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The Reported Activities and Beliefs of the Students Preparing for the Specialised English Test (SPE).

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Mahmoud Moradi Abbasabady
Publication date2009
Number of pages336
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
Electronic ISBNs9780438570931
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The purpose of this study is to explore the 'washback effect' of a high stakes test known as the Specialised English Test (SPE) which is used to admit English-major applicants into English departments at universities in Iran. A belief commonly held about the SPE Test is that students admitted to university since its introduction in 2002 have been more proficient and successful than pre-2002 students. However, no research has been done on how the test might be affecting the learning of the students. I examined the reported learning activities of the students to see what they reported they did in order to prepare for the test and why. As the SPE test preparation is done partly independently (by out-of-school resources), I also considered the students' reported learning beliefs to examine how the test was interacting with those criteria. Thus, reported activities and learning beliefs were the main themes of this study. I collected the data from two contrasting groups- students who were going to take the SPE Test and students who were going to take the GE Test. I used three instruments to collect the data: questionnaire, letters, and interviews. 1038 students responded to the questionnaire, 91 students wrote the letters, and 18 students were interviewed. The results showed that the SPE Test did have washback in the areas where washback was intended. The study also identified factors other than the test which influenced the learners. As regards learning beliefs, the results showed that the test preparation activities of the students were both affecting them as well as were affected by them. The study suggested that in addition to test innovations, the beliefs of the learners should also be taken into account in order to promote positive washback. The study also recommended the use of letters as an instrument in washback studies provided they are written by interested students and the results are followed up by other instruments such as interviews.

Bibliographic note

Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2009.