Wednesday 10 October 2018


If you’re reading this blog post then there’s a strong possibility that you’re either interested in applying to a pilot training scheme or already have an upcoming selection day at a training school such as L3. In this post I hope to give you a brief overview of what to expect at the selection day and interview(s) and how best to prepare for these tasks (or at least what I found useful when I sat them). Each training school runs different programmes for their assessment days so the information I will be discussing here is purely based on my experience with L3 Airline Academy.

The first stage of application is completed online and in the case of the British Airways Cadet Programme was made up of three (short) essay questions, a basic maths test and a psychometric test. To prepare for this stage of assessment I’d recommend building your CV with industry related experience in order to give you interesting examples to draw upon within your answers – this will also be useful during the interview stage where you can call upon your experience to answer the tricky questions. If you’d like some more information about the steps I took to enhance my CV you can read my previous blog post.

L3 host their Technical and Non-Technical selection days at Dibden Manor near Southampton. The day starts very early so if you live far away I would suggest booking a room somewhere nearby so you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and be tired for the assessments. I stayed at Dale Farm House and would highly recommend it! The people that run it are very kind and accommodating and even have a special book of emails, written by other cadets that have stayed there, filled with hints of what to expect at the selection.

When you first arrive at Dibden there will be a short presentation shown to you about how the day will run and what to expect if you do progress further. If you have applied to an airline specific scheme there will also be a short talk from a representative of the airline about what they are looking for in their applicants and any extra requirements they have during the selection and training process. I would suggest taking a notepad and pen into the presentation with you so you can write down any important information they give you. I’d also recommend thinking about any questions that you have so you can ask the right people when given the opportunity. Make sure you converse with the other applicants when you are sat in the waiting room; you’re all just as nervous as each other so chatting will really help calm the nerves. Be yourself, smile, and relax!



Once the talk is finished you will be split into two groups to go and sit the assessments. Each group will alternate as there is not enough space to accommodate everyone at one time in the technical assessment room. The assessment room looks a lot like the room where you sit your theory-driving test; each individual booth contains a pen and some paper to complete your rough working out during the maths test, a keyboard, a joystick, a headset and a computer screen which will be displaying your name (although some of this may have changed slightly with the new testing). You will be given a short briefing then you’ll be free to start the assessment.

The maths test consists of 15 multi-choice GCSE level maths questions that need to be completed in 15 minutes. There’s really nothing to worry about with this test; if you have a good understanding of maths you will be completely fine. You will probably be presented with some speed=distance/time questions as well as a few conversions and some basic multiplication. I’d suggest practicing your mental maths to the point where you feel confident that you will be able to complete the questions within the allotted time (the YouTube channel tecmath has some very helpful videos on quick multiplication and division tricks that I found very useful when practising for the assessment day).

After you finish the maths test you will be able to move onto the aptitude testing. As I’ve already mentioned, I did not sit the new cut-e testing when I did my selection day, however I still have a few tips on how to prepare for general aptitude testing. SkyTest and both provide excellent mock tests, which I would definitely recommend purchasing as well as your own joystick to use at home to practice.


These extra tests assigned by British Airways on the selection for the Cadet Pilot Programme further test your maths knowledge and verbal reasoning capabilities. The Numerical Reasoning test requires you to answer 25 advanced maths questions in 12 minutes, but don’t panic! I know it sounds like a lot but what they’re really looking for with this test is someone who won’t rush something just to get the job done. Don’t feel like you have to answer every question, the test is not designed to be finished within the allotted time. I only answered 14 of the 25 questions but I was confident that all my answers were correct. Having sat several of these types of tests before whilst I was at school I found the best approach is to go through and answer all the questions you can do first and then spend the rest of your time having a go at solving the slightly more advanced questions.

The Verbal Reasoning test is fairly straightforward. The only thing I can compare this test to is the Key Stage 2 SATS Reading test but slightly more advanced. In this assessment you are given a piece of text to read through and then given several multi-choice questions based on the text in which you have to infer the answer. This test is less time pressured than the Numerical Reasoning but still requires you to work quickly but accurately. The best advice I can give here is RTFQ (Read The ‘Flipping’ Question)! Some of the wording on the test can be tricky and can catch you out if you don’t read and reread the question properly.


For the group interview I can’t go into too much detail about the task itself due to the fact that I signed a privacy waiver; however, I can give you a few tips on how best to approach a group interview. Most group interviews are usually structured in the same way: you all sit at a table with sheets of information in front of you and your assessors will allow you time to read through this material and then discuss it with the group.

Group interviews test how well you communicate with your peers and judge you as a team leader and team player. To be successful within a group interview you need to speak up! This doesn’t mean you have to take over, but you should contribute your opinions where relevant and also use the information you are given (as well as any outside knowledge) to attempt to come to a conclusion within the group. If ever you feel like bigger personalities in the group are taking over, don’t worry. Firstly, the company doesn’t want you taking control as this shows an inability to work well in a team, which is an undesirable trait in a pilot (or any job really). When you find yourself not being able to get a word in then it’s best to listen to whoever’s talking and either agree or disagree with their point and develop your reasons why. Don’t interrupt them but try to find a break in the natural flow where you can get your point across.

Usually group interviews involve some form of budgeting and require you to do some sums based on the figures given. It’s best to discuss with the group if anyone has any particular strengths/experience when it comes to working out finances and see if they’d be comfortable keeping track of the figures. It is also vital for the group to have a time keeper; however, don’t be fooled by the common misconception that speaking up and offering to keep track of time gets you off the hook with contributing during the task as this will just mean you fail the assessment.

The assessors during a group interview are looking for people who engage well with their colleagues and can demonstrate the qualities that are looked for in a pilot. They are looking for someone with ability to respectfully question someone’s decision when you don’t agree with their suggestion and give reasons as to why you disagree as well as offer an alternative. Good CRM (Crew Resource Management) skills are vital in a potential pilot as they are desirable in the cockpit to avoid any incidents occurring.

The best advice I can give you for a group interview is do not forget the aim of the task. It is very easy to get side tracked when you have so much information in front of you so I would recommend using a DODAR:

            D- Diagnose (the problem)
            O- Options (discuss the options you have available to you)
            D- Decide (which option you wish to take)
            A- Act (carry out the task using the option you have chosen)
            R- Review (discuss the outcome and amend the task if necessary)

DODARs are used in everyday aviation to make important operational decisions, so the assessors will be impressed with you taking this approach. This will get everyone on the same page and establish any weak points you still have in your plan.

Interviews are the one constant in every job application. No one particularly enjoys doing interviews but it is the best way for a potential employer to see what you’re like in person and decided whether you’re the right fit for the company. The interview at L3 was heavily competency based so I’d recommend thinking of real life examples where you have demonstrated the skills that are looked for in a pilot. Potential questions include:

  • Give an example of a time when you have worked as part of a team.
  • How do you cope with failure?
  • Tell me about a time where you have lead a team.
  • Give an example of a time when you’ve had to make a decision under pressure.
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve had to work to a timescale when completing an important task.
  • Give an example of a time when you’ve had to break the rules. 

When answering these questions I would recommend using the STAR method to structure your responses. The STAR model allows you to answer the questions efficiently without waffling and forgetting your point.

            S- Situation: Set the scene.
            T- Task: Establish the end goal.
            A- Action: What did you do?
            R- Result: What was the outcome of your actions?

I would also suggest relating your answers back to becoming a pilot and how these skills will help you in a flying career, as this is ultimately what the interviewers are looking for. I would also recommend familiarising yourself with any current affairs in the industry and some basic information about L3 so that should they ask you any of these type of questions you don’t look under prepared. And don’t forget to prepare some questions to ask the interviewer at the end!


If you have applied to an airline scheme then you will need to complete some extra interviews after passing the L3 selection process; however, should you be unsuccessful with the final airline assessment, you still have a place as a ‘whitetail’ at L3.

The final assessment day for the British Airways Cadet Pilot Programme was held at Waterside (British Airways HQ) and ran in three parts: an aptitude test, a group interview, and a two-to-one interview. British Airways run a programme called ‘Eagle’ for their aptitude testing. Unfortunately there is no way to practice for this test prior to the day so the best advice I can give here is don’t rush and make sure you pay attention to the instructions as this test requires a lot of multitasking.

The group interview at British Airways ran much the same as the group interview at L3; however, the two-to-one interview was structured slightly differently to the one-to-one interview at L3. The interview is usually run by one pilot and one member of HR (although I had two members of HR questioning me) and questions will be much more industry focused. Some questions I remember being asked include:

  • How does a wing generate lift?
  • What causes turbulence?
  • How would you explain turbulence to a passenger?
  • What would you do if the Captain wanted to go against SOPs?
  • How do you stay up to date with the industry?
  • What challenges do you think you will face as a pilot?
  • What do you know about British Airways’ plan for the future? (Plan4)
  • Why do you want to be a pilot?
  • Why do you want to work for British Airways?

To ensure you are prepared enough to competently answer these questions I would recommend reading through some aviation websites that report on up to date information in the industry and learning some basic principles of flight (just enough to give you a brief overview into the four forces of flight). Research the airline you are applying to and find out information such as any new business announcements (i.e. new routes, new aircraft, new services), what aircraft the airline have in their fleet and who the CEO of the company is. You will also be asked a few more competency questions by the HR interviewer so I would suggest thinking of some different examples to questions similar to those that you were asked in the L3 interview to ensure variety in your answers.

So that’s just about everything I can think of to help you through your assessments. I hope this post has been of use to you and if you do have an upcoming selection day... congratulations and good luck! If you have any more questions feel free to leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them. Olivia x


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