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Introduction to the CASA exam system
CASA conducts the flight crew licence exams using software referred to as PEXO, which uses the internet to conduct exam business. The employment of the internet supports timely availability of exams, virtually instantaneous turnaround of exam results, and a convenient one-stop shop for the needs of candidates. This has particular importance for Australia due to its geography, demographic spread and long lines of communication.
For simplicity, the CASA flight crew exam system may be considered as two integrated components - exam standards and exam delivery.
CASA retains direct control of exam standards which include standards development and setting, the promulgation of syllabi of (aeronautical knowledge) training, development of exam questions, exam setting, exam assessment and recording of results.
Exam delivery comprises the tasks of processing exam applications including the collection of fees, arranging exam sessions at agreed dates and times, organising and administering exam venues and procedures, presenting the required exams for the candidates, supervising the conduct of exams, and issuing (and re-issuing) result advice which includes a knowledge deficiency report (KDR).
The CASA component of exam delivery is designed as a convenient one-stop shop for exam candidates.
CASA has assigned the component of exam delivery to approved sectors of the Australian aviation industry. Candidates should contact approved industry delivery providers directly on exam delivery issues, and not CASA.
RPL and PPL-type exams
The RPL and PPL exams are available at approximately 300 approved flying training schools throughout Australia, where the HOOs are the principal invigilator. At some schools the Private IFR exam (PIFR) is also available.
CASA has delegated an independent commercial company, Aspeq, to supervise the professional exams in Australia.
The professional exams are those for (aeroplane, helicopter and balloon) CPL, (aeroplane and helicopter) ATPL, and rating exams for command instrument rating, (aeroplane and helicopter) agricultural rating and pilot instructor rating - common (PIRC). Aspeq also conducts all types of RPL and PPL exams.
Aspeq exam venues are available in a number of towns and cities throughout Australia. For more information on Aspeq venues, bookings and fees, refer to the Aspeq website.
PEXO, meaning pilot examination office, is an integral component of CASA flight crew licensing entry control. Its sole purpose is to enable eligible applicants to sit the relevant exams towards qualifying for the issue of a licence or rating. Once a candidate has passed a required flight crew exam, the purpose has been served.
It is an automated system designed principally for candidates who progress through the Australian system of flying and aeronautical knowledge training, and who seek to sit for flight crew exams of only one aircraft category (known as mainstream candidates). It can also cater for other (non-mainstream) candidates, which however would require manual intervention by flight crew licensing staff. As manual intervention requires time, non-mainstream candidates are advised to plan ahead and advise CASA (flight crew licensing) well in advance of their requirements.
In exceptional circumstances, when the automated system has a temporary unserviceability after the candidates have submitted the exams (or the system has auto-submitted them), CASA may revert to manual processing of the scoring and delivery of the result advice and KDR, which would involve a longer turnaround of exam results. The reversion to manual processing does not include delivery of hardcopy version of exams to exam centres.
For the purpose of CASA flight crew licensing, the PEXO delivers flight crew exams only in Australia. Only eligible candidates may apply to sit CASA flight crew exams.
CASA has not excluded industry organisations from using the brand name PEXO but candidates should be aware that its usage by industry organisations and/or individuals in promoting aeronautical knowledge training courses, commercially published books, practice exams (hardcopy or electronic form), etc. does not in any way signify CASA’s approval or endorsement of these courses or material, nor imply that these organisations and/or individuals write exam questions on behalf of CASA.
Eligible exam applicants
Candidates shall possess an ARN and the relevant CASA pre-requisite qualifications before they may book and attempt most flight crew exams.
Anticipating obtaining a pre-requisite qualification will not be accepted by CASA as equivalent to possessing one. See the list of exam requiring the respective pre-requisite qualifications.
During online bookings, PEXO automatically ascertains that the candidate holds the pre-requisite qualification. PEXO will not accept the booking if the applicant is not eligible. Thus, if an online booking is unsuccessful, one possible reason could be the lack of pre-requisite qualification.
Ineligible exam applicants
Apart from those not having an ARN or the mandatory pre-requisite qualifications to sit the relevant exam, the following are ineligible applicants for CASA exams.
Has Australian licence or exam credit
Once a flight crew exam has been passed, or the flight crew licence issued, there is no further entitlement to sit the same exam (for the licence). CASA will not permit an applicant, who holds a licence, rating or its exam credits, to re-sit the same exam(s).
A candidate who has been suspended from CASA exams will not be permitted to attempt any exam until the suspension period is completed or has been lifted.
It is important that a candidate should, prior to booking any exam, read CASA advice on the need to exercise personal responsibility when planning their exam requirements.
Rules of conduct for examination candidates
In an exam session, candidates are required to follow the CASA rules of conduct for examination candidates. Additionally the supervisors may have their school or company rules for exam sessions they conduct for CASA. Provided these school or company rules are not unreasonable or unsafe, and do not contradict or change the CASA rules, CASA expects candidates to abide by them.
CASA flight crew exams are managed and invigilated by CASA approved supervisors in a two-tier system.
PEXO registrars and invigilators process applications for sittings, accept payments, allocate the exam sessions to candidates, provide pre and post exam advice as well as CASA specified exam material, supervise the exam session, and issue (and re-issue) the RA/KDR.
Candidates shall address enquiries and requests for change/cancellation of exam sessions and venues directly to the supervisors. Candidates should not contact CASA on any of these administrative matters.
All bookings and inquiries for exams should be directed to a PEXO registrar, which includes Aspeq.
PEXO hours of operation
CASA approves the following business days/hours for the respective exams:
- Aspeq may set the days and times for the conduct of exams booked through them. These would be influenced by the volume and frequency of the local requirements. More significantly, the availability of exam sessions at Aspeq venues may be subjected to bookings by other candidates. Therefore, candidates are advised to make early booking arrangements with Aspeq if they desire a preferred date/period.
- The RPL/PPL exams are available everyday, subject to the business activities of the approved schools conducting the PEXO exam.
Each exam sat separately has a CASA exam fee and a separate supervision fee. The CASA exam fee for each exam is AUD$65, the supervision fee will vary with the duration of the exam. When booking your exam, normally Aspeq or the flying school will require you to pay the full exam cost (including both the CASA fee and their supervision fee) and once you have completed your examination, CASA would recover the CASA fee from that organisation.
Candidates can find Aspeq supervision fees on the Aspeq website.
Materials required during exams
CASA exams in most cases require material. The candidate should check what supporting material will be required for the exam to be undertaken, well before the exam session. Additionally, the candidate should ascertain what the supervisor will be providing, and what the candidate must provide themselves. For details, see required exam materials.
A typical PEXO flight crew exam consists of a number of questions that tests the published syllabus of aeronautical knowledge training in as comprehensive a coverage as may be possible under a finite period of time.
Candidates are strongly advised to familiarise themselves with the types of PEXO question styles/types and the associated exam rules. Read the full details on CASA style of exam questions on the website.
An interactive eLearning module is available on CASA’s Aviationworx for candidates to learn about the login process, the screen layout and to attempt some simple questions to get used to how PEXO works.
Candidates are strongly advised to utilise this facility, as familiarity with PEXO features may be useful in their examinations.
What is an interrupted exam?
During the conduct of an exam, the examination process may be interrupted for any of a variety of reasons, e.g. loss of power or internet connection. It is possible to resume the exam from the same point, i.e. with the questions and answers already marked and the same time remaining. For more information on how it may or may not affect an exam candidate read recovery of interrupted exams
Re-training after a failed attempt
Failing an exam is indicative of knowledge deficiency, which is a safety-related issue. CASA requires the unsuccessful candidate to undergo re-training before they may be permitted to re-attempt the failed exam.
The listed re-training period is the minimum that a candidate is required to observe before re-attempting the exam. The candidate is advised to consult their instructor on whether the minimum period is adequate for their personal case. The likelihood of further failure cannot be discounted if the candidate elects to re-sit the examination without adequate and satisfactory re-training.
CASA policy does not permit any reduction of the listed re-training period for any candidate. PEXO controls the re-training period automatically.
A candidate is personally responsible for planning and managing their own activities including the possibility of personal travel plans or a booked flight test date conflicting with an unsuccessful exam attempt and the consequential re-training period.
Overseas students and re-training period
If a candidate intends to depart from Australia after completing the required exams and flight training, they are advised to make allowance for the possibility of an unsuccessful exam sitting and the consequential re-training period.
CASA will not accept the expiry of the candidate’s visa or the limited time they have in Australia to finish the exams as justification to bypass the re-training period.
The candidate should plan for sufficient time to cater for the possibilities of unsuccessful exam attempts. Alternatively, the candidate may re-sit the failed exam(s) on a return to Australia.
Multi subject-part exams
Exam candidates are reminded that the CASA flight crew exam for CPL and ATPL (for both aeroplane and helicopter categories) consist of several multi subject-part exams (hereafter referred to as subject exams), each of which is to be attempted as an individual exam. To be awarded a pass in the CPL or ATPL exam, all the subject exams must be passed within a prescribed period of time, called a window.
Overseas pilots aspiring for the award of an Australian CPL or ATPL exam pass are also required to pass their required subject-parts within a window.
CASA advises intending candidates not to begin attempting the CPL or ATPL exam unless they have undertaken the relevant aeronautical knowledge training to a satisfactory standard, and if on a training course, have been assessed by the instructor as ready to sit the exam, and most importantly, is confident of passing the entire set of subject-part exams within the window.
A full CPL or ATPL theory credit will only be awarded once all subject-parts have been passed within one window.
Read more information about the definition of re-training and exam windows.
Candidates are reminded that it is their responsibility to manage their exams allowing for:
- Their own unique needs, travel plans, restrictions and/or other commitments
- The possibility of illness
- Work or employment related commitments/requirements
- The possibility of failures, including re-training periods that may apply
- Visa restrictions or limitations
- The requirement to complete a bundle of subject-parts, eg the 7 individual subject-parts required to achieve either a full CPL or ATPL theory credit, within one 'window';
- Take personal responsibility for own unique needs, plans, restrictions and/or problems;
- Candidates from abroad shall note that the CASA re-training period following a failed exam is a safety-related issue, and cannot be reduced on the basis of the candidate's personal or administrative requirements (e.g. visa);
- Candidates domiciled in Australia and planning to travel abroad for business, holidays or on personal issues shall also note that the exam re-training period will not be reduced. They may re-attempt the exam(s) on their return to Australia.
Candidates are reminded that the exam content (questions) and all material provided are only for the sitting of the exam and must not be copied or taken out of the exam room for study, training or any other purposes. This rule includes all calculations, writings, drawings or scribbling done on the scribble pad provided.
Any breach of the rules may give CASA grounds for taking action against the candidate under CAR 298A, which action could lead to the outcome indicated in CAR 298A (5).
PEXO has the following online exams:
- Recreational pilot licence (aeroplane, helicopter and navigation) (RPLA, RPLH and RPLN)
- Private pilot licence (aeroplane and helicopter) (PPLA and PPLH)
- Commercial pilot licence (aeroplane and helicopter, multi-parts exams) (CPL)
- Commercial pilot licence balloon (multi-parts exams) (CPL balloon)
- Air transport pilot licence (aeroplane and helicopter, multi-parts exams) (ATPL)
- Private IFR rating (PIFR)
- Command instrument rating (IREX)
- Aerial application rating (aeroplane and helicopter) (AGRA) (AGRH)
- Pilot instructor rating - common (PIRC)
The rarely used student flight engineer exams remain as hardcopy exams and may be booked with 3 weeks notice provided to Aspeq and CASA flight crew licensing.
CASA does not accept telephone or email requests for post-exam discussion or debrief.
Candidates may apply for a re-assessment of their marked exam; the fee is $130. For more information, refer to the re-assessment of exam page.
There is also a cost-free facility for candidates to submit observations, comments or suggestions to assist CASA improve the exam system. Refer to the post exam comment page.
Amending flight crew exam records
An ARN holder’s flight crew exam record is an official document, listing the history of exam undertakings. Thus, in general CASA does not accept requests to amend the CASA records. However, in some exceptional circumstances there may be reasonable grounds to approve such applications. Read full details of what exam record may be approved by CASA for amendment, and the application process and associated cost.