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Five tips for using your calculator in ATPL Flight Planning!

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

While it sounds like a boring and straight forward topic, using your calculator to its full potential can save you huge amounts of time in the exam!


#1 Pick the right calculator

The calculator allowed in the exam is limited to a 'Basic calculator'. You will want to buy one that has:

  • four functions (+, -, x and ÷)

  • a square root function ( √ )

  • +/- Plus/Negative button

  • memory function

  • large buttons and screen

Consider buying two. The first calculator is your primary calculator. The second calculator is your insurance policy in case one dies. You don't want to try and learn a new calculator on the day.


#2 Check it is working correctly

There have been horror stories of candidates sitting their exam only to realise half way through that one of the lines on their screen has stopped working. This could make an 8 look like a 6, a 6 look like a 5 or a whole bunch of other possibilities.


  • Make sure before you begin any exam, type as many 8's in as you can and check every line on the screen is filled.


#3 Always use the same calculator for your study and exam

It may not sound like a big deal, but during your study you will become so automated with your calculator that if you chop and change you wont develop the muscle memory you need.


Calculators often have buttons in completely different places so you could see how it would become an issue in the exam. You don't really have time to redo questions, so you want to know that what you are clicking on the calculator is exactly what you intended to click.


#4 Learn to use the memory functions

You should really learn every button on your calculator but an often overlooked function is the memory. In this exam the memory function can save you so much time.


Here is a great video showing you the basics of the memory function. Get in touch if you would like me to make a video showing its use in a flight planning exam!


You are expected to not round numbers; and trying to write 3 or 4 decimal places in those tiny boxes can get really annoying real quick. When you start using memory function you'll understand just how little you actually have to write down and how much time it saves you. Get in touch if you want me to make a video showing how easy it is to use in this exam!


#5 Secure it in place with Blu-Tack

Throughout the years I have seen countless people sitting exams and classes with their calculators sliding all over the table, while some come with grips, if yours doesn't, get a piece of blu-tack and stick it underneath. No more sliding calculator!

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