So, right after earning my private, one of my first buys was Sporty’s Instrument Rating Course. Then it sat on my bookshelf… for about a year.
I wanted to build some time and experience (and cash) before I embarked on an instrument rating. And perhaps more than that, I wasn’t eager to sit through hours and hours of instrument ground school — this stuff isn’t known for being the most engaging material, after all.
But it didn’t take too long before I finally bit the bullet. After canceling cross countries because of low cloud layers enroute and a flight with my instructor in marginal VFR, I started getting really excited about becoming instrument rated. So I pulled the Sporty’s Course off my shelf and got ready to learn.
I’m no stranger to self-study — I used the ASA’s DVD ground school for my private. Since I’d heard good things about the Sporty’s course, so I decided to try that on this go around.
In a nutshell, the Sporty’s course is really good — but it’s not perfect.
When you order the course, you have the choice of format: DVDs, online, or iPad app. That’s a nice feature, but since the content is the same, it would be nicer if buying the DVDs automatically gave you access to the other two. I like watching the DVDs on my big screen TV at home, but on a few recent business trips being able to study with the iPad app would have been a huge plus.
More importantly, it would have made Sporty’s course a no-brainer versus some competing products…
The content is solid. The course is broken into 7 discs, and each one covers a separate topic. My concern about dry material wasn’t really ever a problem — the really mind-numbing stuff is broken up with in-flight video and interesting vignettes with Richard Collins. It’s also obvious that Sporty’s has done a good job of updating the course over the years. While it’s clear that some footage is very old, there’s plenty of new footage mixed in on glass cockpits and GPS navigation.
Plus, it’s kinda fun to watch Rob Reider spontaneously get younger and older.
The only real content complaint about the course is that they sometimes introduce terms out of sequence. For instance, they talk about circling approach minima before they define what a circling approach is in the first place. Instrument students with a yellow belt in Google-fu shouldn’t get too hung up by that.
Sporty’s does test prep well. Their “Study Buddy” website is included in the course — your DVD case includes a code on the back cover of the paper insert inside the box. The site is nice for two big reasons: it’s comparable with both PC and Macintosh, and you don’t need to worry about downloading question updates.
Like ASA, you just need to score above 80% on two full practice tests to get the endorsement to take the FAA written exam.
The Sporty’s course also includes a flight syllabus and an electronic copy of the instrument practical test standards. My personal preference is not to use the syllabus they provide — I got a lot out of finishing ground school before I started the flight portion of IFR training.
At the end of the day, I’d recommend Sporty’s Instrument Rating Course. It does a really good job of combining practical IFR flying advice with the more cut and dry stuff that the FAA wants you to know. Best of all, it’s a reference you can come back to anytime you want, unlike a classroom-based ground school course.
Most importantly, it’ll help you pass your FAA knowledge test. I scored a 90% on my instrument written without it ever feeling like “work”.