Preparing for Your CFI Program

Becoming a CFI will be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in your pilot career. As a CFI, you will be directly responsible for the safety and quality of pilots that you train.

Advance preparation is key to your success in the CFI program.

Before You Arrive

  1. Complete the CFI Self-Study Course.
  2. Pass the three CFI written exams.
  3. Compile lesson plans.

CFI Self-Study Course

CFI applicants must demonstrate their knowledge of a wide range of aviation subjects. The first portion of the CFI Self-Study Course will help you review some of these knowledge areas. Most of this material should be familiar to you. Your goal in the CFI Program is to learn how to teach the private, instrument, and commercial content you already know by applying the fundamentals of instruction you will learn during CFI training. If you have difficulty with one or more of the modules in the self-study course, please study that knowledge area before arrival to avoid delays in your program.

This course does not cover every subject area in the CFI Practical Test Standards, only those that have been common trouble spots for past CFI Program students. These areas include aerodynamics, aircraft systems, navigation and flight planning, airspace, airworthiness, and multi-engine operations. Students should review the CFI PTS to confirm they are familiar with each subject area and task, including those not covered in this course.

The second portion of the CFI Self-Study course will introduce you to the fundamentals of instruction, flight instructor responsibilities, regulations pertaining to flight instruction, and the development of lesson plans. This new material will be covered in more depth during the ground school portion of the CFI program.

Enrolled students can access the CFI Self-Study Course when logged into their Student Extranet account. On the Schedule and Program Outline pages, there is a list of self-study courses in the upper right portion of the screen. Clicking the link to the CFI Self-Study Course will open a course outline with several modules, each divided into lessons. To complete a lesson, watch the video and review the resources listed in the lesson plan, then take the quiz. Once you have passed the quiz, a green check mark will appear on your course outline, allowing you to track your progress.

CFI Written Exams

You must arrive to your CFI Program check-in with passing score reports (dated within the previous 23 months) for the three FAA Knowledge Tests:

You will not have time to study for or take these tests during your CFI Program, so failure to bring the required score reports will require ATP to postpone your program start date.

Most pilots prepare for the FOI and FIA by studying CFI prep books and software. ATP recommends ASA Prepware to help you prepare for those tests. This can be purchased at most local pilot shops or shipped directly to you from our preferred vendor, Pilotmall.com. If you are an iPad user, we recommend the ASA Prepware CFI App, which contains prep questions for both the FOI and FIA.

Note that the above products will not prepare you to pass the FII, which is an instrument test, not a flight instructor test. Most prepware for the instrument rating knowledge exam will also cover the instrument flight instructor exam.

FAA Knowledge Tests are offered at testing centers run by CATS and PSI (formerly Lasergrade). Students enrolled in ATP Flight School programs can take their written exams at most ATP training centers. Airline Career Pilot Program students should contact their instructor or ATP Flight Operations to schedule their exams. Other students should call 904-595-7940.

Lesson Plans

Throughout the CFI PTS, instructor candidates are required to exhibit “instructional knowledge” of various maneuvers and subject areas. According to the PTS:

The term "instructional knowledge" means the instructor applicant is capable of using the appropriate reference to provide the “application or correlative level of knowledge” of a subject matter topic, procedure, or maneuver. It also means that the flight instructor applicant’s discussions, explanations, and descriptions should follow the recommended teaching procedures and techniques explained in FAA-H-8083-9, Aviation Instructor’s Handbook.

Part of following the "recommended teaching procedures" is using a lesson plan. Students should arrive to the CFI Program with draft lesson plans for the tasks listed in the CFI PTS. You will be able to practice and further develop these plans while at the CFI Program.

Guidance on creating lesson plans, as well as sample lesson plans for a selection of PTS tasks, can be found in the "Preparing Lesson Plans" lesson in the CFI Self-Study course.

CFI Program Itinerary

Week 1

The first week of the program is primarily ground instruction on the Fundamentals of Instruction and Flight Instructor Responsibilities. The main reference materials for this training will be the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook and Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Time permitting, your instructors will also review aeronautical knowledge areas from previous certificates and ratings, though you are expected to arrive with commercial-level knowledge and skills.

Week 2

Your training flights will occur during the second week of the program. During these flights, you will practice flying the aircraft from the right seat, giving instruction while flying, and dealing with simulated student errors. When you are not flying, you will study FOI material as well as any knowledge areas that require review, and you will practice teaching lessons to other students and instructors.

Week 3

You can expect to take your multi-engine instructor checkride during the third week of the course. Your single-engine and instrument add-on checkrides will follow shortly thereafter.


Thank you for choosing ATP Flight School for your flight instructor ratings. If you have any questions or concerns regarding preparation for your CFI Program, please email [email protected].