Frequently Asked Questions
What is ICAO English?
ICAO English is commonly used name of language proficiency qualification introduced by International Civil Aviation Organization. ICAO English mandating the pilots to attend specific language proficiency exam in order to evaluate their language skills in using of English language in situations requiring other than standardized aviation phraseology.
With regards to EASA flight crew licenses in most of the cases the wrong naming is used. ICAO English is used also to describe the language proficiency endorsement required by EASA. In such case both - ICAO English and EASA English are evaluated at the same time, thus the correct wording should be language proficiency or EASA English.
Procedures for language proficiency assessments are throughly described in ICAO Doc 9835.
What is Aviation English?
Aviation English is an unformal aviation language. No nation speaks it - all pilots understand it
Aviation English consists of all of the following:
complex of standardized messages (standard phraseology)
special three-letter codes abbreviation
coded messages (for METAR, TAF, NOTAM, etc)
technical English - e.g. related to the aircraft parts, technologies, systems, etc
plain text spoken in pre-determined order
and many more
What is ICAO English Level 4?
ICAO English level 4 is lowest level of English language proficiency accepted for operational linguistic use in aviation. Depending on the country which issued the flight crew license, ICAO English level 4 has different validity period.
Aviation English, ICAO Level 4
ICAO English Level 4 is the basic operational level of aviation English and ICAO English language proficiency. ICAO English Level 4 is allowing you to fly in all countries of the world. There is currently no airspace, traffic control, or airplane requiring ICAO English level above the operational level (ICAO English level 4). However, the language proficiency requirements can be more restricted (more demanding) by an aircraft operator or your employer (ie airline).
Operational level - ICAO English Level 4 is required by aviation regulations for all pilots to be allowed to fly airplanes in international setting since aviation English is used in aviation communication.
ICAO English level 4
ICAO English Level 4 is an approval to use aviation English language in air operations environment and communicate internationally.
Language proficiency exam is based on the following criteria:
ICAO English Level 4 - Pronunciation
We do not expect an
ICAO English expert level. We will spot that aviation English is not your first language. The most common mistakes are in "th" sound pronunciation - "think" pronounced as "sink"... But the content of your messages is easily comprehensible from the context.
ICAO English Level 4 - Sentence structure
Your sentence structure clearly expresses the intended content of your message. You can express time using various tenses. Your syntax is not flawless, but you can easily tell the difference between the past and the present, you can use plurals, and use various prepositions. You can tell the difference between "a" and "an". In case of more complex conversation, you generally leave it to others or you avoid constructing some more complex sentences.
ICAO English Level 4 - Spoken fluency
It does not take you long to find the right words to describe a situation or answer a question. It might take you a bit longer in some cases, but that does not mean serious problems.
ICAO English Level 4 - Vocabulary
Aviation English vocabulary extends with your flying experience. What we consider important is when your vocabulary is adequate to your flying experience. It is also important that you are able to communicate with other pilots and ATCs using your vocabulary. Regarding conversations about different topics, you can express yourself using your own words, describing or paraphrasing essentials of various topics.
ICAO English Level 4 - Message comprehension
We expect a bit more than just a plane aviation phraseology, aviation communications and its correct use. To acquire ICAO English LEVEL 4, you also need to be able to use simple language, not only the aviation English besides the standard aviation communication and aviation phraseology. You need to comprehend various situations. It is possible you will not understand immediately, but after repeating the message, you will understand the content of the message, or at least the context. You are not afraid to use "say again" phrase.
ICAO English Level 4 - Interaction
You are not afraid do speak. If you do not understand, you do not remain silent, but ask for clarification or use the magic aviators' phrase "say again".
grammatical and sentence structures
How do I get free advice?
Simply by contacting me! I will keep you posted on any new information coming up on my website. If you have any questions, comments, and/or concerns, do not hsitate to reach out. I will get back to you ASAP. Thank you!
Who can prepare me for the ICAO English exam?
Many people ask how to prepare for the ICAO English exam.
They often ask whether to work with a flight instructor or a language proficiency instructor .
The answer is simple - ideally you should work with a flight instructor who is also a language proficiency instructor.
We recommend language proficiency preparation provided by English instructors.
Most of the applicants failed the ICAO English proficiency exam because they did not have English language proficiency. The reason is not usually due to a lack of aviation knowledge. Most flight instructors cannot help you with grammar and pronunciation.
If you are interested in individual training, contact CaptainPilot.
How to prepare for ICAO English?
Any book or English language text helps, but reading about aviation English is especially useful. You get to see the right grammar structures and aviation English vocabulary with a number of professional terms.
You bought English textbook, started reading it, but from some reason, you stopped after the first ten pages?
English learning is not easy and it takes a great deal of time, energy, willpower, and endurance. Purchasing textbook is usually not sufficient.
Listen to English
You can listen to radio broadcast. If the broadcast is too hard for you to understand, you might want to start with something simpler.
One of the good ways is to listen to ATIS broadcast because you can check if you got the message!
Listen to ATC communication
You can use liveatc.net website which provides live radio broadcast from a number of places around the world.
EDDM (Munich, Germany) - good quality
KJFK (New York, USA) - might be harder to understand
KSFO (San Francisco, USA) - might be harder to understand
Aviation English course
Taking part in one-to-one language proficiency training course, you effectively improve your language proficiency.
Many applicants are not successful due to the lack of grammar knowledge. There are several websites and materials available online for free. Make use of some.
Foreign language cannot be learnt in a matter of hours. You can, however, prepare yourself for ICAO English exam.
ICAO Englsih language exam allows us to assess your true knowledge only if you don't know the exam content beforehand and you cannot be prepared for specific questions. You therefore have to face events and contexts which might be non-standard or unexpected.
We don't assess the technical correctness of your answer. ICAO English exam is a technical exam, but not focused on writing or standard aviation phraseology. Don't be afraid to say something you're not sure about in the context of aviation.
ICAO English exam is not a license skill test or license proficiency check. Language proficiency examiners don't assess your technical aviation knowledge and skills. Don't be afraid to say something with incorrect content, as long as your ICAO English is perfect, there's nothing to worry!
What is EASA English?
EASA English is name of language proficiency qualification introduced by Ec 1178/2011, Part FCL, FCL.055. EASA English mandates pilots to attend specific language proficiency exam in order to evaluate their language skills in using of English language in situations requiring other than standardized aviation phraseology.
With regards to EASA flight crew licenses in most of the cases the wrong naming is used. ICAO English is used instead of EASA English to describe the language proficiency endorsement required by EASA. In such case both - ICAO English and EASA English are evaluated at the same time, thus the correct wording should be language proficiency or EASA English.
Procedures for language proficiency assessments are throughly described in Part FCL, FCL.055 and in respective acceptable means of compliance.
What is ICAO English level 5?
ICAO English Level 5 is intermediate level of language proficiency qualification evaluated in accordance with ICAO Doc 9835 rating scale. ICAO English level 5 is so-called "advanced" level in accordance with ICAO phraseology.
Aviation English, ICAO Level 5
ICAO Level 5 is so-called Advanced ICAO level and is considered to be something between the basic operational level and expert language proficiency level.
ICAO English Level 5 is the advanced level of aviation English and ICAO English language proficiency. Most Exam candidates whose first language is not English are usually not able to acquire ICAO English Level 6. However, if they possess language knowledge and abilities above ICAO English Level 4, they often get ICAO LEVEL 5.
An extended language proficiency level (ICAO Level 5) is somewhere between an Expert level (ICAO English Level 6) and a minimal operational level (ICAO English Level 4). Advanced ICAO English level - ICAO English Level 5 is required by most of the airline operators as the minimum level of aviation English.
ICAO Level 5 exam is valid for 6 years when endorsed to the EASA flight crew license.
ICAO Language proficiency exam is based on the following criteria:
ICAO English Level 5 - Pronunciation
Your pronunciation goes without thinking and is more or less correct. English Native speakers can tell that aviation English is not your first language, but your aviation English is without substantial mistakes. Simply put - your English is very good, the only drawback being your accent.
ICAO English Level 5 - Sentence structure
You might not always be successful constructing complicated sentence structures but you do try to. Your knowledge of grammar is exceptional and you use it without hesitation.
ICAO English Level 5 - Spoken fluency
You speak fluently and on point. It does not take you long to find right answer to question. You react swiftly - without making long pauses to think - your speech is very fluent.
ICAO English Level 5 - Vocabulary
You can find the right words for the right situations. The extent of your vocabulary compared to your flying experience is exceptional. You sometimes even use idioms or expressions typical for English slang. However, you might find it difficult to talk about issues you have not heard before, eg. some non-aviation topics.
ICAO English Level 5 - Message comprehension
You find it easy to comprehend messages when you know what to expect. But you can comprehend much more than just messages in a familiar context. In fact, you have no problems with understanding even in new situations. You understand English radio broadcast and aviation English radio communication.
ICAO English Level 5 - Interaction
In case of misunderstanding, you can manage much more than just "say again" phrase. You are not afraid to actively inquire and ask for clarifications. You try to make message clear and communicate comprehensibly. You can start and maintain meaningful dialogue.
grammatical and sentence structures
What is ICAO English Level 6?
ICAO English Level 6 is highest rating of language proficiency qualification evaluated in accordance with ICAO Doc 9835 rating scale. Once pilot obtains ICAO English Level 6, it is valid for lifetime. However other requirements such as medical certificate, typerating and other due qualifications shall be valid in order to exercise the privileges of ICAO English level 6.
Aviation English, ICAO Level 6
You are an Aviation English Expert!
ICAO Level 6 is so-called
Expert ICAO level and is considered to be the highest level you can get with regards to the ICAO language proficiency exam.
Pilots who have proven their ICAO English language proficiency at ICAO English Level 6 are not required to revalidate their ICAO language proficiency. The ICAO language proficiency has lifetime validity.
What does it mean to be a ICAO English language expert?
ICAO English language proficiency at ICAO English Level 6 is called "Expert". ICAO English Level 6 is also recognized as native level of ICAO English proficiency.
Idiomatic speech is an essence of ICAO English Level 6.
It is, however, not entirely true. Due to the strict requirements and applicants' frequent use of non-standard pronunciation, even native speakers do not always receive ICAO
English Level 6 language proficiency.
Apart from a complex scope of Exam candidates' vocabulary, a requirement for ICAO English Level 6 proficiency is also an excellent command of grammar and pronunciation. Hundreds, not even thousands of flight hours will not guarantee ICAO English Level 6. It is, however, one of the many prerequisites.
ICAO English Language proficiency exam is based on the following criteria:
ICAO English Level 6 - Pronunciation
Your pronunciation is almost flawless. There might be some negligible differences between pronunciation of native speakers and that of yours. However, nothing causing any confusion.
ICAO English Level 6 - Sentence structure
You have perfect command of the most advanced grammar. Even the most complex sentences are mistake-free or almost mistake-free and used often.
ICAO English Level 6 - Spoken fluency
Your fluency is natural and swift. Your performance is very natural.
Anytime you speak English, your speech is complex and fluent. You use various prosodic features to modify the speech. You use changes in intonation, tone, stress, and rhythm to establish a substantial level of communication.
ICAO English Level 6 - Vocabulary
You can talk about any topic - or almost any topic - whether you are familiar with it or not. You use idioms and idiomatic speech in your normal daily speech. Apart from the knowledge of words, idioms, or synonyms, you use them in right contexts.
ICAO English Level 6 - Message comprehension
You understand everything. Not just guessing from context. If you understand English lyrics, cartoons, or non-standard expressions, you might have good predispositions for ICAO English Level 6 proficiency.
ICAO English Level 6 - Interaction
Your interaction in all situations is natural and simple. You regularly use verbal and non-verbal expressions.
grammatical and sentence structures
What is ICAO English test?
ICAO English test or
ICAO English assessment is the procedure established by
ICAO Doc 9835 and if done for EASA flight crew license holder also by Ec 1178/2011, Part FCL FCL.055 to assess the
language skills and proficiency of exam candidate.
ICAO English test content and
assessment methods are approved and supervised by specific National Aviation Authority. Provider of the
ICAO English test is organization authorized by National Aviation Authority called Testing Service Provider and in for EASA flight crew license Language testing body.