A letter was issued to the FAA last week by the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) and AOPA criticizing the recent unannounced but significant changes to the FAA knowledge test question database. Noticeable changes have appeared for the airline transport pilot (ATP), flight engineer (FE) and fundamentals of instruction (FOI) tests, and others may have been affected as well.
As a result of the question bank amendments, the failure rate for the tests quadrupled. The letter from NAFI and AOPA requested that the FAA revert back the questions, allow the students who failed to retake the exam and have those students' failures removed from their records. Furthermore, the organizations requested that the FAA coordinates any changes in the question bank with the industry, and allows time for changes in the methods of instruction for the knowledge test to be implemented prior to activation of the new questions.
Apparently the modifications to the FOI test were made to align it with the newly revised, 228-page Flight Instructor Handbook. While NAFI and AOPA don't promote rote memorization for the tests, they feel that the number of possible questions generated from such a large pool of information makes it too difficult for students, and that some guidance is needed, similar to the Practical Test Standards provided for the oral and flight portions of flight ratings.