Upcoming IPA Exams

Update July 2023: The International Phonetic Association certificate examination, originally considered a teacher training qualification in the days before phonetics was widely available in university and college courses, ran for 115 years. However, over recent years candidate numbers have dwindled to the point where it is no longer viable and at a meeting of the IPA Executive on 19 June 2023, there was general agreement that the examination should now be discontinued.

Accordingly, the examination has now been formally withdrawn.

IPA Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in the Phonetics of English

Jump to: Past written papers | Entry to the examination

An examination in the Phonetics of English is conducted by examiners appointed by the Association. The Examinations Secretary of the Association is Dr Patricia Ashby. The examination consists of the following parts:

  1. Written (total of 80 marks): 2 hours 30 minutes
    • (a) Phonetic transcription of a passage of English (20 marks)
    • (b) Three theoretical questions concerned with the phonetic description of English (60 marks)

    More past papers available here.

  2. Dictation (total of 60 marks): approximately 45 minutes
    • (a) Dictation of colloquial English to be transcribed phonetically (30 marks)

      (If phonetic symbols are not displayed correctly in your browser, download and save the PDF file, then open it with Adobe Reader, free download here. There is a known problem with the Firefox built-in PDF viewer. You can download and save the file as above, or change the PDF viewer by following the instructions here.)
    • (b) Dictation of nonsense words or of a language unknown to the candidate(s), to be transcribed phonetically (30 marks)
  3. Oral (total of 60 marks): 10-15 minutes per candidate
    • (a) Articulation of sounds and performance of intonation patterns; description of vowel and consonant articulations and intonation patterns presented by the examiner (40 marks)
    • (b) Reading from a phonetic transcription of English (20 marks):
      • for native English speakers: to test their ability to reproduce such a text exactly and to serve as a basis for brief discussion of phonetic features exemplified in the text;
      • for foreign candidates: to test their proficiency in pronouncing English and to serve as a basis for brief discussion of the correction of mistakes.

Only the alphabet of the International Phonetic Association is to be used.

The phonetic theory required in Part 1(b) includes the analysis and classification of speech sounds generally and of the sounds of English in particular; sound grouping, accentual features, quantity, junction, assimilation, intonation; questions may also be asked on the teaching of English pronunciation.

In the transcription of English [Part 1(a)], English-speaking candidates may represent RP or their own pronunciation. If a pronunciation other than RP is used, the type transcribed should be specified on the answer paper. Foreign candidates should normally transcribe the RP form.

In the dictation of nonsense words or an unknown language [Part 2(b)], candidates should be prepared to recognise any sounds occurring in the IPA chart.

Marks: The total number of marks for all sections is 200. Certificates will be awarded as follows:

  • First Class: 160 marks or more
  • Second Class: 130-159 marks
  • Third Class: 100-129 marks

Candidates failing to obtain a Certificate may present themselves again for examination after an interval of not less than three months.