Anthony Foxcroft is the CFI of Aviation Training
Last year I embarked upon the process of converting my South African ATPL to an EASA licence. In EASA states, attendance at an approved ground school is mandatory before you will be allowed to write the exams. Candidates with sufficient experience are given a waiver of this requirement but are still required to write all 13 exams.
Even so, it is a massive undertaking and to make things more interesting I was juggling that with the demands of family life and a full-time airline job flying 90 hours a month. It was hard work, but I was able to complete everything in 6 months.
I attribute a large part of that to the fact that, although my initial training was 20 years ago, I had studied to gain knowledge for a professional career, and not just to pass the exams. The knowledge was all still there and came back to me quickly once I got the gears turning again.
Something else that has changed in that time is that it has become the norm for CPL students to write 1 subject at a time and often take longer than a year to pass them all. Guidance from EASA is that a CPL ground school must be at least 250 hours. As this is only the classroom time you could reasonably expect to double that to 500 hours with your own study and revision. This means that a student studying diligently for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week should be done in just over 3 months. Add in the Instrument Rating and 4-5 months should be easily achievable.
Many subjects are interrelated and fit together to form the knowledge base required of a commercial pilot. Studying the subjects in isolation is what causes many people to struggle with the IR exam as that requires you to apply knowledge from all met, law, navigation and radio aids to be successful.