Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization
Regional Language CentreCentre of Choice

Aviation English Competency Test

  1. Test Info
  2. Registration

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requires that the English proficiency of pilots and air traffic controllers not only be standardized, but also be formally evaluated.

The decision to address language proficiency for pilots and air traffic controllers was first made by the 32nd session of the ICAO Assembly in September 1998 as a direct response to fatal accidents in which the lack of proficiency in English was identified as a contributing factor. In March 2003, the ICAO Council adopted a comprehensive set of Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) that strengthen language proficiency requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers involved in international operations.

In line with the introduction of Amendment 164 to ICAO Annex 1 on 27 November 2003, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) implemented the language proficiency requirement for pilots and flight engineers. This stipulates that all holders of Singapore flight engineer licences or professional/private pilot licences shall demonstrate the ability to speak and understand the English language used for radiotelephony communications in accordance with the ICAO holistic descriptors and language proficiency rating scale (Level 4 or above).

Singapore implemented a dual path assessment framework, i.e. language screening and language testing.

Language Screening is to assess candidate’s language proficiency for Level 6 across six areas of linguistic description and is only available for:

  • A person who has not done a Language Screening previously; and
  • A trainee in an ab-initio Private Pilot License (PPL) or Commercial Pilot License (CPL) course approved by CAAS or persons converting a foreign licence to Singapore licence.

Language testing, known as Aviation English Competency Testing (AECT), will apply to all other cases.

CAAS partnered the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation Regional Language Centre (SEAMEO RELC) to tap into its experience and expertise in linguistics and language education for the conduct of language testing, known as Aviation English Competency Test, AECT.


Scope and Requirement of AECT

Pronunciation Includes an accent that is internationally intelligible
Structure Relevant grammatical structures and sentence patterns
Vocabulary A wide range of vocabulary which is appropriate to the situation
Fluency Includes spontaneity and appropriate speed of delivery
Comprehension Includes an ability to listen and understand others
Interactions Includes an ability to manage the speaker-listener relationship effective


Those who are demonstrating language proficiency below the Expert Level (Level 6) will be formally re-evaluated at intervals in accordance with their individual proficiency level. ICAO recommends that the interval be six years for those at the Extended Level (Level 5) and three years for those at the Operational Level (Level 4).



ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale

Holistic Descriptors 

Proficient speakers shall:

  1. Communicate effectively in voice-only (telephone/radiotelephone) and in face-to-face situations;
  2. Communicate on common, concrete and work-related topics with accuracy and clarity;
  3. 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;
  4. 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; and
  5. Use a dialect or accent which is intelligible to the aeronautical community.

For more information, please refer to the Appendix of Annex 1.


  • As this is a test of candidate’s listening and speaking skills, it is very important for the candidate to demonstrate as much as possible these two skills in all three parts of the interview.  If the candidate hardly speak up, it will be very challenging for the interviewers to assess and grade the candidate’s English listening and speaking skills
  • An alert awareness of inter-cultural and cross-linguistic communicative threats is essential to safe radiotelephony communications
  • Pilots should: (i) avoid jargon, slang and idiomatic expressions, (ii) be clear, concise, and direct, and (iii) speak slowly and clearly
  • Native and Expert English Language Speakers can familiarize themselves with the challenges faced by non-native speakers and adopt strategies which facilitate cross-cultural and cross-linguistic comprehension.


Conduct of AECT

The AECT consists of a 20-minute interview to observe and assess the natural response and language proficiency of each candidate. The test is conducted by two CAAS-authorised testers, both will be expert linguists from SEAMEO RELC.

The interview will be recorded for validation purpose and the record will be kept through the validity period of the licence’s language proficiency that has been endorsed.

The interview consists of 3 parts as follow:



The candidate’s overall English Language Proficiency level is determined by the lowest rating assigned in any of the language proficiency skills of the rating scale.

For instance, a candidate who is rated Level 4 for the category of Pronunciation but is rated Level 5 for all other categories will be given an overall proficiency rating of Level 4. Hence an individual must demonstrate proficiency at Level 5 in all categories in order to receive a Level 5, and so on for other higher levels.

The result is released within a week after completing the AECT by CAAS Personnel Licensing office.