invited to complete the ATSA test. Candidates will be placed into two pools. Only those applicants who receive an invitation will be authorized to take the Air Traffic Control Exam. Candidates in pool 1 will be invited to take the exam first. followed by those in pool 2.
What Does It Mean if You Are a Pool 1 Versus a Pool 2 ATSA Candidate?
Those candidates that are considered pool 1 arel U.S. citizens who have at least one of these eligibility criteria:
- Someone who is a graduate from an institution who participates in the Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program and has a positive recommendation.
- Someone who is a veteran that is eligible for a Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA). The veteran must provide a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty within the 120 days prior.
- A veteran with aviation experience obtained during his/her military experience and/or a veteran entitled to a veterans' preference.
Those in pool 2 are all other U.S. citizens who do not fall under the criteria of pool 1. Positions are filled from candidates from pool 1 first, even if they received a lower score on the ATSA test. If you are an off the streets, or pool 2, candidate you need to work harder to get your application noticed. An easy way to do that is to score high on the ATSA exam.
What if I Previously Took the FAA ATSA Test?
If you completed the Air Traffic Controller Test in the past, your past scores are valid for three years from when the ATSA was taken. If your ATSAT scores are still valid, you are allowed to use them instead of retaking the ATSA. If you decide to use your previous ATSA Test results, you will not need to take any actions. You just exit the PearsonVue page that you will be directed to, and your past ATSA results will be applied automatically to the current testing cycle. If you decide not to use your past ATSA Exam results, you will need to register on the PearsonVue site and schedule a new test. If you don't remember your past ATSA results you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with all of your questions.
What Happens if I Can Not Make it to the ATSA Test?
If you cannot make it to the ATC Test you must cancel or reschedule 48 hours in advance of your scheduled test date.
How Much Does the ATSA Test Cost?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) covers the cost of the test. This means that applicants are not charged. That being said, travel or parking costs will not be covered.
What Do I Need to Bring with Me for the ATC Test?
You will need to bring a proper identification (ID). The name on your ID MUST match the name in the testing system.
Where Can I Take the ATSA Test?
There are a couple of testing options for the Air Traffic Controller Test depending on which state you live. Here is a great resource which outlines the testing locations for each state. It can be helpful to check out locations even in your preliminary stages of preparing for the test.
How Do I Find My ATSA Test Results?
If you want to find your past ATSA Test results from before January 13, 2020 you will need to submit an Application for Replacement of Lost or Destroyed Knowledge Test Report(s) form. For those who took the test after January 13, 2020 you can login to your PSI account and get a copy of your AKTR.
How Long Do You Need to Wait to Find out the Results of the Air Traffic Control Exam?
About three weeks after the end of the testing window, go to your USAJOBS account and click the "Track this application" you will be redirected to the FAA application system (AVIATOR) for the details and status of your application. Unfortunately, you will not find out your exact score on the exam. But, you will be placed in one of four categories:
- Best Qualified
- Well Qualified
- Qualified, and
- Not Referred (you will get a message that says: You didn't get a passing ATSA result on your most recent test).
Those in a higher category will be more likely to get placed in a job. That is why it is important to excel on the assessment. Take a look at a Practice ATSA Exam to see where you stand.
What Happens After the ATSA Test?
Once you take the test you can track the status of your application. It can take around a month after you take the ATSA test to see your referral status. You will see whether you have been "Referred" or "Not Referred." About three months after taking the test if you are placed in a high qualification category you may get a TOL (Tentative Offer Letter). If your score is not good enough you are put on a waiting list. Once you have been given this offer you will continue with the other steps in the application process including; the MMPI personality and psychopathology test, a drug screening, a security clearance, and a medical check. If you pass these portions successfully, you will then get an FOL (Final Offer Letter) and start the FAA Academy. This whole process can take up to two years. Therefore it is advisable to do well on the ATSA selection test to hasten your odds of landing a job.