Yesterday I took my AT-SAT out in Houston. Having gone through the barrage of aptitude tests in high school and having friends in college who've gone through the MCATs, LSATs, and others, I was surprised and sometimes frustrated by how little information there was available to prepare for the first test all new controllers need to take. Granted, it's not anywhere near as challenging as the aforementioned examples or the tests that come later, but it's the first step in a long process. Were it not for the forums and the study guide (Air Traffic Control Career Prep by Patrick Mattson, referred to hereafter as the Green Book), I wouldn't have had anything to work with at all. Even still, both had their own issues -- the former is subject to a lot of speculation mixed in with fact, and the latter runs into a fair amount of typos, incorrect sample test questions, and poorly written software.
This lead me to write the free: AT-SAT Study Guide
Anyway, with the goal in mind of helping those who will go after me, I thought it'd be wise to take down as many thoughts as I could during the breaks in my own AT-SAT, when it'd be easiest to remember details that I would have wanted to know about beforehand. Eventually I'll probably draw this and all of the other information I can gather together into a FAQ, but for the meantime, I thought I would post this up here.
So, without further introduction, here are my reflections and advice on the AT-SAT. I believe everything here is reasonably accurate, but I'm welcome to any suggestions on how to improve this or corrections on places that I've erred. Keep in mind that this is still just one person's opinions; your mileage may vary (and don't come knocking down my door if I was wrong somewhere and you felt like it resulted in you getting a bad score, it was probably all of those planes you crashed in the Scenarios anyway).
: I've added in parts at the end of each sections to compare the test with the Green Book, since it's about the only resource out there for preparation. In pretty much every case, I don't pay attention to the programs on the book's CD, since nearly all are broken and none are very well-made. Even with the online update installed, available at Patch
, many wouldn't work correctly. The sample questions in the book are helpful, although they sometimes do not include a correct or unambiguous answer. Two sections, Scan and Scenarios, are compared with Jeremy Justice's online games (ATC Simulation
and AT-SAT Scan
), which are both helpful.
: Looks like somebody else wanted to cash in on AT-SAT prep, as there's another book out, Air Traffic Control Test Prep by Learning Express. I haven't seen it personally, but both reviews on Amazon as of this update (August '09) are less than positive, with one describing "20-30 incorrect answers that this book lists as 'correct'." There's also at least one web site out there selling prep material. If anybody has tried one of these newer resources, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop a line to me here at StuckMic to let me know how it worked out for you.
The AT-SATs for my application, PUBNAT3, were scheduled from Aug. 13-15 in different cities across the country. Living in the Austin area, I was scheduled to take mine in Houston; I know of others who took theirs in Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Seattle, to name a few. The AT-SAT is contracted out to Robinson Aviation, a company that also controls towers at many smaller airports across the country. You receive the initial invitation to take the AT-SAT on ASAP's main page some time after the application closes (about 2 months for me, others have waited far longer), upon which you call a number you are sent and sign up to take the test during one of the three days given.
You're told to show up at 7:45 in the morning, to wear comfortable clothes, and to bring two forms of ID, one with a photo. That's about it. I elected to go with jeans and t-shirt and was probably the least-dressed up person there; most people went business-casual. Keep in mind that Robinson has nothing to do with the interview process, so there's no need to impress here -- if you feel more comfortable dressing in a more business-like manner, go for it. I know that often worked for me during tests in college.
I arrived at about 7:35 at a Residence Inn. The test was set up in a small conference room, where 16 computers were set up -- monitors, mice and headphones hooked into laptops. Two people from Robinson were acting as proctors. They took my social security number and IDs, ran one through a scanner to have a copy of it, and asked me to pick one of several key rings that were laying face down on the table (no keys attached). The number on the other side was my computer. I suppose this is to ensure that nobody could complain that they were given a "bad" one. Both were friendly, and we made small talk for a few minutes before I went out to wait in the hall.
Reflections and Advice on the AT-SAT
Out of twenty people scheduled to take the test that day, only six showed up, including myself. I have no idea what happened to the others. We waited a bit past the 8:00 start time to see if anyone would show up late, and around 8:10 we filed in and sat at our computers. One of the proctors read a short statement from the FAA explaining that the test was done all on computers, to not try to Ctrl-Alt-Del our way into Windows, that the proctors could not help in any way other than to check if the equipment is malfunctioning, and that we would receive our results in 5-7 business days. Nearly all of the test would be done with the mouse or the number pad. All answers given were final, so once you selected one and hit the "Next" button, you were locked in -- if you wanted to skip a question on the tests where you were allowed to do so, you had to just leave it blank (if time is left at the end, the computer will return to skipped questions). Wrong answers don't count against you, so always take a guess rather than leaving something blank. We were told that we had 8 hours to take the test in total, including two 15-minute and one 45-minute break. If we left the room, the proctors had to record what time we left and what time we returned. And with that, we were told that we could start -- the official start time was 8:16 A.M., and we needed to finish by 4:16 P.M.