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Official TEA Test Centre - ICTQ School of English - ICTQ Malta

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Official TEA Test Centre – ICTQ School of English

ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organisation) has decided that all airline and helicopter pilots who fly internationally and all air traffic controllers who provide services to international flights must have a minimum level of English. This level of English is known as ICAO Operational Level 4ICAO has developed a rating scale with Level 4 considered the minimum acceptable level (’Operational Level’)

According to an ICAO  review of 28,000 incident/accident reports, they have found that over 70% of the airlines problems were caused by language barriers. Due to this, ICAO now demands that all pilots flying internationally must have a minimum level of English, known as ICAO Operational Level 4. ICAO has developed a rating scale with Level 4 considered the minimum acceptable level (’Operational Level’).

About TEA Test:

T.E.A. is:designed to assess a candidate’s spoken and listening ability according to the ICAO Descriptors. It is an English communication test not a test of operational knowledge, but a test of plain English in an aviation context – it is not a test of aviation phraseology. Conducted in the form of a one-to-one interview between the candidate and the examiner, the test comprises of 3 sections and lasts approximately 20 minutes. Throughout the three sections of the test the examiner assesses the candidate’s ability based on the above mentioned six ICAO language proficiency requirements.


Section One: Introduction & Experience-related Interview (7 – 8 minutes)

Candidates are asked a series of questions on common, concrete and work-related topics specifically related to their aviation experience/licence.

Section Two: Interactive Comprehension (8-12 minutes)

Part 2A: Candidates listen to aviation-specific recordings of non-routine and emergency situations. Candidates are required to explain what they understand about the situation.
Parts 2B &2C: Candidates listen to a series of problem-solving role-play scenarios. In Part 2B, the candidate is required to ask questions to the speaker. In Part 2C, the candidate is required to give advice to the speaker.

N.B. The quality of the pre-recorded audio in the examples above is lower than in the real test. To listen to test-quality recordings click here). 

Section Three: Picture Description and Discussion (10 minutes)

Candidates describe and compare 2 connected pictures. The task is interactive as specific questions are asked about both pictures. Finally, the examiner leads a discussion of general aviation topics related to the pictures.   

Click here for TEA-test.com 

ICAO has developed the following list of “Holistic Descriptors”. They believe all proficient speakers should be able to:

  • Communicate effectively in voice-only (telephone/radiotelephone) and in face-to-face situations.
  • Communicate on common, concrete and work-related topics with accuracy and clarity.
  • Use appropriate communicative strategies to exchange messages and to recognize and resolve misunderstandings (e.g. to check, confirm, or clarify information) in a general or work-related context
  • Handle successfully and with relative ease the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events that occurs within the context of a routine work situation or communicative task with which they are otherwise familiar
  • Use a dialect or accent which is intelligible to the aeronautical community

A speaker is proficient to Operational Level 4 if the ratings for the following criteria are:

  • Pronunciation: Pronunciation, stress, rhythm, and intonation are influenced by the first language or regional variation but only sometimes interfere with ease of understanding.
  • Structure: 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.
  • Vocabulary: 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.
  • Fluency: 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.
  • Comprehension: 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.
  • Interactions: Responses are usually immediate, appropriate, and informative. Initiates and maintains exchanges even when dealing with an unexpected turn of events. Deals adequately with apparent misunderstandings by checking, confirming, or clarifying.



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