Over the nine years that I’ve been a DPE, I’ve been told 3 times my oral part of the check ride took to long. There are a lot of things we have to cover and all of it right out of the PTS but believe it or not, my average oral last just over an hour and a half (that’s after the initial paperwork is looked over).
I combine several items from the PTS to make the oral go smoothly and quickly. For example I won’t ask what the weather minimums are for, say, Class C or D airspace but when we are looking at a TAF I will ask when will it be VFR (or IFR) at an airport within Class C or D airspace. Combining tasks saves time and still covers the requirements of the PTS.
So why do some orals take longer than an hour and a half? Generally, there are two reasons, the applicant doesn’t know his/her stuff and is doing poorly, or the applicant isn’t listening to the question and is giving a long explanation.
I don’t’ know what the statistics are but very few people fail the oral, it does happen, but it’s rare. What most DPEs do when a weak spot is found is move to a different subject for a while and return to the problem area. Early in the test we don’t know if the applicant is just nervous and having a slow time recalling information or if the applicant just isn’t prepared. If the applicant isn’t prepared, it will become readily apparent as we continue through the tasks.
The second reason orals take longer than normal is the applicant doesn’t listen to the question and answers only that question. They may hear the question but give a long explanation on how they got their answer. For example, I recently asked an applicant how scanning for traffic at night differed from scanning for traffic during the day. The applicant gave me a wonderful explanation on how the eye works before answering “at night we use off center viewing”. So I got a 5 minute explanation for a 3 second answer. There was nothing wrong with his explanation or answer but I didn’t ask how the eye worked, I just wanted to know how we scan for traffic at night. You can see how the oral can get rather long if we keep getting these long answers. (I generally won’t interrupt a long answer. It tends to destroy the applicants confidence.)
Another reason for just answering what was asked, I have had people give me the right answer but for totally the wrong reason. Do you think a DPE will pick up on the wrong reason and explore your knowledge in that area a little bit more? You can count on it.
Here’s my advice, listen to the question and answer just that question. If the DPE wants more info, he/she will ask for it. This will keep your oral short and it will keep you from exposing any areas that you might be a little unsure of.