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Can IELTS and the CEFR do what our can dos can do?: assessing student writing practices on Lancaster University’s EAP (Study Skills) Programme

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Abstract

Publication date28/02/2015
Original languageEnglish
EventUniversity of St Andrews EAP Conference: Assessment in EAP: what’s the score? - St Andrews, United Kingdom
Duration: 28/02/201528/02/2015


ConferenceUniversity of St Andrews EAP Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
CitySt Andrews


is widely used by universities as an entry requirement for international students, but is not an English for Academic Purposes test per se but is rather used to assess language proficiency. Thus, there could be mismatches between the specific skills test takers are required to demonstrate to achieve a particular IELTS band, versus the academic language practices they need at university level. However, representatives of academic institutions (including Lancaster) sometimes claim that intensive EAP courses are designed to improve the IELTS scores of students by one band. The four-week pre-sessional Lancaster University EAP (Study Skills) programme receives students from different disciplines whose IELTS score is just below the required level for admission to their chosen degree programme.
Despite this apparent link between IELTS scores and programme outcomes, and the increasing pressure to report outcomes in terms that relate to the UKVI’s criteria for “Secure English Language Tests”, teachers on the Lancaster programme use a different set of “can do” statements to evaluate the academic language practices of students. In this talk we will compare and contrast the writing-related can do descriptors of the EAP programme (originally developed in-house) with the band descriptors for IELTS writing tasks one and two and with the writing-related can dos of the CEFR. The initial comparisons point out that the EAP can dos use similar terms to those for IELTS bands 8/9 and CEFR levels C1/C2, although the IELTS band required for admission to Lancaster University is between 6 and 7, and the UKVI requires students to have reached level B2. In addition, the EAP Programme can dos incorporate practices such as referencing that are not included either in IELTS or CEFR descriptors. We will further discuss how tutors assess student writing practices by examining samples of student writing and tutor feedback.