Postentry English Language Assessment in Universities

  • John ReadEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Modern international universities are admitting students with diverse language and educational backgrounds, which means that old assumptions about how well prepared the students are to meet the demands of English-medium study may no longer apply. Domestic as well as international students may need to enhance their academic literacy skills. This situation makes it desirable to identify incoming students who would benefit from some form of academic language development by administering what has become known in Australia as a postentry (English) language assessment (PELA). This chapter describes the background situation in Australian universities, where this kind of assessment has played an increasing role in the last 10 years, and presents case studies of PELAs in Australia and New Zealand. It discusses how a PELA can be distinguished from a proficiency or a placement test. Another important consideration is to relate the assessment to the delivery of language and literacy instruction as students pursue their degree studies. The traditional approach of providing support through generic language and study skills programs is under challenge from those who advocate more discipline-specific academic literacy provision that is integrated into the teaching of content courses and involves collaboration between language tutors and subject lecturers. However, difficulties in implementing an integrated approach mean that there is a continuing role for PELAs. The chapter ends with some discussion of the need to sustain academic language development throughout undergraduate study and the possibility of some kind of assessment of the professional communication skills that students will require in their future employment.


Academic literacy Language assessment Universities in Australia and New Zealand English language development International students 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Cultures, Languages and LinguisticsThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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