AT-SA exam gouge(what to expect/how to prepare)


hen teaser

I took the test(after 5 years of rejection from the public announcements due to Biographical Questionnaire failures) on 10/12/17. As far as I know, I was in the second group to take the AT-SA(which was previously the AT-SAT). There aren't too many gouges out there, so I will share my experience and advice. Keep in mind, the test happens fast, and it is stressful. You can only prepare so much by reading about what to expect, but it is up to you to be able to quickly and efficiently(you get graded on speed/accuracy/method not just correct answers) complete each section. Be well rested, and I would suggest caffeinated. I chugged a redbull just before they ushered us in, do what works for you but be at your best and focused.

Once contacted about passing the BQ, you will be asked to select a testing location and then a test date, through the vendor PSI in my case. Typing in my location(near SFO) only gave 2 choices, San Francisco or Sacramento. If you do not live in a major city, expect a decent drive. Some people drove 3 hours to take the test in my group. There were 3 test dates for me to chose from, ranging from 1 week away to 2.5 weeks away. 2 of the tests had a 9AM start time and 1 had a 3PM start time. Though I am not a morning person, I chose the test that gave me the most time to prepare. In hindsight, I would say the gouges can only do so much for you, and it is more important to pick a time that works better for you than a later date for preparation. You just have to take the test.

The test notification advises you to bring 2 forms of ID and arrive 30 mins early. There were a lot of no-shows at my test(well over 50%), so the examiners waited from 8:30AM-9AM for any stragglers. Only 1 showed up in time, that person had been displaced by the CA wildfires and had a hell of a time getting there(3 hours to drive 45 miles from the fire-affected North Bay). Another girl had showed up about 90 mins in as I completed my test, and the examiners were on the phone seeing if they could get her in. I am not sure what became of that. With so many homes destroyed, it is sad to think of but perhaps many of the others slotted to take the test were effected by homelessness or the closed highways. There are no re-tests for even those circumstances, so hopefully life is on your side come the test date.

Once inside, we were all seated and called up one by one to provide our IDs, sign some papers, and receive locker keys. Everything in your pockets needs to be placed in the lockers, you will get them back when you finish the test. You are given just under 3 hours to take the test and up to 30 mins in breaks. Again, I chugged a damn redbull just before the test and only needed to pee once, using about 5 mins of my allotted break time. I was also done with the test in about 90 mins, roughly half of the allotted test time. Do not let the time limit scare you, you will probably be fine. Though a few of the sections are demanding and it seems that most people hit time limits here or there with incomplete sections. Within about 15 minutes, we were seated with our tests activated. There is no talking, and cameras are on you. Earplugs and earmuffs are provided, many chose to use them though the test room was more or less silent. For the first section and all sections, I decided to read the directions twice. I also did the practice test several times for a few sections. Again, even having spent 10 minutes on one of the practice tests, I still had almost 90 mins left to take the test when I was finished. If you need the whole 3 hours, my guess is you already failed. Don't worry about it, take your time with practicing.

Keep in mind, you do NOT get scratch paper. This is all mental!


After the intro, the first section is the first game where you must quickly provide the difference between the last 2 numbers shown. To prepare for this test, I suggest looking for some kind of quiz or creating flash cards where you subtract the numbers 1-9 from each other. The answers are always 1-4, but you have to be quick. I think there were 9 rounds, so eventually you will trip up more than likely. Just quickly move on and keep going. If you take too long, you will run out of time for that round and be penalized on your score.

The screen will be all black, and for 2 seconds a number from 1-9 will appear. Then another number will appear until you enter the difference between the 2 numbers. Then a 3rd number will appear, which you will subtract from the second. So on and so forth. Keep in mind, as one number appears, the other dissappears. Only 1 number is displayed at one time. Not difficult, but demanding and you get worn out. I feel that I did very well in this section and this is how I did it:

First number pops up: 6

Second number pops up: 4

As soon as the 6 changes, I would quietly say around to myself, "6 and 4 is 2" and hit 2 as I come to that conclusion. As I hit the answer, I start to tell myself "4 and..."

Third number pops up: 5

So 4 and 5 is 1. This took roughly 2 seconds and I never ran out of time on a section that I did not trip up this method. The rounds are several minutes long each. This is demanding, stay "in the zone" however you need to. You need to be mechanical to pass it, when I got a little burned out, I missed 2 or 3 in one section.


The previous section was very straining, I recommend taking a minute or two to let your brain and eyes cool down a bit before you continue. I used this time to pee pee, and it was the only break I ended up taking. To prepare for this section in advance, I suggest working on basic adding, multiplying, and dividing the numbers 1-9. I suck with all but basic division(as far as being instantaneous goes), so I wish I had studied that more as every time I messed up the second part, it was due to me being a dumb ass with fractions(forgetting if 3/1 was 1 or 3 or vice versa). I say practice each part a few times just to get in the swing of this for this section.

This next section has 2 parts. The first part is simple, just remember 3 numbers and what letter they're associated with. Like before, the values seem to be 1-9. The problem is, like before, each value only shows on the screen for about 2 seconds, and then after the final value, you are asked to provide the values in random order. Again, I did very well in this section with this method:

First numbers pop up: A = 1

I point to my left side and picture I am putting the "1" there at "A" and leaving it there. I repeat "1, 1, 1".

2 seconds later: B = 4

Now I point in the "middle" of my...person and repeat "1, 4, 1, 4..." while "pointing" at A/B.

Third number pops up: C = 2

Now I "point" at all 3 letters and repeat "1, 4, 2. 1, 4 , 2..."

By then, the variables start to come at you in random order and you must provide the values. Again, you have a few seconds. But if you have been repeating the values, and know where to "physically find them", it's rapid fire and mechanical to plug in the values of A, B, and C. There are a few rounds and they happen fast. This section will probably stress you out, but is manageable.

Now, part 2 is a whole different animal. It is the same as the first part, but the values can be equations. Sometimes, you only get 1 value and 2 equations. But you have the same amount of time. I actually did well on this section...except for the questions with fractions. Sometimes I typed in my answer, and the system didn't take it, so I guessed with a 1-4 as it seemed the right answers were usually 1-4 to the equations. Stay in school. I used the same method, but solved the equation mentally ASAP. Here is an example using a more complicated problem. Remember, you have 2 seconds between the value of C and the first question!

First value pops up: A = B - 2

I point to where "A" will be, and repeat, "B-2, B-2, B-2..."

Second value pops up: B = 4

QUICKLY solve for A, 4-2= 2, then point to "A" and repeat "2" and point to "B" and repeat "4". So "2, 4, 2, 4.."

Now by the time you're repeating your sequence or even finished solving for B: C = B/A

QUICKLY solve for C by grabbing the value you've plugged in and "placed" at "A", which is 2, and telling yourself that that goes into B, which is 4, twice. So C=2. Don't get tripped up like my dumb ass, I missed several of the division questions or stalled on them for a few seconds. So now you point to your 3 numbers and repeat, "2, 4, 2. 2, 4, 2".

Obviously, unless you are a genius, chances are the test is displaying:" B = " on the screen before you've even had a chance to get your values straight and repeat them. Hit the 4 as soon as you can, then answer the rest as they pop up.

Again, there are several rounds of this. This was the most demanding part of the test by far in my opinion. I did not take a break after this test, but I did unwind in my chair for a minute or two. It was intense.


This game will try and trip you up, but is only difficult because of the allotted time for each question. It was difficult enough that I know I missed several questions in each round. Familiarize yourself with the true/false keys. They are physically labeled for your test, but there is so little time to answer that you really do not have time to check. You need to get the True/False down BEFORE you start the test. Practice several times. The section has 2 parts.

The first part has a blue 747 and a red Cessna 172 will pop up on a map from a top down view, similar to this picture I quickly drew up. The box on the bottom will display "right or left", and using the "+" key and "enter" key on the numpad, you must determine if the word "left" or "right" is "true" or "false" relative to the position of the 172 to the 747. For 2 or 3 seconds, you will see something like this. Keep in mind the 747 and Cessna can appear anywhere on the map, not always anywhere near each other and may face in different directions:

The method I used for this was to first look at the 172 relative to the 747 and say aloud to myself "Left" or "Right" depending on which side of the 747 the 172 was on. Then I would glance at the word on the bottom of the screen and see if what I'm saying matched what I was reading and quickly hit true/false. In this case, the 172 is to the left of the 747 from the 747's perspective, so LEFT is "TRUE".

Even with this method, a few times I had not stroked the proper key fast enough and missed the question. Other times, in my haste having missed a question or two, I got tripped up and hit the key for "false" instead of "true" even though I knew the answer. Just try and stay calm, and in the zone. Do not get frustrated.

The second part is just like the first, except now an eyeball is added randomly to some questions. When the eyeball pops up, the "Left" or "Right" box on the bottom of the screen is relative to the eyeball and NOT the 747. Sometimes several questions have no eyeball, then 1 does. Or several have it, then 1 does not. Things happen FAST. Stay calm, pay attention. The adjustment I made to my method for this section was if I see an eyeball, I ignore the 747 and only look at the eyeball and the Cessna THEN glance at the "left/right". A question with an eyeball will look like this:

In this question, even though the 172 is to the LEFT of the 747, it is to the right of the eyeball which is present for this question. So "LEFT" is "FALSE". I lost plenty of points here.


The radar game is fun at first, then it gets hard, then it gets impossible. The sections are progressively harder, and in the end, the goal is to prioritize the main task, the radar, and forget about the secondary task, the equations, unless you have time and happen to get a question you can solve in the allotted 2 seconds.

Several objects, from 3-9 I think, which are each numbered 1-9 will fly across the screen at different speeds going different directions. Your job is to make sure they do not collide, but to ensure so by removing as few of the objects from the screen as possible as quickly as possible by hitting the key corresponding to the number on the object. So simply put, as the objects appear, you need to quickly figure out which ones are going to cross, AND which ones are going to cross with MULTIPLE objects. Delete any that will cross with multiple objects then see if more objects need to go bye bye. Deleting extra objects, or taking too long to decide hurts your score. But the big thing is not crashing them, which is easier said than done. The screen will look like this each round:

No track is provided, you must visually access what balls will cross using the speed and direction as your only cues. In this example, I will give the balls directions. Let us assume they are all moving at speeds that mean any crossing balls will hit:

In this example,the following balls are in conflict:
2 with 1
3 with 4 and 5
4 with 3
5 with 3

If we get rid of ball 3, both collisions(with 4 and 5) are avoided. If we get rid of 2 balls, there will be a negative score for the "inefficient" decision. So the proper way to complete this would be to quickly press "3" and "2", as no other balls are in conflict.

Where this gets tricky, is if you get within a second or so of the collision, it is too late to stop it. This becomes a problem when you get up to 9 objects, and 3 are on collision courses in the first 3 seconds. Sometimes so many of them are on immediate collision paths, I think it is close to impossible to avoid 100% of them efficiently, if at all. But stay focused, and KEEP PLAYING! Balls that collide and turn red can still collide with other balls even though you may no longer get rid of them! So "part the red sea" for any ball that has crashed already. I lost a lot of points in the latter rounds of this stage. If no balls are going to hit, press 0 as fast as you determine that, as 0 is an "all clear".

The second round is just cruel. It is like the first, but at full intensity like the latter rounds of the first part. However, now F5-F8 can be used to select answer A-D to difficult algebra questions. The questions will pop up on the bottom of the screen for only 2 seconds at a time. Many will have answers with decimal points, and these are coming at you while the radar game is coming at you at full speed. When the equations are on the screen, they will look like this:

Now, almost NONE of the equations use numbers ending in 0 or 5. And again, you have about 2 seconds to read the equation and and pick A-D. They make it very difficult, on purpose. You need to just FORGET about the equations, and do your job, which is separating traffic. If you hit 0 and have a few seconds, or solve the collisions and see an equation you can actually answer in 2 or 3 seconds(they are rare period), then do it and I'm sure you get some kind of bonus for it. But do NOT focus on the equations. Let them flash like ads on an internet browser unless you have time to check. I was able to answer 2 or 3 out of maybe 20+ rounds. Even so, this was difficult, and this is the only section in the whole AT-SA that I would say I did poorly in. Hopefully someone creates a study version of this cruel, cruel game.


After the radar game, you are done with the game browser. You switch to a browser-based program that takes you through the last few sections. This requires getting a test proctor and having them log in to the program for you. It also requires you to create an account to this random program. This takes a few minutes, and this is a very good time for a break. I did not take one here, but I still suggest it as the pace is about to change from high speed reactionary to careful critical thinking for the rest of the test.

Not much to this. 3 statements are listed and you pick the one most like you and least like you. I found that sometimes none of them really described me, and sometimes all of them did about equally. It says to be honest, I say do that, but don't make yourself look like a dreamer and a couch potato. You need to be able to get stuff done and be counted on to work with others or by yourself. The common themes with the questions include, "I am a leader/alpha", "I hate/don't trust people", "I am fascinated by numerical work and perfection", "I am an optimist that can not be brought down", "I need people/feel lonely", "I am super duper chill", "I win or go home", ect. Answering honestly saw me taking many from all categories, I don't hate people but I don't trust everyone to do what they're supposed to. Ramp Control taught me that lol. So I am not an optimist, but a realist, and I hope my answers reflected that. You have 20 minutes to do this, I barely had enough time. You are taken to the browser menu for the next test section to be selected.


For me personally, this was the most head scratching part of the test. They really try to trip you up with these entries. There are 2 parts to the word problems, I think you get 20 minutes each. I went over by 3 minutes on the first, finished the second with a few minutes to spare.

The first part of this test is all about reading a passage and figuring out the order of or connection between the various people or data in the problem. TAKE. YOUR. TIME. when it comes to reading the passage. For both parts, each passage will have several questions associated with it. You may have 20 minutes to do 18 word problems, but you only read 6 or 7 passages, if even. Not 18. It is better to take your time and understand these passages as you try and reason. The questions are, mostly, very tricky. Here are two examples of passages, they all seem to involve people or data. This is an easy example of what the ones with people are like:

Mark hates Linda and all her friends. Linda is friends with Rebecca. Lucy is friends with Rebecca. Mark has class with Jim.

You will then be asked which statement is true or false. Let us assume we are supposed to select the true sentence, A-D:

A) Mark hates Lucy.
B) Mark is friends with Jim.
C) Rebecca is friends with Linda.
D) Mark hates Rebecca

A is incorrect because Linda may not be friends with Rebecca.
B is incorrect because we do not know how Mark feels about Jim.
C is incorrect because we do knot know that Linda even knows Rebecca.
D is correct because Rebecca is friends with Lina.

There will be several similar follow up questions, with some passages being more difficult than others.

The other questions will be set up similar to this:

The flight schedule of an airline between several cities is as follows:

A to B
A to D
A to C
B to D
B to A
C to A
C to B
D to E
E to D
E to F
F to A
F to E

A question you may get is:

What is the minimum number of stops to get from A to F?

A) 2
B) 3
C) 1
D) 4

The answer would be A, 2 stops. A-D-E-F. Seems simple enough, but you'll be pretty burned out by this point and the timer keeps clicking down. If you're absolutely stuck, guess. You may not go back to unanswered questions and you may not change answers. You do get penalized for wrong and uncompleted answers. Don't get too stressed out, I once hit the wrong answer being a bone head. Don't do that. Take. Your. Time. But not too much. Some of the questions are very hard, and can eat up a lot of time. I went over by 3 minutes. Lol.

When you finish that section, you are brought back to the browser to click on the final section of the test and start it.


Like before, each passage will be used for multiple questions. Do not let the time vs number of questions scare you. Take your time.

You will get a passage about a topic, and then be asked questions about that topic that are marked A-D. This is an example of a passage:

In today's world, private aviation provides the ability to arrive closer to the final destination without the hassles and restrictions of air travel. Very light jets, small and inexpensive enough to be utilized for private use, make this even more practical. However, due to the costs associated with flight training and aircraft ownership, and public perception of the safety in small aircraft, it is unlikely that private aviation will see mass expansion anytime soon.

You will then get 3 or 4 questions, which will test your comprehension. An example would be:

What view is the write of this passage most likely to take on aviation safety?

A) The convenience of private aviation outweighs the potential risk.
B) Very light jets are less safe than airliners.
C) Private aviation is safer than the general public perception suggests.
D) Maintenance costs make it difficult for private aircraft owners to maintain them as well as an airliner.

A is wrong because no correlation between convince and safety is established in the article.
B is wrong because the write never suggests VLJs are less safe than airliners.
C is correct because the author suggests VLJs are safer than people think.
D is incorrect because the author never suggests that maintenance costs may affect safety.

This is an easier example, but some passages are written using very big words that honestly confused me a bit and made the comprehension difficult. Personally, I would always score my highest marks in reading comprehension on State tests in school and on the SAT, but I really struggled and ended up having to guess on a few parts. The passages make the information you need very convoluted and are more difficult to solve as you watch the clock tick away while you are on question 7/20. Just do the best you can, do not skip any answers, and really think before you hit the finish button. I ended up guessing on maybe 2 questions but ended up finishing 3-4 minutes early.

When I finished the test around the 90 minute mark, I was the first one done. I was surprised the test was over. As I walked out of the testing room back to the proctor, I took a good look around out of curiosity. A handful of people were on the last section of the test, a few were several sections behind with their hands in their heads or looking hopeless. One guy was crying and still on the radar game which I had finished about 45 minutes before. It is a hard test. It is intense. It is not for everyone, nor is ATC. The good news is you can apply to take the BQ and then the AT-SA again(if you pass the BQ) each year so long as you take it in time to get the offer to go to the academy in OKC by age 32.

Walking out, I signed for my stuff, got it from the locker, returned my locker key, and I was on my way.

It takes up to 90 days to get the test scores. You are told all future info from USAjobs will be given to you via e-mail, from test score to OKC info. Once the scores come in, the reviews for OKC candidates start. Fingers crossed, and I will keep you updated.

I hope this helps somebody.
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hen teaser
Just to add for any reading this gouge, I did pass the test. You either get "referred" to a hiring pool based on your test score, or you do not. So I am not sure how I did, but I did pass even though I was very nervous I may have failed because I crashed planes in at least half the rounds(or more) of the radar game and screwed up 5-7 times on the 747/Cessna game. Do not get discouraged, just do your best the whole way through even if you bomb a section or two, I bombed at least the radar game for sure!


hen teaser
Just wanted to say I take the test(again) tomorrow afternoon, and my gouge made me VERY confident that I will do better than last time. For some reason, the hosting site deleted the pictures I made of the games in the test. I'm sorry about that, I will try to re-make them after the test tomorrow. I really hope that what I wrote helps somebody face the test with strategy and confidence. Good luck everyone!


Well-Known Member
Careful with that. Someone did something similar with the BQ and had their offer revoked and banned from the FAA.
Except that person posted screenshots of the exact test. With his initials. And his tower/position.
Totally different than making a recreation from memory of a constantly changing/fluid game.


hen teaser
Still the same test, but different. There are more rounds of the numbers games in the beginning, so of course, I eventually tripped up here and there and did a little worse than last time. But I feel like I did better in almost every other section, so I'm hoping my overall score is slightly better than 2017. The biggest change, however, was that instead of a class around 30 taking the test(and that was with a lot of no-shows), I took it with only 3 other people today! The proctor told me the classes have been way smaller this year, which I guess means less people took the test, at least in San Francisco/NorCal. That makes no sense staffing wise, but hey, I'll take the better odds. You are given 3 hours and 20 minute(including breaks), and last time in about 90 minutes, I was the first one done. This time I took two 10-minute bathroom breaks because Vegas is still in my intestines, and was the last person finished about 2 hours in while still having over an hour left to finish. Very interesting, but goes with the theory that people taking the test may have had better aptitude this time with the smaller number of test invites. Biggest changes this year:

-First round of the "number game" is longer by a few rounds, which really wares you down.
-Second number game with the equations is longer AND the equations were a little more complicated. There is a section now where you only get ONE value and have to solve for and remember the value in 2 seconds flat before the next value pops up. So in other words, you have 6 seconds to solve 2 equations and remember the values for all 3 numbers(2 of which you just solved for) before you have 2 seconds to type the first answer. That was cruel. For sure I did significantly worse in this round than last year, but luckily while I probably scored 60% in this section, it was the only one I found to be much more difficult.
-One of the word problems contained a chart where you had to look at percentages of sales over a certain value, with 5 values over 3 kinds of transactions, and find the average percentage with no scratch paper or calculator...and they did not end in 5 or 0! I guessed on that part of the section as it ate up way too much time, and every question in that section there after was much easier to solve so over all I still did well. Hats off if you actually solved that.
-The 747/Cessna game had more rounds than last time, but it felt like you had an extra half second or so to make your assessment and answer. I probably missed 5-6 out of 40+, but that was better than last year.
-The radar game is no longer impossible in the last rounds, just difficult. And while most of the equations are still not able to be solved in 2 seconds by most of us, this time a good 30% of the questions ended in 5 or 0 and were solvable, and those convincingly came up when I was done with the "aircraft" and could actually look at the equations. Last year I solved maybe 2 equations, this year I solved about 10. I had 3-4 collisions total, but I think I COULD have avoided them if I was a second or so faster, where as last year I seriously think there was no way to stop collisions in a few of the rounds. That may be why there is now a disclaimer that "THERE ARE NO TRICK QUESTIONS" which wasn't on the sheet last year.
-The personality test was a bit harder, the answers felt more obvious last year, this year it was more tricky as I often felt I had no idea one way or the other between the 3 options, but I still think I did well. There were a lot of questions this year about getting along with others, but usually I had to mark that as "Least likely" to describe me as the other options were stuff like "Doing a good job" and "Paying attention to detail".
-The last section, I felt, was much easier than last year with shorter passages that used less complex language, though it was still not quite conversational English the passages were written in.

Overall, happy with my performance. Had 2 bananas and a 12oz Rebull, got a little dehydrated before my first bathroom break, but otherwise all went well. Good luck to all of you who took the test, I found out exactly 30 days after my test date that I passed last year.

Except that person posted screenshots of the exact test. With his initials. And his tower/position.
Totally different than making a recreation from memory of a constantly changing/fluid game.
Wow. I'm surprised they didn't fast track him to management.


Well-Known Member
Wow. I'm surprised they didn't fast track him to management.
I’m pretty sure one of the dudes implicated in the whole giving the BQ answers to the NBCFAE was or is a sup somewhere in the east coast, but I may be making that up.

I hope you get it this time man! We need bodies so badly it’s crazy how hard they make it for someone who gives a crap about aviation to get their shot.


Dergs favorite member
I’m pretty sure one of the dudes implicated in the whole giving the BQ answers to the NBCFAE was or is a sup somewhere in the east coast, but I may be making that up.

I hope you get it this time man! We need bodies so badly it’s crazy how hard they make it for someone who gives a crap about aviation to get their shot.
ZBW I think


Well-Known Member
I’m pretty sure one of the dudes implicated in the whole giving the BQ answers to the NBCFAE was or is a sup somewhere in the east coast, but I may be making that up.

I hope you get it this time man! We need bodies so badly it’s crazy how hard they make it for someone who gives a crap about aviation to get their shot.
ZBW I think
He is now....wasn't a sup at that time.
Has been at ZNY for a few years...unless he's moved this year.


New Member
This thread was very much needed! Thank you! I take the test in like five or so days and i needed to learn some strategies! Wish I could of seen those pics you drew up though


hen teaser
This thread was very much needed! Thank you! I take the test in like five or so days and i needed to learn some strategies! Wish I could of seen those pics you drew up though
The pictures were hosted via Facebook, and I think the links to the pictures were changed as they're still there. Problem is that I can't edit the post any longer. @Derg if there is a way to enable editing I will repost the pics.

Get ready for a long wait, nobody that I know of who took the AT-SAT when I did has heard anything yet(other than being placed in the pool). I hear there is a huge backlog with 2016-2018 people still before they get to the people who took it in late 2018 with non-prior experience.


Well-Known Member
I have a buddy from CTI who went through the ATSA and then medical/security process in Early 2017, and he's still waiting on his Class Date. The backlog is insane right now.

Meanwhile, 6 days a week every week at the Center. My area has less than 30 CPC's, but other areas are so overstaffed that we arent getting many academy grads, and our building is allowed to release people, and my area is going to lose 5 in the next few months. Gonna be hurting over the summer.