My experience with the New ATC Color deficiency/colorblind test

Dli1314

Rookie
May 19, 2009
31
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6
san dimas, ca
I don't know how many people are familiar with the new test the FAA is/will be using as a backup to the Isihara. I went in to complete my physical last tuesday and passed everything but that stupid Isihara plate test. The doctor went into the other room and called someone about my color test. I was then told there was another test I could take, but it was only offered in Salt Lake City. So I just left and decided to wait until they called me about taking the test in SLC (I figured it would take at least another month to hear back from them about it). At this point I wasn't too psyched about flying to Utah to take a test I wasn't even sure I would pass, but oh well, I waited. The good thing was I didn't have to wait very long, the next day I was at work and I got a call from ANM Medical, the woman said some people from Salt Lake City were at the ANM Regional Office doing a presentation on the new test for the nurses. She wanted to know how close I was to the regional office and if I could come in some time to take the test. I work at the FAA Western Service Center which is literally across the street from the ANM Regional office. Two hours later I was in a conference room at the RO taking the test. Anyways, I guess the point of this post is to try to familiarize as many people with the new test as possible, I'll try as hard as I can to be as descriptive as I can.

The test is completely different from the plate test, and takes much longer, but is completely application based. This is actually an ATC Color deficiency test. There are 5 different tests, each with an instruction section, a practice section, and a test section. The person giving the test was pretty nice, understanding that this test was pretty much going to determine the course of the rest of my life(as far as my career is concerned).

Test number 1.

In the instructions you are shown 5 different colors that will be used in the test(red, white, green, yellow, and cyan(light blue)). In each section you are given a screen with color to look for, the next screen shows about 25 data blocks evenly spaced on the screen (5 high and 5 wide). The blocks are all different colors, and you must pick out the color you were given in the first screen. red is a little different from the rest, just because some data blocks may have 3-4 red letters in them, and you want to click data blocks with ANY red in them. The rest of the blocks are all green, all yellow, all white etc. etc. There are about 10 sections to the test (2 per color) and you get 30 seconds for each section.

Test number 2.

This test is the same as test number 1...with 1 exception that I would hope no one on this forum would have difficulty with. In between the color given and the data block screen, you are given a "distractor" screen that is multicolored and has a 1st grade math problem on it (2+2, 5-3, 3-2 etc..). This is the difficult part, once you are done with the math problem, you have to REMEMBER THE COLOR YOU WERE GIVEN IN THE FIRST SCREEN!!!! oh no!!! lol. "yellow....1+1=2....crap, what was the color again??". If you for some reason have trouble remembering the color, you can go back to the color screen, but you have to re-solve the math problem before you get to the data blocks. (again about 10 sections in the test, 2 per color and 30 seconds per section)

Test number 3.

I didn't really see this as much of a color test, but it wasn't too hard so I didn't complain. This is a test to see how fast you detect red flashing alerts on the screen. The alert can be 3-4 flashing red letters or an entire red flashing data block. You get a 2 second view of the screen before it flashes to a black screen with 3 buttons (left, right, and no alert). You have to choose whether the alert was on the left/right side of the screen or if there was no alert visable. The test itself is pretty simple, but it goes in for about 7-8 minutes straight so after about 5 minutes of staring hard looking for red letters its a little interesting.

Test number 4.

This was the test that gave me the most trouble as far as color vision was concerned, but only in 1 or 2 places. The formatting for this section was similar to the first 2 tests, except this was with solid colored squares instead of data blocks. The first screen gives you two examples of the blocks you will be looking for. Each block has a small square inside of a large square. You are looking for the blocks with the same colored small square. This is what you will be given on the first screen:



The second screen will have 25 of the blocks above with all different colored squares. You need to pick out the blocks with the correct colored small center square given in the first screen. There are about 10 sections with 30 seconds for each section.

Test number 5.

This test seemed the most simple out of the 5. The first screen gives you a color, and the second screen gives you a data list. Each line is colored differently, and you need to pick out the lines that have the given color in them. The first screen could show yellow, and you need to pick out all the lines with yellow text, or red, or blue etc etc.. This test seemed a little shorter, so I don't remember if it had 10 sections or just 5. Again there were 30 seconds for each section.

Results.

The results are instantaneous, the test proctor opens up the scoring application and is then able to see a detailed view of each section of the tests you took and a percentage score for each of those sections. My lowest score for one test was a 93.7% or something like that, and my final score was like 96 or 97%. I nailed the test. I believe the cut off for passing is 80%, but that's just a guess from me, don't quote that as fact.

Hopefully this was useful. If somoene out there has already posted this information just let me know or feel free to take my post down.

Looks like I'll be seeing you at the academy!!!
 

psachs

Senior Member
Jan 8, 2009
287
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16
Chicago
What was the total time to take the test? I'd deduce about 30 minutes from your description. Any idea if this will eventually replace the Isihara or if it's just for people who fail it?
 

Dli1314

Rookie
May 19, 2009
31
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6
san dimas, ca
I'm not sure it'll replace the Isihara since you are usually getting your physical done with a doctor that isn't an FAA employee. The test with reading the instructions and taking the practice tests takes about 40-50 minutes.
 

Himihon

Newcomer
Nov 5, 2008
1
0
1
Has anyone (other than DLi1314) been contacted yet to take this test? I have been patiently waiting for this test to be approved.
 

BigBOSS

Gotta Keep 'em Seperated!
Aug 24, 2008
140
0
16
Austin, TX
Has anyone (other than DLi1314) been contacted yet to take this test? I have been patiently waiting for this test to be approved.
Same, my HR has called me a few times and told me it should be in the middle of August some time and that they will fly me to my local Regional Office at no cost to me.
 

raptorman745

Rookie
Nov 16, 2010
28
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1
ZKC
I PEPCI'd in 2008 and passed everything but the color vision... received a TOL for ZKC and in July 2010 I got a call from the regions medical office telling me this test was available to take in KC. I passed the test in August 2010. FOL in October and currently in Non-Radar at the academy. The test is great, I however, did not get called by my HR rep to take the test. I received all of my updates from the central region medical office. I suggest trying to get with your medical office to arrange the test asap
 

jeremiahbeller

Newcomer
Nov 9, 2010
3
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1
I failed the Dvorine test on a Wednesday and called the regional flight surgeon's office that Friday. They already received my test results and called me the following week to schedule the ATCOV which I was told is the only acceptable alternate test; the Farnsworth is no longer acceptable for ATC. The ATCOV only consists of three sections now, and before each section you get to review the instructions and have mulitple practice "questions". For those who are concerned, I didn't do well at all on the Dvorine plates but passed all three sections of the ATCOV with 100% on each.

The test is similar to the way Dli1314 described it except that sections 2 and 5 are no longer present. Section 1 is almost exactly as described in dli314's reply except that each data block only has one color in it, and this includes the red blocks. The instruction page tells you which color you are looking for, you then go the a page with a grid pattern of data blocks and select every one that matches the color in the instructions. This pattern of instructions then a single test screen repeats about 10 times.

Section 2 is similar to the description of section 3. The main differences from section 1 are that the data blocks are randomly strewn on the screen and not in a neat grid pattern. The screen only appears for two seconds. You are looking for the letters CA flashing in red in one of the data blocks on the screen. This flashing alert only appears in white green and red data blocks, I believe the yellow and cyan blocks aren't present in this section. The one trick is that there may not be a flashing alert on every screen. After the screen appears for two seconds, you have to choose whether the flashing alert was on the left side or right side of the screen or if there was no flashing alert present. This really wasn't too hard but probably the most nerve-racking part of the test as you only have two seconds and it is hard not to second guess saying there was no alert.

Section 3 similates viewing weather radar. It uses blocks exactly as pictured in Dli1314's description of section 4. The instruction pages again appears before each test screen. It instructs you which color you are looking for and as in section one, the test screen as a grid of blocks and you select all that match the designated color. You are always looking for the small square of color within the larger rectangle. This section wasn't overly challenging as there were only 2-3 colors used on each test screen and the rectangle color always contrasts the color of the square. The colors that could pose trouble for some are the screens that have red and orange on the same screen and the screen that uses a solid shade of green and a shade of green with subtle diagonal lines going through it.
 

robycanoby

Rookie
Jul 29, 2010
51
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ZLC
Well, this thread gives me back at least a little bit of hope. After finishing CTI school and over a year of waiting, I finally got selected and got my ToL last week. Today, I drove 4 hours to take the MMPI and physical only to find out I failed the color vision test. Everything else went smoothly. The Doc told me about the alternative color test that I could take, but he didn't know much about it and so didn't want to get my hopes up.

It was a long drive home for my wife and I, trying to deal with the realization that 4 years and $40k in student loans was essentially wasted. Having it be for something I had no control over and could not correct made it even worse.

After reading this thread though, I think I at least still have a glimmer of hope! I've never noticed a problem with colors throughout my life before, other than rarely in some situations distinguishing very similar colors, like maybe a dark blue and violet, so to find that this could throw my whole career plan and really my families life plan off-track was a huge shock.

Anyway, Thanks to all who have posted here for the information regarding the new ATCOV test. I was told to contact the Regional Flight Surgeon in a few days to discuss the arrangements for the test. Here's to hoping all goes well this time around!
 

Matt_CTI

Junior Member
Nov 3, 2008
139
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16
South Florida
When I wanted to be a pilot around 3 1/2 years ago, I didn't do too well on the color vision. I took an FAA approved alternate color vision test and passed. I was given a "Letter of Evidence" for future color vision tests on medicals. Does this mean that I'm grandfathered in and I don't have to take the color vision test for ATC?
Not 100% sure.. I was informed that I could not take an "alternative" test that was FAA approved. I had to take the ATCOV and that was the only test I could take for ATC. Passed with flying colors (pun intended ;) ) and had my FOL about a month later. The hardest part is getting it set up with the regional office, but the test went great. Best of luck to anyone who takes it.
 

mbalunda

Epic Member
Jan 31, 2009
2,867
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When I wanted to be a pilot around 3 1/2 years ago, I didn't do too well on the color vision. I took an FAA approved alternate color vision test and passed. I was given a "Letter of Evidence" for future color vision tests on medicals. Does this mean that I'm grandfathered in and I don't have to take the color vision test for ATC?
I believe Matt is right. For an ATC medical the other color vision tests for pilots were never approved for ATC candidates. If you fail the standard ATC color vision test your only alternative will be ATCOV
 

robycanoby

Rookie
Jul 29, 2010
51
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6
ZLC
When I wanted to be a pilot around 3 1/2 years ago, I didn't do too well on the color vision. I took an FAA approved alternate color vision test and passed. I was given a "Letter of Evidence" for future color vision tests on medicals. Does this mean that I'm grandfathered in and I don't have to take the color vision test for ATC?
Ya, I can confirm what the other two guys said now. I finally went in today (after many scheduling delays) for my ATCOV test. While there I talked to the FAA medical staff and was told that the alternate color test given to pilots is much more limited than the ATCOV. It basically only tests to see if you can see colors on a map, and the light gun from the tower. The ATCOV tests a broader selection of colors used in air traffic control.

On a personal note, I passed the ATCOV :hurray:. So to any of you who have difficulty with the color vision portion of your physical, don't get too discouraged until you do the follow up. I failed miserably on the basic test (only got a few right out of the 15 or so color dot tests administered), but passed the ATCOV test with almost perfect scores. Depending on what your limitations are regarding color vision, your results between the two tests can be drastically different.

Now on to the next waiting cycle for a class date in OKC....
 

SCOPED

Senior Analyst
Nov 21, 2010
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Gods Country, Alaska
Congrats Man! I know that had to be a huge load off your back. I had to jump through hoops because of my ears and also came out victorious in the end but I was sweating bullets.

The Audiologist said I failed but the FS said not a big deal, it won’t affect my ability to turn up the mic. All this medical stuff baffles me because I often get to sit on sector and listen to traffic with controllers and the headsets are turned up so loud they almost blow my ears off but I am the one with the problem, WTF
 

robycanoby

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Jul 29, 2010
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Do you think I can pass the ATCOV? I did bad on the ishihara and failed. On the farnsworth, we did 3 tests of 9 slides each and I kept getting the same one slide wrong, but passed under FAA standards. The doctor administering the tests said I have a very mild deutan deficiency.
To be honest... I have no idea. I'd be the last person to ask if people with certain color vision problems can do well on certain tests. I don't even know the names of the various tests given, including the one that I failed during my physical. I just know it was the "color dot test where you have to see numbers". I also don't know the specific type of color vision deficiency I myself have.

I will say that from the few different color vision tests I've seen, the ATCOV seems to be much more "basic". By that I mean, the intent of the test is strictly to determine if you can differentiate the colors used in ATC. These colors all contrast quite a bit with each other (the ones I remember are red, dark blue, cyan, yellow, white, and an orangish brown).

In my own case, the problem I had with the dot test wasn't being able to see dots of different colors on the page, but organizing specific dots of similar shades or tones into a pattern. The ATCOV is more of a "you either recognize a certain color when placed next to other contrasting colors, or you don't" type of test.
 

skyway172

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Jun 22, 2009
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Has anyone taken an ATCOV test recently? Just curious if anyone who failed the ishihara miserably has passed an ATCOV test yet. (besides robycanoby)
 

AlphaSierra

Newcomer
Aug 20, 2011
6
2
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NY
Has anyone taken an ATCOV test recently? Just curious if anyone who failed the ishihara miserably has passed an ATCOV test yet. (besides robycanoby)
I am interested to find out, as well! I have an AME physical exam next week, but I'm wondering if it is better to schedule an ATCOV test with the Regional Flight Surgeon BEFORE going to the AME and doing a flight physical. I don't want to run the risk of receiving a temporary restriction of "solo night flight" due to color deficiency on the FAA Class II Medical Certificate which may not be removed in regard to ATCS positions later on in the process. I am trying to do all this before I commit to a CTI school.
 

skyway172

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Jun 22, 2009
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I am interested to find out, as well! I have an AME physical exam next week, but I'm wondering if it is better to schedule an ATCOV test with the Regional Flight Surgeon BEFORE going to the AME and doing a flight physical. I don't want to run the risk of receiving a temporary restriction of "solo night flight" due to color deficiency on the FAA Class II Medical Certificate which may not be removed in regard to ATCS positions later on in the process. I am trying to do all this before I commit to a CTI school.
From my understanding, you can't take the ATCOV until you fail the color test from an AME for ATC. (You can't just request and receive an ATCOV test). The "night solo restricted" is pretty easy to remove. I had that on mine but I removed it back in 2006 with the ATC light gun test. It's a very simple test, and stands out like traffic lights (May suggest not going at the brightest part of the day). You can call your local class D airport on the phone, tell them you want to practice, and they'll shine the light gun signals at your car as long as they're not too busy and you can park close enough.

I'm still in that gray area. I can't see the ishihara test too well. I passed 8 out of 12 plates for my ATC physical, also submitted that I have passed the ATC light gun signal test, and I haven't heard back. I recently wrote them a letter asking where I stand with that. (Will I still need to pass a color test every year? Am I good to go forever, or do I need to take the ATCOV?)

I'd rather find out now than 5 years from now when I'm certified and spending my money accordingly. Either way, I should be set up for an atcov test soon. I'm hoping I pass, and if I do, I'm sure most people won't have a problem. ("I'm not colorblind, I just can't pass the colorblind tests")

I wish they used blue as an important color for ATC, why red?