The Standard Six of Rating
ICAO Rating Scale
The ICAO Rating Scale covers the six skill areas of language performance: pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and interactions.
For each skill, 6 performance levels are applied, whereas levels 1 to 3 are considered unfit for use in aviation. Only levels 4 and above are acceptable, whereby 4 is called the operational, 5 the extended and 6 the expert level.
As a result of this, different levels can be achieved in all six categories. You might be a Level 4 in pronunciation, but a Level 5 in interaction and fluency. Typically, a Level 6 will have achieved a level where every aspect of the language is mastered to native or near-native level.
For the final rating result the lowest level achieved in one of the six categories is essential. If there is even only one category that has been rated 4, your overall level achieved is 4.
Level 4 corresponds to the competency level required for safe operations in aviation. It allows speakers to manage conversations and interactions with others in a safe and effective manner, not least when clarifying potential misunderstandings.
Typically, a Level 5 will show a very high level of language capabilities, allowing the candidate to use refined wording and more complex grammar. The flow will sound very natural, with occasional flaws.
In line with ICAO regulation, proficiency needs to be reviewed regularly:
- Level 4 is to be renewed every 4 years
- Level 5 every 6 years
- Level 6 is a lifelong rating, requiring no further assessment
ICAO Holistic Descriptors
The Holistic Descriptors have been designed as a frame of reference for language use in general. They are intended to support the rating as a whole. The rater evaluates the effectiveness of the communication, such as the clarification of misunderstandings if they occur, accuracy and clarity of the language, handling of unexpected turns of events and the overall intelligibility of a dialect or accent, i. e. is your speech understandable?
ICAO Standard Phraseology
Proficiency is about speaking with ease and using good vocabulary and grammar.
However, wherever possible and applicable, standard phraseology should be used, incl. numbers to be pronounced as per radio telephony standards (e. g. "niner" for nine, "tree" for three and "tousand" for thousand) helping a clear and concise transmission of all messages.