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English language proficiency test

In our Finnish forum we have been lately discussing about the English marking in the PPL. Myself I’ve been flying hundreds of hours in the USA without any problem but might not pass this exam – I’ve done it once and barely succeeded. The reason is that those tests do not actually measure aviation language which is needed when flying, instead they may handle subjects which you have never heard of, spoken fast like a machine gun.

And after listening the story, questions may be like “Which country did Anton visit last summer?” “What did Mary like most in Jack” – so they are more memory tests because you will get the questions first after the fire is over. The ability to manage flying in English has nothing to do with them.
So I’d like to know if that is the case everywhere or is it dependent of the country. And if you have English as mother tongue, would you get full points in those exams? Rumors tell that it might not always be possible.
Myself I cannot see any sense in them but I understand that the companies making money with it love those compulsory exams.

EFFO EFHV, Finland

It is dependent on country. My first (ELP 4 for the PPL) exam, directly at the CAA had only aviation-related stuff. Like they show you a picture of a plane being refuelled and ask you to describe in your own words what happens on the picture. Or they ask you to describe why you want to fly, what you enjoy about it, your happiest flight moment so far.

hanski wrote:

And if you have English as mother tongue, would you get full points in those exams? Rumors tell that it might not always be possible.

When I passed my exam for my level 6 ELP, one of the things that was tested was the ability to adapt your speech to the level of the person you are speaking to. Something native speakers are not necessarily adept at.

ELLX

My experience is almost exactly as lionel’s; I did the 1st test at our CAA, the 2nd one with TEA just before Brexit. The latter was more of a nice chat than an actual exam.

tmo
EPKP - Kraków, Poland

lionel wrote:

It is dependent on country. My first (ELP 4 for the PPL) exam, directly at the CAA had only aviation-related stuff. Like they show you a picture of a plane being refuelled and ask you to describe in your own words what happens on the picture. Or they ask you to describe why you want to fly, what you enjoy about it, your happiest flight moment so far.

In CH, ELP6 was similar – they showed me a few aviation-related photos and asked me to describe what’s going on. It felt a little silly, but I guess it’s needed. There was nothing tricky or unfair about the test that I can recall. I would not be surprised if the “lower” level tests are actually harder, due to the difficulty in assessing a specific skill level. Confirming that someone is a native speaker is not that hard.

Very good point about adapting to people with different levels of English proficiency.

Since I believe people can take this test before they begin flight training, they can’t really test aviation phraseology.

I think there is still a lot we can do to make flying around Europe easier w.r.t. ATC phraseology. There are slight inconsistencies depending on the country, and knowing exactly what ATC expect, and will reply, can help increase situational awareness and therefore safety. I also know lots of pilots that are terrified of speaking on the radio in their native language, much less in a foreign language. This prevents them from flying internationally, which is a shame.

It would be great for someone that’s either a CFI, or ATC, or someone with a lot of flying experience to create a youtube channel focused on talking to ATC around the continent.

Fly more.
LSGY, Switzerland

A native speaker, I managed a level 6 but did not get full marks – possibly because I told the examiner that’s couple of the questions were poorly phrased – this in the Netherlands.

EHLE / Lelystad, Netherlands, Netherlands

eurogaguest1980 wrote:

pilots that are terrified of speaking on the radio in their native language, much less in a foreign language

might be the other way around

Dan
- Journey = Destination -
LSZF, Switzerland

My ELP test was incredibly hard despite it being only for level 4. I thought it to be just a brief chat with an examiner but turned out to be one of the hardest parts in the process of becoming a pilot.

I believe we were five examinees, renewals and initials mixed. It took part in the rooms of my club since it was organized by the club but the examiners weren’t members. In the beginning, we were all together in a room and got to listen to recordings of someone reading short newspaper clips. It must have been three or four different recordings. Each recording got played twice and afterwards we had to answer a question about the text. The questions were not quite trick questions but close since they asked about some usually overheard detail (like: Was it the FO or the stewardess who announced the delay to the flight’s passengers). I found the questions not hard but one had to carefully think before answering. The others all struggled and tried to guess the multiple choice answers.

After that came the interviews. One on one with an additional observer who taped the whole interview and took notes. They wanted a brief introduction of ourselves and then showed a photo which had to be explained to the examiner. The photo showed an airplane but aviation knowledge was explicitly not required since the goal was to demonstrate language proficiency and not knowledge of the terms used in aviation. That is, one could have passed with calling the cowling a bonnet but it had to be done without stammering. The interview took only ten minutes or so but the whole event probably took close to three hours.

In the end only two of us passed. I barely passed, they told me. Apparently the examiner had trouble understanding me. I know that English is not my prime skill but it sure is enough for talking about technical topics with my colleagues all day. Also the other candidates showed no lack of language skill when we did a little bit of warm-up before the examiners arrived. But probably the test was as much by the book as can be and the requirements for even only level 4 are actually above what can be achieved with only learning English in school for 6 to 9 years.

EDQH, Germany

Given the level of your written English I find it hard to believe you had trouble achieving level 4. I think writing a language is much more difficult than speaking it.

EHLE / Lelystad, Netherlands, Netherlands

Clipperstorch wrote:

My ELP test was incredibly hard despite it being only for level 4.

What you described sounds like the ELP 6 test I took! Given the quality of your written English, I find it hard to believe you would not get level 6.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

I took my first ELP test organized by our club when getting my UL pilot license and it was not very demanding. Self introduction, a little chat, listening to ATC-pilot exchange and Q&A about it. Got ELP5 with incorrect explanation that level 6 is for native speakers only. Some years later I got my ELP6 in CAA designated language school. It was much harder, focused on lots of little details and not aviation related much. I was surprised to learn the story of native speaker getting ELP4 unable to focus at such comprehensive level.

Prague
Czech Republic
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