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Teaching to the test: The effects of coaching on English-proficiency scores for university entry

Trenkic, D; Hu, R; (2021) Teaching to the test: The effects of coaching on English-proficiency scores for university entry. Journal of the European Second Language Association , 5 (1) pp. 1-15. 10.22599/jesla.74. Green open access

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Abstract

Despite arriving with the required language qualifications, many international students struggle with the linguistic demands of a university degree. Using the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) as an example, this study explored how short but intensive preparation programmes may affect high-stakes English-proficiency test scores with which students apply for university places. The participants were 89 Chinese speakers of English as a foreign language in Shanghai. They were tested twice, four weeks apart, on IELTS and three other measures of English ability: The Oxford Online Placement Test, a vocabulary test, and the speed and accuracy of sentence comprehension. Between the two testing points, 45 participants underwent testspecific training consisting of previous IELTS papers, offered by a large test-preparation establishment with a network of over 1,000 training centres. The remaining 44 participants did not engage in any test preparation at the time. Teaching to the test led to a half a band rise in IELTS scores above the gain from test repetition alone, suggesting that the training was effective. Importantly, the IELTS gain did not generalise to the other measures of English ability; the groups performed similarly on all other language tests at both times. This suggests that test-specific, curriculum-narrowing courses could be inflating the scores with which international students apply for university places, with important consequences for test-developers, universities and students.

Type: Article
Title: Teaching to the test: The effects of coaching on English-proficiency scores for university entry
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.22599/jesla.74
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.101610.22599/jesla.74
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10123396
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