Frequently Asked Questions

Why three phases?

There are three phases to MarTEL to ensure the maritime English language knowledge and competencies between the different levels and ranks of seafarer are met.

These phases are designed to test candidate’s competency in Maritime English for three different stages in their career. They aim to cover all classes of seafarer. All phases test the five key language learning skills: Reading, writing, listening, speaking and grammar/SMCP.

For young people who wish to enrol on the programme of education and training for merchant navy officers, a MarTEL Phase 1 test would be undertaken. This is based on the vocational requirements for the programme of study that they intend to enrol on. In this sense, the MarTEL test is no different to any other test of English language proficiencies required for other college/university diplomas or degrees at similar levels.

The duties and responsibilities of Senior Officers and Officers are distinctly different and therefore it is necessary for two competency levels of maritime English. MarTEL Phase 2 test is for the Officer level whereas Phase 3 is for the Senior Officer level.

At these Officer and Senior Officer levels it is important to distinguish between the navigators (deck officers) and the marine engineering officers as the duties and skills required for each role are different. It is widely accepted from our research that different roles place heavier weightings on different communication skills. For example the Deck Officers weighting for the writing section is 10% whereas the Engineering Officers weighting for the same section is 5%.

At these three phases five tests have therefore been developed for the differing requirements of maritime English language competencies. The MarTEL team have taken onboard and conducted their own research in the field to establish different weightings for the different skills within the five tests.

As described above the Maritime English requirements are divided into three phases. More details of each Phase test are provided below.

Phase 1 - is for young people who wish to enrol on the programme of education and training for merchant navy officers. Since English is the language of the sea and in the majority of cases many of the units are delivered in English and that when on board the vessel for training they will be working with multinational crew it is critical that they develop competence in the English language at an appropriate level which will equip them to take advantage of the programme of study to become officers and to help to create a safe environment on board vessels as training officer cadets when they do their sea training as part of their programme of study. Phase 1 test is set at CEFR level C1 (equivalent almost to TOFL 500-550 and IELTS 550-600). However, Phase 1 test is based on the vocational requirements for the programme of study that they intend to enrol on. In this sense MarTEL test is no different to any other test of English language proficiencies required for other college/university diplomas or degrees at similar levels.

Phase 2 - Cadet Officers studying for a certificate of competency will have to acquire a high level of competence in the English language so that they help to abide by international regulations and conventions and be able to communicate effectively in an increasingly multi- lingual environment on board vessels in order to create a safe environment and help others to become competent officers for the sake of the crew’s safety and the safety of any passengers.

Phase 3 - This phase requires a higher competence in English language expected from an Officer Of Watch. The tests in this phase are designed to assess senior officers’ English language competence particularly with regard to ISM. International codes such as ISM as well as PSPC are designed to ensure effective and efficient management of the vessel in accordance to International standards which includes many specific terms and terminologies. A full understanding of these terms and terminologies in the context of Maritime vocation is considered important in preparing senior officers for the important task they do at sea and in ports.

Why Criterion Referencing?

Unfortunately the majority of us are not familiar with the term Criterion Referencing and have always given a percentage mark to express our level of performance in an assessment opportunity/examination. In practical professions such as Merchant Navy what is significant is that the officers who take responsibility for a vessel and for the crew’s well-being and safety are expected to be fully competent in discharging their responsibilities which is defined by international standards such as (STCW) as well as international conventions and regulations. While in a university programme obtaining a 50% in an examination often results in a pass mark being awarded. However, a mark of 50% in competence in a given task on board a vessel cannot be considered acceptable. In the MarTEL test the criteria for a grade of pass has to be achieved for a certificate to be issued by the awarding body. Therefore, it is possible to obtain the 70% in a given MarTEL phase test but fail the test because the test taker has not convinced the person grading it to be a safe officer or has not convinced the grader that s/he has displayed the competence required for a grade of pass to be awarded. However, MarTEL test can be taken at any institution offering these tests and the institutions are the authorities to decide on the threshold for the pass mark. Some institutions may define 50% as a pass or 60% and so forth. However, while MarTEL test takers will be given a notification of their performance in a percentage term and given a grade, only those awarded a pass grade are entitled to apply for the official MarTEL certificate. It is possible for test takers to be given a grade of merit which signifies that they have achieved a level of competence higher than the minimum required. The highest grade awarded is distinction grade which is awarded to outstanding candidates who perform exceptionally well in any MarTEL phase test. For a grade of merit or destination the required criteria has to be achieved in all sections of the test for these grades.

In short if you really want to know what Criterion Referencing means just remember that no one would wish to be operated on by a surgeon who is only 50% competent in his profession. In any profession that deals with the safety of human beings full competence should be a must.

Why BTEC/Edexcel?

Edexcel is a major awarding body recognised in over a hundred countries offering qualifications right from school level to university level. Their qualifications have been integrated within British secondary and tertiary education system as well as in many other countries. As well as offering qualifications at secondary and tertiary levels they offer short course certificates. They also offer vocational and professional qualifications and work very closely with accrediting and licensing authorities. MarTEL study units for phases 1, 2 and 3 have been transformed into BTEC units which can be offered as a short course unit or as an integrated unit within Higher National Diplomas (HND) in Nautical Science/Navigation Engineering as well as in Marine Engineering. BTEC units are part of the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System).

What is the relationship between MarTEL tests and IMO model courses/HNDs?

MarTEL standards have been developed in line with IMO Model Course 3.14 and satisfy the language requirements (communication performance criteria of the common skills/key skills of existing Edexcel/BTEC Higher National Certificates and Diplomas).

If a test taker passes a MarTEL test, does s/he need to have a BTEC/Edexcel certificate?

All test takers will be issued with a MarTEL grade/mark notice indicating the grade obtained and the mark awarded in any MarTEL test. The institutions that offer MarTEL standard/tests may decide to have their own system of certification and set their own pass threshold and may only decide to mark the assessments in percentage terms. However, if an official MarTEL certificate is required then a minimum grade of pass is required for a BTEC/Edexcel certificate to be awarded.

How much does a MarTEL test cost?

All MarTEL tests are free of charge.

How much does BTEC/Edexcel certification cost?

For BTEC Edexcel test takers are advised to refer to EXEDCEL/BTEC at

What is the difference between Deck and Marine Engineering tests and why it is important to make a distinction?

The marine Engineering profession/tasks are very different to the tasks carried out by a deck officer. They require different levels of competence in different language skills. For instance, a Chief Mate or a Master has to have a higher level of competence in speaking than a Chief Engineer.

What is the difference between Marine Engineering and Deck tests and why it is important to make a distinction between the two?

A review of the IMO model courses 7.03 and 7.04 as well as 7.1 and 7.2 clearly indicates that the programmes of education and training for these two types of officers are very different. One requires competency in engine operations and related plants and as well as auxiliary units (Marine Engineers) and the other in navigation of a ship (Desk officers). The terms and terminologies used by these two types of officers are very different hence any test in English language must distinguish between the two requirements.

Why a distinction is made between the language competency level of a Marine Engineering Officer and a Chief Engineer?

Marine Engineers at different levels of seniority have different language skills requirements. It is the Chief Engineer who requires the higher levels of English language skills and ultimately s/he is the authority for all aspects of Marine Engineering on board a vessel.

Why a distinction is made between language competency level of a Deck Officer of Watch and Chief Mate/Master/Captain?

The same argument stated for Engineers applies here.

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