What You Need to Know About Air Traffic Skill Assessment Test

The Air Traffic Controller AT-SA Exam or the Air Traffic Skill Assessment Exam is a test that assesses the capability of the candidate to qualify as an Air Traffic Controller (ATC). The main purpose of this exam is to gauge the ability of the candidate to maintain organized air traffic based on safety protocols. The job of an Air Traffic Controller is a lucrative opportunity that promises high pay. However, the candidate has to pass the AT-SA test to qualify for the job. It is a competitive field and the candidates need a high score to distinguish themselves from the others.

An Overview of the Air Traffic Controller AT-SA Test

There are seven subtests in the AT-SA exam with a time span of 2 hours and 50 minutes.

Memory Game

The test begins with the memory game with any number from 1-9 that appears for just two seconds on the screen. The second number appears instantly. The candidate should find the difference between these two numbers using a number pad. Once the answer is typed in, the third number appears on the screen. Now the difference between the new number and the original answer must be determined in the test. There are 8 such tests with a time gap of two minutes for each calculation.


This is the next section which includes three tests that are progressively harder. Each section contains 10 questions. In the first section, multiple letters are flashed on the screen and each letter is equivalent to different number. For example: B=2 and so forth. In the next second, only the alphabets are flashed across the screen without the numbers. Candidates need to fill the number that matches the letter. The second section has different equations and it uses multiplication, addition, division and subtraction. In the last section, candidates need to solve two variable equations.

ATC Simulation

There are two parts in this subtest. The first part includes a basic map with small balls that fly in and the candidate needs to eliminate the balls before they collide with one another. The second part of the ATC Simulation test includes computing math problems.

Spatial Relationship

This test assesses the candidate’s ability to understand spatial relationship. The candidate gets 5-10 minutes to recognize spatial relationship. The test shows a map with a large and small airplane. There are instructions at the bottom of the screen and the candidates must determine which plane is to the right and which one is to the left by answering the questions Yes or No.

Personality test

With 108 questions, this subtest gives a list of three statements which must be chosen appropriately by the candidate based on personality.

Word problems

There are 15 questions in this subtest and the candidate gets 20 minutes to answer it. However, all questions must be answered to avoid penalization.

Reading comprehension

Candidates get 15 minutes to answer 18 questions in this subtest. There are six paragraphs in this test and each paragraph has three questions.

Overview of Hiring Process of Air Traffic Controllers

There are two applicant pools while applying for Air Traffic Controller position.

Pool 1: All U.S citizens and those who meet at least one of the three criterions as mentioned below.

  1. A graduate who has received a recommendation from an institute that participates in the Collegiate Training Initiative program.
  2. A veteran with aviation experience which he has obtained during the course of military experience.
  3. A veteran who can give a Certificate of Discharge within 120 days from active duty and eligible for VRA.

Pool 2: It includes all the U.S citizens who are not included in the Pool 1 criteria. However, these applicants must pass the biographical assessment test during the time of application.

How difficult is the AT-SA Test?

The Air Traffic Skill Assessment exam is not that difficult and with proper practice, speed and guidance candidates can pass the test with flying colors. There are various assessments done such as biographical assessment, personality test, word problems, charts, graphs and so forth.

Why Become an Air Traffic Controller?

Air Traffic Controllers have an annual wage of $122, 530 in the US. They also have a vacation of 23 days per year which increases with seniority levels. Along with a comprehensive retirement plan, these officers also get dental, health and life insurance coverage. As there are many qualified candidates applying every year, it is pertinent to pass the selection process with a good score. Moreover, the FAA plans to recruits more than 10,000 ATC specialists in the coming decade.

AT-SA Test Practice Tips

The test includes memory games, personality assessment and math. Applicants need to focus on basic problem solving abilities, enhancing memory power, solving two variable equations, logical reasoning and so forth. Candidates need to concentrate on word problems that are quite simple.

There are many online sources that offer AT-SA practice tips and preparation packages to those who are interested in becoming an ATC.

About the Guide

This article is a guide to assist applicants or candidates who are interested in becoming an Air Traffic Controller by passing the AT-SA test. The article throws light on the different subtests included in the exam and how to prepare for it. It also explains the different types of subtests that applicants can expect in the exam. The eligibility criteria for the exam are also highlighted in the article. Candidates can find several online practice sources to prepare for the AT-SA exams.

To sum things up

AT-SA is a screening test that proves the candidates are eligible to work as Air Traffic Controller. It assesses the ability of the candidate to control and regulate air traffic in a safe and organized manner. The job involves great pay and other benefits. But only 8% of the applicants pass the screening test so it is important to practice for the exam to score high. The Federal Aviation Administration plans to recruit more than 10,000 ATC by the year 2024