Predicting the academic achievement of multilingual students of English through vocabulary testing

Szabo, Csaba Z.; Stickler, Ursula and Adinolfi, Lina (2020). Predicting the academic achievement of multilingual students of English through vocabulary testing. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2020.1814196

Abstract

Previous studies on the academic achievement (AA) of students who pursue education in English-medium instruction settings indicate that standardised international language tests demonstrate low predictive power for study success. Consequently, there seems to be clear value in exploring alternative means of determining influential correlators between language proficiency and academic performance, especially in countries where international tests are neither a prerequisite for university admission nor a cost-effective option. This study explored Hungarian native-speakers, members of a linguistic minority living in Romania, studying for a degree in English Language and Literature. English (L3) and Romanian (L2) form-meaning based receptive vocabulary tests have been employed to explore the extent to which they predict AA. The results show significant positive correlations between lexical knowledge in the tested languages and AA. However, regression analyses indicate that English vocabulary scores emerge as the best single predictors and explain over 30% of variance. This suggests that, in the case of typologically close languages, lexical tests are likely measuring the same underlying trait. Given the relatively high predictive power of vocabulary tests in relation to AA, we conclude that lexical knowledge is an important explanatory factor of AA, even in the case of multilinguals.

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