Air Traffic Control Prep

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Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests

Updated 27 August 2021

Written by Laura Bevis
Laura Bevis

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Air Traffic Control Prep

NATS, the UK’s leading and most comprehensive provider of ATC employment requires approximately 200 air traffic control (ATC) trainees a year on average.

An ATC enables the smooth running of air traffic, both on the ground and in the sky.

The job requires a particular set of skills, calm nature and complete commitment.

It is a career that consistently offers the opportunity to develop. There are many incentives to join NATS, and controllers are highly valued.

There is an extensive recruitment and selection assessment process. The right preparation, practice and knowledge will increase your chances of scoring highly.

Higher scores will mean being sought after more by employers.

The initial assessment is typically an ATC aptitude test, and there are free practice tests to help you prepare.

Air Traffic Control Background Knowledge

It is worth conducting extensive research before applying for the ATC assessment process.

Having background knowledge will help in the aptitude tests as you will be able to relate to why and what is being asked of you.

ATC Tests: What Are They?

The ATC aptitude test aims to find out which potential candidates are likely to succeed through all stages of training and development to become an air traffic controller.

It tests how the candidate would cope under pressure and tests decision-making and cognitive skills.

NATS currently employs 1,670 controllers at 13 airports across the UK. Many candidates will apply for their ATC tests through NATS.

NATS has an extensive process that the hopeful recruit has to go through before being selected

This includes:

Each provider’s ATC tests will vary, but commonly, it measures through psychometrics.

The tests could include:

  • Numerical Reasoning – It is important to test numerical reasoning, for as a controller will need to analyse and interpret numerical information given in tables and charts and make decisions based on this.

  • Verbal reasoning – The verbal reasoning test for ATC measures the applicant’s understanding and comprehension skills. This is necessary for the role as the controller will need to listen to instructions and act on them immediately.

  • Abstract reasoningAbstract reasoning considers the ability to recognise and analyse patterns, figures, and data without prior knowledge. For an air traffic controller, these skills are important, as the role requires the controller to find and recognise certain data to make decisions with, as well as recognise problems and solve them.

  • Spatial reasoning – This test means looking at a pictorial image, such as a map, plan, or diagram, and understanding it to the point of visualisation. An ATC would need to look at diagrams and a map of the airspace, visualise what is happening and ascertain whether it is safe for an aircraft to fly in that space.

  • Deductive reasoning – A deductive reasoning test measures the candidate’s ability to think. There is no guessing in this test. This is important to the everyday role of a traffic controller who needs to make the right decision quickly with the information they have.

  • Inductive reasoningInductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive in that there may be a more general answer, rather than a specific one. For an ATC, this shows their ability to take on new situations combined with their confidence to apply their findings.

  • Situational judgement – In the situational judgement tests, the candidates are given a scenario with multiple solutions. The test measures how the candidate judges and tries to solve this situation.

  • Personality – The role of an air traffic controller requires resilience, a can-do attitude and a need to remain calm. This is why part of the aptitude test can include a personality test. It will analyse if the candidate has the right personality traits listed above through several questions.

What Questions Could Be Included in the ATC Tests?

NATS and other providers advise practice and preparation for the air traffic controller test, and there are plenty of free and paid tests online.

Before applying for the test, it would be worth looking at some examples questions for each section:

Numerical Reasoning Test

The numerical reasoning test is usually timed and multiple-choice.

To get an idea of the question types, here is an example of what could be included:

Example question:

Isobel’s class of 13 pupils all received an average of 85% on their history exam collectively. William scored 100%.

If William is removed from the collective results, what would the new average be?

The correct answer is: 84.1%

Typically, a calculator is allowed in these numerical reasoning tests.

Verbal Reasoning Test

The verbal reasoning test is likely to be screened and can be like a comprehension exam.

The candidate will be given a short passage, and then there will be a group of statements where they will need to answer true or false.

It could also test grammar, vocabulary and word analogy.

Example question:

All Drinks Co. has reported increased revenue for this quarter and put this down to an increased demand for sports drinks.

It also reported a rise in tea and coffee sales, driven by the growth of new trends on social media sites such as Instagram.

Fizzy drink sales declined 2%; while fruit-based drinks and milkshakes declined 1%.

Fizzy drink sales have been decreasing for some time as consumers have turned to bottled water and sports drinks.

Soda sales have decreased over the past decade as consumers have become more health-conscious.

a) True
b) False
c) Uncertain

The correct answer is: Uncertain

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests
Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests

Abstract Reasoning Test

Abstract reasoning is timed online and tests problem-solving and the ability at learning new skills.

Example question:

Choose what pattern should be in the empty space.

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests
Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests

The correct answer is: B

Spatial Reasoning Test

Spatial reasoning contains no mathematical or language questions, meaning background and education is irrelevant. Intelligent people learn quickly and can easily pick learn new skills. This is what this test looks at.

Example question:

In which figure are the shapes combined correctly?

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests
Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests

The correct answer is: c

The provider will conduct a deductive reasoning test to see how well the potential recruit can process information and then deduce the answer from it.

An air traffic controller needs to be logical, and so this online timed assessment will test for that.

Example question:

If the first two statements are true, the conclusion must be:

  • Some squares are parallelograms
  • Some parallelograms are rectangles
  • All squares are rectangles

a) True
b) False
c) Uncertain

The correct answer is: c) Uncertain

Inductive Reasoning Test

The inductive reasoning test is used in the ATC test to assess how a future employee could use observations to make intelligent conclusions or answers.

Example question:

Which option completes this matrix?

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests
Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tests

The correct answer is: c

Situational Judgement Test

The situational judgement test is good for letting the employer see how the future employee would act in certain situations.

It measures behaviour rather than how they think.

Situational Judgement Tests are normally online, and text and videos are used to give several scenarios.

The answers are multiple-choice and required in the text.

Example question:

You are one a team-building away day, you are working with three close colleagues from the same department, and two others who work in a different part of the business.

You are asked to come up with a new design for a product. The two people you do not know have very different ideas from the rest of you, and your three close colleagues are becoming very frustrated with their unworkable ideas.

There is only an hour left, and little progress has been made. What do you do?

a) Tactfully suggest ideas that are more in line with the brand
b) Suggest that, as a group, you create a series of criteria against which to review all of the suggestions made so far. This will ensure that all suggestions get a fair hearing
c) Suggest everyone has a say on what they suggest and ask the group of two to say how and why theirs would work
d) Ask everyone to come up with an idea and do a vote

Many businesses, including NATS and ATC providers, believe that an employee’s personality can directly affect business.

A personality test will show how the candidate would behave in teamwork, leading a team and problem-solving.

This assessment could be the one to set an individual apart from their peers. If the results of the other parts of the test are close, the employer is likely to look at how the personality scores fare.

Those whose scores match the characters and traits needed for the role are likely to be recruited.

Typically, a personality test may have a statement, and the employee is asked to say how strongly they agree with that statement.

Example question:

I like working in a team more than I enjoy working independently:

a) Strongly Agree
b) Agree
c) Uncertain
d) Disagree
e) Strongly Disagree

Preparation for ATC Tests

The mock online assessments are a great way to prepare for these tests.

These will give a good indication of how much time each section supplies a variety of possible questions, which areas you need to practice more and areas where you show strength.

By doing the mock assessments timed means seeing where to focus your study and areas of struggle.

It would also be wise to be familiar with all air traffic control background knowledge to be certain of what is expected in the role and also how you could progress in the role.

Does it have promotion opportunities? Will it involve travel? Do you need to work in a team? There are many places with this information, such as the NATS website.

Ensure you are well prepared on the day of the test, ensure you have enough sleep and eat enough breakfast.

Remember to remain calm during the tests.

Final Thoughts

An air traffic controller is a sought after and aspirational role.

The ATC tests give an insight into what is expected in the role, and show the provider if the individual is right for it.

Equally, it shows the individual if they are appropriate for the position.

Air Traffic Control Prep