How Does CEFR-B2 Relate to IELTS Band Scores and Academic Vocabulary Scores?

Conference: The Paris Conference on Education (PCE2022)
Title: How Does CEFR-B2 Relate to IELTS Band Scores and Academic Vocabulary Scores?
Stream: Language Development & Literacy
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Marcus Warnby, Stockholm University, Sweden


Many non-English university courses – taught in the majority language – include a large number of mandatory English texts in the literature lists. This globalized use of English as a reading language calls for our ability to identify the academic English proficiency level required by students to cope with academic tasks. One well-spread required standard for university admission is the B2-level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Another prominent standard is a band-6 score on the academic IELTS-test (International English Language Testing System). Such standards may indicate students' preparedness for university. There is little empirical validation of what a CEFR-B2 means in terms of other standards, e.g., an IELTS-score or educational achievement. Moreover, the IELTS-band 6 is contested for being a too low requirement. Additionally, vocabulary is a key predictor of reading ability, and, thus, academic vocabulary knowledge may be a good indicator of academic preparedness. This study sets out to provide new information to this research gap. With reference to the increased use of English as an academic reading language and to the importance of vocabulary knowledge, 323 CEFR-B2 upper-secondary English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) students took an IELTS-reading task and two academic vocabulary tests. The results indicated that a large proportion of CEFR-B2 students fall far beneath the recommended IELTS-band 6, and, thus, question the applicability of CEFR-B2 as a valid standard. Academic vocabulary scores correlated positively with reading and achievement grades. Furthermore, it is discussed whether IELTS-band 7 may provide a higher probability of students’ academic preparedness.

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