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How is my performance on the ICAO LPR Test evaluated

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is responsible for the international standardization of aeronautical communications.

Language proficiency criteria
Language proficiency

The language descriptors defined by ICAO provides detailed guidelines on how aviation personnel’s language proficiency is assessed based on their performance in each of those descriptors.

What is Language Proficiency?

Language proficiency is not merely knowledge of a set of grammar rules, vocabulary and ways of pronouncing sounds. It is a complex interaction of that knowledge with a number of skills and abilities.

Linguistic competence refers to the knowledge and meaningful use of the linguistic features of a given language or languages. When it comes to Listening and Speaking, the linguistic competence requires lexical (using single words or mixed expressions), grammatical (following rules of syntax and morphology), semantic (meanings and relationships of meanings) and phonological (sounds, syllable structure, sentence stress,rhythm and intonation) skills.

They language competence can be inferred in individuals only by observing the language performance of those individuals. The factors that may impact language proficiency, are, levels of attention, mood, stress, memory and processing abilities. These factors will, in turn, influence levels of performance in the areas of fluency, comprehension and interaction.

How is the ICAO rating scale applied ?

Assessors both use the ICAO rating scale to mark your performance. The ICAO rating scale was designed by an expert panel on behalf of ICAO and for the ICAO LPR Test.

ICAO rating scale levels
ICAO rating scale

You are tested in six language areas: Pronunciation, vocabulary, structure, fluency, comprehension and interaction. You are only tested for your listening and speaking skill. You are not being tested for reading or writing.

The ICAO rating scale has six levels. Level 1 being the lowest and level 6 the highest you can achieve. Level 4 is the so called ‘operational’ level. In order to pass the test, you will need to achieve at least a level 4.

There is no cumulative score. This is a rule that was defined by ICAO. It means that you need to achieve at least a level 4 in every one of the six criteria that are being tested. For example, let’s assume you achieve the following score:

Pronunciation: 4 Structure: 3 Vocabulary: 4 Fluency: 4 Comprehension: 5 Interaction: 4

The average score is a 4. The lowest score however is a 3 for structure, which means that this result would still be a fail.


Pronunciation


Pronunciation
Pronunciation

Level 3 (Pre-operational): Pronunciation, stress, rhythm and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional variation and frequently interfere with ease of understanding.

Accent at this Pre-operational Level 3 is so strong as to render comprehension by an international community of aeronautical radiotelephony used very difficult or impossible. It should be noted that native or second-language speakers may be assessed at this level in cases where a regional variety of the language has not been sufficiently attenuated.

Level 4 (Operational): Pronunciation, stress, rhythm and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional variation, but only some times interfere with ease of understanding.

Operational Level 4 speakers demonstrate a marked accent, or localized regional variety of English. Occasionally, a proficient listener may have to pay close attention to understand or may have to clarify something from time to time. Operational Level 4 is certainly not a perfect level of proficiency; it is the minimum level of proficiency determined to be safe for air traffic control communications. While it is not an Expert level, it is important to keep in mind that pronunciation plays the critical role in aiding comprehension between two non-native speakers of English.

Level 5 (Extended): Pronunciation, stress, rhythm and intonation, though influenced by the first language or regional variation, rarely interfere with ease of understanding.

Extended Level 5 speakers demonstrate a marked accent, or localised regional variety of English, but one which rarely interferes with how easily understood their speech is. They are always clear and understandable, although, only occasionally, a proficient listener may have to pay close attention.

Level 6 (Expert): Pronunciation, stress, rhythm and intonation, though possibly influenced by the first language or regional variation, almost never interfere with ease of understanding.

An Expert Level 6 speaker may be a speaker of English as a first language with a widely understood dialect or may be a very proficient speaker, again with a widely used or understood accent and/or dialect. The speakers' accent or dialect may or may not identify them as second-language users, but the pronunciation patterns or any difficulties or ''mistakes'' almost never interfere with the ease with which they are understood. Expert speakers are always clear and understandable.


Vocabulary


Vocabulary
Vocabulary

Level 3 (Pre-operational): Vocabulary range and accuracy are often sufficient to communicate on common, concrete or work-related topics, but range is limited and the word choice often inappropriate. Is often unable to paraphrase successfully when lacking vocabulary.

Gaps in vocabulary knowledge and/or choice of wring or non-existent words are apparent at this level. This has a negative impact on fluency or results in error which could lead to misunderstandings. The frequent inability to paraphrase unknown words or in the process of clarification makes accurate communication impossible.

Level 4 (Operational): Vocabulary range and accuracy are usually sufficient to communicate effectively on common, concrete and work-related topics. Can often paraphrase successfully when lacking vocabulary in unusual or unexpected circumstances.

An Operational Level 4 speaker will likely not have a well-developed sensitivity to register. A speaker at this level will usually be able to manage communication on work-related topics, but may some times need clarification. When faced with a communication breakdown, an Operational Level 4 speaker can paraphrase and negotiate meaning so that the message is understood. The ability to paraphrase includes appropriate choices of simple vocabulary and considerate use of speech rate and pronunciation.

Level 5 (Extended): Vocabulary range and accuracy are sufficient to communicate effectively on common, concrete and work-related topics. Paraphrases consistently and successfully. Vocabulary is some times idiomatic.

Extended Level 5 speakers may display some sensitivity to register, with a lexical range which may not be sufficient to communicate effectively in as broad a range of topics as an Expert Level 6 speaker, but a speaker with Extended proficiency will have no trouble paraphrasis whenever necessary.

​Level 6 (Expert): Vocabulary range and accuracy are sufficient to communicate effectively on a wide variety of familiar and unfamiliar topics. Vocabulary is idiomatic, nuanced and sensitive to register​

Level 6 speakers demonstrate a strong sensitivity to register. Another marker of strong proficiency seems to be the acquisition of, and facility with, idiomatic expressions and the ability to communicate nuanced ideas. As such, use of idioms may be taken into account in assessment procedures designed to identify Level 6 users in a non-radiotelephony context. This is not however intended to imply that idiomatic usages are a desirable feature of aeronautical radiotelephony communications. On the contrary, use of idioms is an obstacle to intelligibility and mutual understanding between non-expert users and should therefore be avoided by all users in this environment.


Structure


Structure
Structure

Level 3 (Pre-operational): Basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns associated with predictable situations are not always well controlled. Errors frequently interfere with meaning.


A weak command of basic grammatical structures at this level will limit available range of expression or result in errors which could lead to misunderstandings.



Level 4 (Operational): Basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns are used creatively and are usually well controlled. Errors may occur, particularly in unusual or unexpected circumstances, but rarely interfere with meaning.

Operational Level 4 speakers have a good command of basic grammatical structures. They do not merely have a memorised set of words or phrases on which they rely but have sufficient command of basic grammar to create new meaning as appropriate. They demonstrate local errors and infrequent global errors and communication is effective overall. Level 4 speakers will not usually attempt complex structures, and when they do, quite a lot of errors would be expected resulting is less effective communication.

Level 5 (Extended): Basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns are consistently well controlled. Complex structures are attempted but with errors which sometimes interfere with meaning.

Extended Level 5 speakers demonstrate greater control of complex grammatical structures than do Operational Level 4 speakers and may commit global errors from time to time when using complex structures. The critical difference between Level 4 and Level 5 requirements concerns the use of basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns compared to the use of complex structures. At Level 5, the structure descriptors refer to the consistent control of basic structure, with errors possibly occurring when complex structures and language are used. There is actually a big jump between Level 4 and Level 5. Level 5 speakers will have a more sophisticated use of English overall, but will exhibit some errors in their use of complex language structures, but not in their basic structure patterns.

Level 6 (Expert): Both basic and complex grammatical structures and sentence patterns are consistently well controlled.

Expert Level 6 speakers do not demonstrate consistent global structural or grammatical errors but may exhibit some local errors.


Fluency


Fluency
Fluency

Level 3 (Pre-operational): Produces stretches of language, but phrasing and pausing are often inappropriate. Hesitations or slowness in language processing may prevent effective communication. Fillers are sometimes distracting.

The slowness of speech flow at this level is such that communication lacks concision and efficiency. Long silent pauses frequently interrupt the speech flow. Speakers at this level will fail to obtain the professional confidence of their interlocutors.

Level 4 (Operational): Produces stretches of language at an appropriate tempo. There may be occasional loss of fluency on transition from rehearsed or formulaic speech to spontaneous interaction, but this does not prevent effective communication. Can make limited use of discourse markers or connectors. Fillers are not distracting.

Speech rate at this level may be slowed by the requirements of language processing, but remains fairly constant and does not negatively affect the speaker's involvement in communication. The speaker has the possibility of speaking a little faster than the ICAO recommended rate of 100 words per minute if the situation requires.

Level 5 (Extended): Able to speak at length with relative ease on familiar topics but may not vary speech flow as a stylistic device. Can make use of appropriate discourse markers or connectors.

Rate of speech and organisation of discourse at this level approach natural fluency. Under appropriate circumstances, rates significantly higher than the ICAO recommended rate of 100 words per minute can be achieved without negatively affecting intelligibility.

Level 6 (Expert): Able to speak at length with a natural effortless flow. Varies speech flow for stylistic effect, e.g. to emphasise a point. Uses appropriate discourse markers and connectors spontaneously.

Fluency at this level is native-like or near native-like. It is notably characterised by a high degree of flexibility in producing language and in adapting the speech rate to the context of communication and the purposes of the speaker.

Comprehension


Comprehension
Comprehension

Level 3 (Pre-operational): Comprehension is often accurate on common, concrete and work-related topics when the accent or variety used is sufficiently intelligible for an international community of users. May fail to understand a linguistic or situational complication or an unexpected turn of events.

Level 3 comprehension is limited to routine communications in optimum conditions. A pilot or controller at this level would not be proficient enough to understand the full range of radiotelephony communications, including unexpected events, substandard speech behaviours or inferior radio reception.

Level 4 (Operational): Comprehension is mostly accurate on common, concrete and work-related topics when the accent or variety used is sufficiently intelligible for an international community of users. When the speaker is confronted with a linguistic or situational complication or an unexpected turn of events, comprehension may be slower or require clarification strategies.

As with all Operational Level 4 descriptors, comprehension is not expected to be perfectly accurate in all instances. However, pilots or air traffic controllers will need to have strategies available which allow them, to ultimately comprehend the unexpected or unusual communication. Unmarked or complex textual relations are occasionally misunderstood or missed. The descriptor of Operational Level 4 under ''interactions'' clarifies the need for clarification strategies. Failure to understand a clearly communicated unexpected communication, even after seeking clarification, should result in the assignment of a lower level proficiency assessment.

Level 5 (Extended): Comprehension is accurate on common, concrete and work-related topics and mostly accurate when the speaker is confronted with a linguistic or situational complication or an unexpected turn of events. Is able to comprehend a large range of speech varieties (dialect and/or accent) or registers.

Level 5 users achieve a high degree of detailed accuracy in their understanding of aeronautical radiotelephony communications. Their understanding is not hindered by the most frequently encountered non-standard dialects or regional accents, nor by the less well-structured messages that are associated with unexpected or stressful events.

Level 6 (Expert): Comprehension is consistently accurate in nearly all contexts and includes comprehension of linguistic and cultural subtleties.

Level 6 users achieve a high degree of detailed accuracy and flexibility in their understanding of aeronautical radiotelephony communications regardless of the situation or dialect used. They further have the ability to discern a meaning which is not made obvious or explicit (''read between the lines''), using tones of voice, choice of register, etc., as clues to unexpected meanings.


Interaction


​Interaction
​Interaction

Level 3 (Pre-operational): Responses are some times immediate, appropriate and informative. Can initiate and maintain exchanges with reasonable ease on familiar topics and in predictable situations. Generally inadequate when dealing with an unexpected turn of events.

The interaction features at this level are such that communication lacks concision and efficiency. Misunderstandings and non-understandings are frequent, leaving to possible breakdown in communication. Speakers at this level will not gain the confidence of their interlocutors.

Level 4 (Operational): Responses are usually immediate, appropriate and informative. Initiates and maintains exchanges even when dealing with unexpected turn of events. Deals adequately with apparent misunderstandings by checking, confirming or clarifying.

A pilot or air traffic controller who does not understand an unexpected communication must be able to communicate that fact. It is much safer to query a communication, to clarify, or even simply acknowledge that one does not understand rather than to allow silence to mistakenly represent comprehension. At Operational Level 4, it is acceptable that comprehension is not perfect 100 per cent of the time when dealing with unexpected situations, but Level 4 speakers need to be skilled at checking, seeking confirmation, or clarifying a situation or communication.

Level 5 (Extended): Responses are immediate, appropriate and informative. Manages the speaker / listener relationship effectively.

Interactions at this level are based on high levels of comprehension and fluency. While skills in checking, seeking confirmation and clarification remain important, they are less frequently deployed. On the other hand speakers at this level are capable of exercising greater control over the conduct and direction of the conversation.

Level 6 (Expert): Interacts with ease in nearly all situations. Is sensitive to verbal and non-verbal cues and responds to them appropriately.

Expert speakers display no difficulties in reacting or initiating interaction. They are additional able to recognise and to use non-verbal signs of mental and emotional states (for example, intonations or unusual stress patterns). They display authority in the conduct of the conversations.


CaptainPilot Aviation English Training Curriculum ;

The CaptainPilot Aviation English training curriculum covers all Aviation English skills required for CaptainPilot Recommended Training Model English proficiency.


Vocabulary: Aviation English vocabulary training helps users with word recognition and generation, as well as the use of Aviation English words in context and the correct pronunciation of Aviation English words for AVIATION LISTENERS, RADIOTELEPHONY PHRASEOLOGY, AERONAUTICAL STANDARD PHRASEOLOGY, English proficiency.


Structure: Includes the most important grammar points for aviation English grammar training, RADIOTELEPHONY PHRASEOLOGY, AERONAUTICAL STANDARD PHRASEOLOGY English proficiency and above.


Comprehension: Aviation English comprehension training prepares users to understand a wide range of international accents speaking Aviation English words and phrases for AVIATION LISTENERS, RADIOTELEPHONY PHRASEOLOGY, AERONAUTICAL STANDARD PHRASEOLOGY English proficiency.


Fluency: RADIOTELEPHONY PHRASEOLOGY, AERONAUTICAL STANDARD PHRASEOLOGY training modules Aviation English fluency training prepares users to speak Aviation English words and phrases at an appropriate speaking rate and with minimal pauses.


Pronunciation: RADIOTELEPHONY PHRASEOLOGY, AERONAUTICAL STANDARD PHRASEOLOGY training modules, Aviation English pronunciation training assess each user's Aviation English speaking and listening skills and create a personalized pronunciation curriculum to enable users to achieve ICAO Level 4 or 5 proficiency with a British or American accent.


Interactions: RADIOTELEPHONY PHRASEOLOGY, AERONAUTICAL STANDARD PHRASEOLOGY Aviation English interaction training prepares users to provide prompt, appropriate and informative responses, including continuing the exchange of ideas in unexpected situations.




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