The 5 W’s of the Test of English for Aviation

Who takes the TEA test?

As its full name suggest, the Test of English for Aviation is a language proficiency test designed to assess the communicative ability (speaking and listening) of pilots and air traffic controllers in English. Developed by Mayflower College in the United Kingdom, the exam is necessary for people around the world to communicate. Following several high-profile aviation accidents in which the inability of involved parties to communicate was deemed a contributory factor, the International Civil Aviation Organization mandated that pilots and air traffic controllers working in an international context have a minimum level of English.

Why should you take the TEA exam?

As you would expect, then, the exam is primarily designed to meet the needs of this specific market. Though not the only English language assessment test designed with aviators and ground crew in mind, because the TEA test measures a candidate’s ability to communicate in English using everyday English in an aviation context (and not a test of aviation-related knowledge, skills, or vocabulary) it is ideal for non-native English speaking aviators who need to certify their English proficiency for professional pursuits. Because its emphasis is only on communicative skills, the TEA test does not include any reading or writing exercises. Moreover, as an in-person oral exam applicants do not need to possess (or worry about) computer skills.

What exactly is the TEA test like and what can I expect to see on it?

As noted above, during the TEA test only a candidate’s speaking and listening skills are evaluated. These skills are assessed using a one-to-one, face-to-face interview that takes place between the test taker and a trained examiner. The test is made up of three sections which, altogether, take approximately 20 minutes to complete.

PART I – Aviation Background

In the first part of the exam, which lasts about five or six minutes, applicants are asked a series of simple questions related to their background in aviation. These questions are freely available in advance of the exam and do not have a strict right or wrong answer.

PART II – Speaking and Listening Abilities

By contrast, the second section is lengthier and designed to use interactive comprehension to assess a candidate’s speaking and listening abilities. Section two lasts about eight to 12 minutes and has three parts.

  • In Part 2A, candidates are ask to listen to aviation-specific recordings and then explain what they understand in their own words.
  • In Parts 2B and C the candidate and the interviewer participate in a series of problem-solving role-play scenarios (these two sections differ by virtue of the fact that the person asking and answering the questions changes hands between the two parts).

PART III – Image Description

Finally, in the third section test takers are given a number of aviation-related images and then asked to describe, compare, and answer questions about what they see.

Based on these tasks and using a pre-established rubric, marks are awarded for each of the following six skills:

These skills are measured on a scale of 1 to 6 and it is the lowest of these six individual categories which determines an applicant’s overall grade.

Where and When can you take the TEA exam?

The Test of English for Aviation is offered at nearly a hundred testing centers in more than a dozen countries around the world. However new regulations from the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority have mandated that the only test center whose results will be accepted for use in the UK is at Mayflower College in Plymouth, UK. Because of this, though testing locations are available in countries as diverse as the US and Uruguay, it is important that applicants check with the governing body most relevant to them in order to ensure that their results will be accepted. For more information on this – and access to practice materials – check the TEA’s official registration page.

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