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Nirajan Limbu
Cathay Pacific Airways
2015-12-13, 14:06
"Hi Michael this is Nirajan. I applied for the CX CPP in June 2014 and now I got into CP70.. Rachel was very happy during my ICAO exam and gave me ICAO Level 6... I wanted to thank you... Hope you are well.. Cheers..." Nirajan Limbu
2015-12-13, 14:58
"Thanks a lot for all your help Michael. We will keep in touch, take care!"
Nelson Leung
2015-12-13, 14:52
"Passed as level 4 but I did it worse than the first time"

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"Air density is perhaps the single most important factor affecting airplane performance. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?"

This is a great ICAO test question as it allows a candidate to talk about principles of aerodynamics in his own words.  


We are not going to give you a model answer, but we will help you construct a good answer.

When planning your answer consider these factors:

  • lift generated by the wings
  • efficiency f the propeller
  • power output of the engine
  • dry air

Also consider the effects of density altitude:

  • acceleration
  • attain the same lift
  • avoid stalling
  • reduced power production
  • lower service ceiling

Essential Aviation English vocabulary

lift, airfoil, propeller, humid, reduced, decreased, true, obstacles, altitude

A candidate will also be able to use different forms of a word, eg efficient, efficiency, efficiently so make sure you know your parts of speech.

For more great tips on answering ICAO TEST QUESTIONS attend a class at Aviation English Asia.  You can call us on +852 81799295 to arrange a consultation or join our mailing list at









Describing pictures in ICAO Aviation English tests

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English learning advice from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael Egerton In this article you are going to learn techniques to describe pictures in ICAO English tests.  As mentioned in a previous article, The ICAO English test - guidance and advice, describing a picture is a common part of many ICAO English tests.

What language skills are required?

Quite often the pictures will be of unusual or unexpected events such as damage to an aircraft, a crash/collision or a malfunctioning piece of the aircraft's equipment.  You will need to develop your vocabulary so that you can easily explain these situations without being lost for words.  As a pilot or controller you will need vocabulary to describe

  1. each part of an aircraft,
  2. weather and time of day,
  3. the physical layout of an airfield and
  4. various types of damage that can occur.

You will also need a good command of verb tenses so that you can describe:

  • what is happening now
  • what has happened before
  • what is likely to happen in the future

You should also learn the language skills needed to explain why these events have occurred.  This will involve (among others) modal verbs of possibility/probability, conjunctions and infinitives of purpose. You should also use prepositions to describe the physical location, or path of movement of the various objects in the picture.

Phrases for describing pictures

Start by giving a brief description of each picture.

  • The picture/photo shows ...
  • This is a picture of ...
  • In this picture I can see ...
  • This is an incident that happened ...

There are different phrases you can refer to parts of each pictures. For example:

  • on the left / on the right (hand side)
  • in the background / in the foreground
  • behind  x / in front of x

Depending on the picture you will need to use appropriate tenses.  For example:

  • an aircraft is trying to land (present continuous because it is something happening at the moment the photo was taken)
  • the aircraft in this picture has collided with a ground vehicle (present perfect because it is something that happened in the recent past with a result in the present)
  • a ground vehicle is about to make a wrong turn that will surely cause a problem for aircraft that are landing.

The assessor might also ask you to give your opinion about the picture.

  • In my opinion ...
  • I think that ...
  • It looks like ...
  • x seems to be ...


  1. Take a look at the following picture for 30 seconds.
  2. Describe it in as much detail as possible for 90 seconds
  3. Explain how you think the situation occurred for 30 seconds.
  4. Post your description as a comment on our blog.  We will review it and give you feedback.

Five tips for describing pictures in the ICAO English test

1.  Keep it simple Try to avoid complicated expressions or grammatical structures if you are not sure how to use them.   Don't waffle (speak unnecessarily about a topic), and if you have nothing to say it's better to wait for the assessor to prompt you. 2.  Ask the assessor for an explanation if you don't understand the task If you don't understand what you are supposed to do, ask the assessor to explain. For example, you could say:

  • Could you repeat the question, please?
  • I'm sorry, could you explain what the word .... means ?
  • Could you please ask the question in another way?

3.  Use full sentences Avoid answers which are single words or answers that sound like a list of bullet points.  Demonstrate that you know how to form sentences correctly  and can use a range of structures to express yourself. 4.  Be aware of the time limits When you are asked to describe a photo and explain why something has happened, make sure that you leave some time for explaining your own opinion if that is a required part of the task.  You should also avoid rushing, as speaking slowly and clearly is an essential skill in aeronautical communications.  You will have better pronunciation if you slow down and don't swallow your words. 5.  Practice Before the ICAO English test, practice describing pictures with a colleague (if you already know someone who will also be taking the speaking test, ask him/her to practice with you).  Students at Aviation English Asia are a friendly bunch who really make the effort to help each other.  Of course, all our English courses for ICAO compliance offer thorough practice of these skills in each unit.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Sample questions for the ICAO English test - personal information

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Advice for improving your English and passing the ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael Egerton There are many different types of ICAO English test.  Some ICAO tests are created by independent testing institutions eg RELTA, VAET, TEA and EALTA whereas others are created and administered by airlines themselves.  Some ICAO tests focus on your ability to use technical vocabulary, and what you would say in a particular situation during flight, others are more focused on plain English and your ability to talk about unexpected situations.  We've even heard of some ICAO tests being purely conversational.  With so many different types of ICAO test it's difficult to know how you should prepare for the test. We don't recommend that you try and memorise expected answers to a test, but you can predict the kind of question that could be asked - particularly those that relate to giving personal information.  In this article I will provide some sample test questions that you could realistically be expected to answer - not just for the ICAO English test but at many stages throughout your career.

Sample ICAO test questions

  1. What's your name and date of birth?
  2. What do you like about your job?
  3. How do your family feel about your job?
  4. What aircraft would you most like to fly?
  5. What is the best thing about being a pilot?
  6. Did you ever have any doubts about becoming a pilot?
  7. How did you become interested in aviation?
  8. What do you do to maintain your health?
  9. What is the most difficult part of your job?
  10. What happened during your first solo?

Of course, your answers will be different from your colleagues so memorisation isn't going to help.  And yes, some people (not our students) really do try to memorise answers!  You are going to need to be able to answer questions for yourself and in the correct tense, with suitable articles, prepositions and clauses. You will also need sufficient plain English vocabulary to answer common questions.  In short, your assessor will be able to find out a lot about your level of English by how you answer simple questions.  So let's practice grammar by looking at the questions above - consider which are about the past, which are about the present, and which are about the future?  How would you answer them? ICAO English test answers These are some answers to questions asked in an ICAO English test. What do you think the questions were?  The answers don't necessarily relate to the questions above.

  • June 25th
  • Definitely the F14 Tomcat because of the swing wings
  • Being able to visit many different locations around the world.
  • I experienced some unexpected weather conditions.
  • They are very supportive but it requires a lot of hard work to maintain relationships.
  • As part of military service.
  • Ever since I was a child.
  • I used to collect model aircraft when I was a boy and I became fascinated about how they work.
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Air Asia

Practice paraphrasing

There is more than one possible question to match each answer above, and also more than one way to ask a question.  Practice paraphrasing by asking the questions you came up with in a different way.  For example:

  • When were you born? / What is your date of birth?
  • What is your motivation for becoming a pilot? / Why did you want to become a pilot?

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit  We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area. Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article.  We value all of your feedback.

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