Gearing up for any endeavor involves all sorts of planning, and the military flight aptitude test is no different. Here is a list of some of the most important activities to tackle before you sit down for the test, including prioritizing your preferred service branches, making and following a study schedule, and staying relaxed in the day or two before exam time.

Determine which service you want to fly for

Before you take a flight aptitude test, spend some time thinking seriously about what you want to fly and for whom. At the same time, be realistic about any physical or age limitations you may have.

Do you wear corrective lenses? Are you too old for the Air Force program but young enough for the Army? Is your eventual goal to fly on a carrier? You must ask yourself all these questions and more to get a practical handle on which test to focus on.

Attack your weak areas

If you already fly, you know the importance of preflight planning. You’d never make a long cross-country flight without having a plan for adverse weather, fuel stops, and where the good places to eat are. The same holds true for taking your military flight aptitude test (except maybe for mapping out the food stops).

You need to make a plan based on where you perceive your skills are, where they need to be, and how long you have to get them there.

Stick to your study plan

“Stick to the plan.” sounds like a simple statement, but so does “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” After you have a plan, look at it as though you’re on a determined diet; you have to put in the work to get the results you want.

At the same time, don’t beat yourself up if you stumble occasionally. Maybe your plan is to set aside two hours a day to do nothing but practice for the exam, but then you go out for a quick lunch and end up being gone all day.

Don’t give up completely; just start fresh the next day and get back on track.

Take flying lessons or remain current

The best way to maximize your score on the aerodynamics and spatial orientation sections of the test is getting some actual “stick-and-rudder” time. The best course of action is to obtain your pilot’s license before you take the exam. Doing so shows the selection board that you’re a dedicated and serious pilot candidate and vastly improves your flight scores. However, even a couple of hours of lessons can give you an edge.

The Air Force actually gives you a higher selection point value — up to 200 flight hours — for previous flight experience.

Boost your vocabulary and read

Although we recommend studying formal language topics such as analogy relationships and reading comprehension as part of your study plan, one of the best ways to keep your language skills fresh is to read whatever you can get your hands on — light novels, old textbooks, anything.

Study, and really study, prefixes, suffixes, and roots. If you become close friends with these subjects, the vocabulary test will be a breeze.

Refresh your mathematical and science skills

On the science front, you need to know basic biology, chemistry, and physics; important math topics include trigonometry, algebra, and geometry. Keep in mind that the tests don’t focus on calculus, so don’t review that.

Finally, work with the mathematical order of operations (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction) until it becomes second nature.

Memorize basic mathematical and scientific formulas and laws

The last thing you want to be doing during the test is fumbling for basic formulas and scientific laws. To give yourself an edge, commit to memory the main formulas you need to know, including the following: area, perimeter, volume, distance and temperature conversion, physics, and chemistry.

Use training aids

Flashcards, computer programs, word games, and other training aids can all help you perform better on the test and make your studying entertaining. Flashcards are especially good for vocabulary building; you might find that using them first thing in the morning and last thing at night worked well for him.

Take practice exams

As part of your preparation for the real-life test, you should sit down and take each practice exam in Part IV just like you were sitting for the actual service branch test. One exception: If you have to exceed the time requirements to complete a section, go ahead and do it; at this point, answering all the questions is more important than adhering to the strict time limit.

Just realize that you’re doing so and keep track of how far you go over; you’ll want to work on your time management before the real deal. Complete one test at a time, and don’t take the next test until you’ve shored up any weak spots you identify with the most recent test.

Take your formal practice tests in an unfamiliar setting, or at least somewhere different from where you study. If you study at the library, go to a different section of the library. Subconsciously, this change of scenery helps you formally process the test as a real-world event and not just another study effort.

Get plenty of rest prior to the exam

As hard as getting to sleep the night before the test may be, a restful night really does pay off on test day. Figure out what time you need to get up and start adjusting your sleep schedule around that time for at least two weeks prior to the exam.

The night before the test — real or practice — do something relaxing like going out for dinner and a movie and then go to bed early. (Depressants and stimulants may hamper your sleep plan, though, so you may want to lay off the booze at dinner and the sugary candy at the theater.)