Dear Capt Lim,
I am very happy to come across your web site after numerous searches in Google. I was called for a Cadet Pilot Program with a major airline a few months ago. I saw that a few visitors often asked about the stages of the selection process; so I decided to chip in with my experience. I am now at the 3rd stage, waiting for the interview (provided I passed the 2nd stage). There are 5 stages; Psychomotor test, Psychometric test, Interview, Medical check and Final interview.
This is basically to test, I think your reflex and learning curve. You would be seated in front of a computer with a number keypad, some buttons and a joystick. You are timed during the whole test and you could not stop midway. Even if you encounter problems or asking some questions, you are still timed. First test is trying to maintain 2 lines (one horizontal, one vertical) on a dot in the center of the screen with the joystick. The lines would try to move away and it's up to you to 'pull' them back to the center. You are given 3 tries. This test was to see how well you operate a joystick and your sense of direction.
Advice: Play some flight simulation games on Playstation or X-box before going!
In the second test, you need to guide yourself through a series of squares in the screen with the joystick. This is more like a flight simulation where you tried to pass through, as much as possible, the center of squares arranged in series. You are given 3 tries.
Advice: Time to invest on a Playstation!
The third test involved the button pads. You are shown an image of a guy holding a square and a circle. The catch is, the guy could be standing upright, upside down, facing you or facing away from you. And the circle and square could be interchanged too. So you got (4x2) 8 combinations. The computer would give a combination something like 'Right, Circle, True'. Your task is to select, out of three choices, one guy that match the combination. Apparently, for the above combination, you need to find a guy who IS (true) holding the circle on his right hand. Remember! He could be upside down or not facing you. This test you on your response and logic (especially when he is not facing you and upside down). My mind was twisted after the test! There are 8 questions, 3 tries.
Advice: Do some tests similar to this kind at home. Make the image 3D in your mind so that you can twist the image fast.
The fourth test involved some diagrams. You are given a shape whereby you need to recognize the shape in two separate, larger diagrams. A bit tricky as the image could be in one, two or neither one. You need to have sharp eyes. However, the good part is that the shape remained the same, i.e. it was not turned upside down, sideways or diagonally. It makes searching easier.
The fifth test has 5 x 5 grid. The horizontal axis has 5 colors, and the vertical axis has 5 shapes. The arrangement of each axis would keep changing. At the same time, in the grid would appear 25 shapes, which also change every 2 seconds!! Your task is to click on a shape that fulfils the color (horizontal) and shape (vertical) at that exact moment. A bit tricky, it tests your response and eyesight. You are given 3 tries.
Advice: Relax and concentrate on the colors first. When the color matches, search quickly for the image. I found that through this way. I scored pretty well.
Don't worry as each test begins with a sample question. Practice first. However, don't linger too long as time is also quite crucial. Don't despair if you done badly in the first try. Importantly, they are testing your learning curve. You need to prove that you learn something and therefore, done better in your subsequent tries. I think so, because all my first tries are quite bad and yet I was called for the second stage (written test, see below). There would be a simple score to tell you how you fare in each try. Just make sure to improve your score with each try.
DON'T GET NERVOUS!
There are 3 written tests (all objectives, or multi-choice questions) and a personality
First test is on your Comprehension. There are 10 paragraphs, with 4 questions each (40 questions altogether). You need to read the paragraphs and tick the corresponding 4 statements as either TRUE, FALSE or CANNOT SAY. True statement is of course, MENTIONED in the passage. False statement is of course, CONTRADICTED the passage. You tick the statement 'cannot say' when you CAN'T find anything of the statement in the passage. Be careful on the last two choices, it might get mind-boggling at times.
Second test in on Interpreting Data. You are given a diagram with some graphs, tables and pie charts. The aim is to derive information from the diagram. Many questions involved some simple mathematical solutions, which don't need a degree in mathematics. However, you need to be fast as time is short. 30 minutes for 40 questions. Be careful of the answers given, they are not arrange properly, eg, Bus I and Bus II is not necessary in answer A or B. They could be in E or D. You might be tricked to circle the wrong answer. I did!
Advice: Skip questions that need long calculations. Concentrate on the easier questions first and come back later. Anyway, you would not have time to complete the whole thing!
Third test is Diagram and Analysis. The questions are all diagrams. Each question has a sequence of 5 images. You need to find the sixth diagram to complete the sequence. This test your logic. You need to think fast as time is short.
Advice: Look out for repeating patterns or shapes. Compared image 1 with image 3 or 4 for a link. Some sequence are repeated.
All three tests begin with a sample question to get a feel of the test format.
Personality questionnaire. A common test, you just need to tick, out of 4 statements, which statement fits your the MOST and the LEAST. 150 questions, so there are 300 choices to tick. Just be yourself, I guess. There is no right or wrong answer. Although I tried Mr. Lim's method of answering from question 150th to 1st.
That's all. I am crossing my fingers for the interview. Please take note that the airline took nearly 2 months after the 1st stage to call me for the second stage.
Now for my questions, Mr Lim. I hope you would enlighten me on my career choice.
I hold a degree in Engineering. However, I don't think I am engineer material. I am an organized and methodical person. I performed very well in repeated tasks. However, don't ask me to think ways to troubleshoot or improve the production yield! The stuff don't appeal to me. Plus, I am a guy that need a balance between personal time and work. Engineers, for most part of time, are highly stressed-out and often work until late. Leave is hardly imaginable when you are considered 'indispensable' in your workplace. That's why my engineer friends all have cumulative leave from previous years!
I am a carefree kind of guy. I believe there is something else besides work. I love work, of course. It justifies one's existence. I hoping for a job that doesn't overstress you, that you are given ample time to rest and recuperate. I like to travel and see new things. I hope for longer annual leave compared to my current 15 days. I am not a homely person, I could be away for weeks before going back to my parent's house. In fact, I am working in a different state so that I could experience new environment.
I believe a career as a pilot suits me very well. I never thought of becoming a pilot before. Probably it was never a consideration in my little village! Every Science students are encouraged to take up an Engineering or a Medical course! Of course I understand that I might need to work on public holidays, odd hours, etc, but as you said, 'I did not find all these concerns as something that are unmanageable'. There are generous off days, annual leave and other fringe benefits. I like to work out and keep fit. So, do you think a pilot's life fits me?
I have two hesitations, though. One, I am shortsighted (around 300 degree both eyes with astigmatism) but correctable with spectacles. I am prepared to go for laser surgery. Although you mentioned that it's ok for pilots with specs but it still would be a determining factor between a spectacled and non-spec candidate, right? I am worried about this.
Second, I have taken flights before but never as the driver. I wondered whether I have the the real guts to do drive a big machine or not. However, I am the kind of guy who likes new stuff and challenges. It might not be a big factor. Nonetheless, I am planning to go for a airplane taxi trip (where you get on a two-seater and fly for 15mins) next month to get some 'feel' behind the wheel (well, next to it anyway!)
Another question: Some airlines would need you to sign a bond with them upon completion of training. For SIA, it's 7 years but for MAS, it's 15 years. Do you know why the big disparity? If I find a better-paid airline, is it worth breaking the bond? Or would the poaching airline pay for the remaining bond?
I know my email is kind of long but I hope you would try your best to enlighten me on my enquiries. At the same time, I hope my experience are beneficial to potential candidates.
Thank you for sharing your experience of the Cadet Pilot selection process. It is one of the more detailed write-up that I have received.
I think you are suited to become a pilot from what you have written. Now to answer some of your questions. It is not true that a pilot's life is less stressful than that of an engineer. In fact, to some, it is rather stressful when one is preparing for the six-monthly checks than actually flying the airplane! If you have read about an earlier answer to a FAQ, I have mentioned that, there was a young doctor who actually gave up flying because he found the training and check flights too stressful for him.
Regarding your vision problem, although FAA requirement is quite accommodating, some airlines may raise the standard to a slightly higher level. It is a also good idea to have a flight experience first to see if you like to fly. I did not have that opportunity but learned to love it at the end.
Most airlines would require you to sign a bond and it is their prerogative to stipulate the duration. If you break the bond to join another airline, you have to pay for it and not the poaching airline.
All the best to your future flying career!