Comparing lexical development at two distinct IELTS bands within an international foundation programme

Andrew Drummond


This study measures lexical development in the writing of two groups of non-native speaking students on an international foundation programme at a UK University. The higher-level group entered the programme with IELTS 7.0 in writing and the lower-level group 5.5 in writing. Laufer and Nation’s (1995) Lexical Frequency Profile has been used, along with Antwordprofiler (Anthony, 2014), to calculate what proportions of common and less common vocabulary were present in their writing at the beginning and end of the academic year. These proportions were then compared with a benchmark taken from a corpus of 30 essays of accomplished students’ writing. The results show that the higher-level group moved firmly into the range of the native-speaker benchmark, but the lower-level group made more limited progress. Other measurements based on lexical variation give a different picture of lexical development in the lower group, indicating that lexical knowledge should be treated as a multi-dimensional construct. Implications for EAP courses are discussed.


lexical frequency profile; IELTS writing scores; foundation programme; lexical sophistication; EAP; students’ writing

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ISSN 2045-4031. University of Central Lancashire 2010-2013.