I'm studying for the FAA Commercial Written test on my own in hopes I will have that test done before the end of September. No important date in September, I just think that the end of September would be a good time. In any case, I am going through my first pass of the Gleim Commercial test prep book. I am using this first pass to identify which areas I am already strong on and which areas I need to study.
What I'm finding is, I know the knowledge items related to activities I've done recently or often or have integrated into my regular flying. For instance, I did extremely well on flight operations, aeronautical decision making, aircraft performance, density altitude, weight and balance, navigation, charts, en route, climb and descent time, distance, heading, fuel required calculations and aviation weather. I did good-enough-to-pass on aircraft systems and instruments, ATC and airspace. I need to study advanced aerodynamics concepts and brush up on the old aviation weather services.
This makes sense. I've had to use all of the skills and knowledge I have regarding what I would call flight planning often in the last 3 months with my long cross countries and flying various planes at various weights (heavy and light) in various conditions (low and high density altitude for instance). I've had to actually think about climb rates and time and fuel burn during climb vs during cruise, etc. I exercise ADM on every flight. So the skills/knowledge I've used in real life are the ones that I am strong at.
Aerodynamics concepts, not so much. Not that I don't have a good grasp of aerodynamics, I do. However, I don't have the correct terminology engrained in my brain any more. I haven't had to use it (the terminology) since I studied for my Private written and oral. The nice thing about going back and re-studying these same concepts now after literally hundreds of hours more flight experience, is the concepts have much greater meaning to me now. When I study different aspects of aerodynamics now, I can mentally visualize and feel what I'm reading about in a way I couldn't do two years ago. I have the experience that goes with the concepts today. As I learn and experience, my understanding evolves. Its like peeling an onion and finding more and more different layers of complexity and simplicity at the same time. It is one of the things I love most about flying, the constant learning and how no matter how much you think you know, there is always more to learn.
My daughter said once, "Did you know? When you think, your brain sparkles."
I can feel my brain sparkling right now and it is pretty fun :)