The ICAO English test – guidance and advice

In this article I am going to focus on a typical ICAO recommended Aviation English test, with emphasis mainly on Level 4 operational standard. Of course, airlines have implemented the ICAO guidelines in different ways and each test is different but the aims are the same. We will examine the different requirements from ICAO, the typical structure of the test. It is important to know what you will eventually face when training so you have a target and it can help focus on your strengths and weaknesses.

ICAO Level 4 requirements – an overview

ICAO English Test introduction

A typical Aviation English test is usually around 35 minutes, your assessor will be a subject matter expert in the aviation industry and the test is communicative. This means that you will not be expected to write a report/essay or complete a reading assessment. Reading and writing are still important but are not the main skills assessed here.

You will be assessed on your ability to use both phraseology and plain English to describe and analyse both routine and non-routine situations.

Test format

Your test may include the following components:

Picture description

You will most likely be given a number of pictures to describe and analyse. You will have to say what it is and/or what is happening, but it is not enough to just list different things. You must also look at why the main element of the picture happened, what happened before, what will happen next? Having knowledge of future and past verb forms is essential here. It is your chance to show off any extra language skills you may have without major time constraints that you would face in a flight deck role-play.

Role Play

You usually will have two video role-plays to work through, testing your ability to change from routine to non-routine communication. Something will happen to test you, usually two things. An example may be animals walking over the taxiway before take off. You will be listening to multiple transmissions, for example chatter, ATC/pilots but the key is something will be non-routine. You will be expected to make notes quickly about what unusual or unexpected event you hear, which you will then report about and answer questions.

ICAO grades

English language performance on a scale from 6 (highest) to 1 (lowest):