by
Prof. Ryhana Raheem
Open University of Sri Lanka
Overview of Presentation
 Complexities of Language Proficiency
 English for Academic Purposes
 Establishing Benchmarks for
Academic English
 UTEL and the Test of English
Proficiency
 Performance of Institutions on the
Test of English Proficiency
• BICS - Basic Interpersonal
Communication Skills
• CALP – Cognitive Academic
Language Proficiency
 Relatively easy to acquire
 Takes 2 – 3 years
 Mostly oral
 Cognitively undemanding
 Context embedded –meaning can be
guessed at from visual or other clues
 Complex
 Takes 5 – 7 years to master
 Cognitively demanding
 Involves tasks such as
comprehension, synthesis, analysis
 Context reduced- few clues available
 Requires a good command of
language
 Academic reading
 Academic writing
 Reference skills
 Participation in seminars
and discussions
 Listening and Notetaking/Note Making
 Participating in seminars/tutorials/
discussions/supervision
– listening and note-taking
– asking questions, asking for clarification
– answering questions; explaining
– agreeing and disagreeing; stating points
of view; giving reasons; interrupting
– speaking with(out) notes: giving a
paper/oral presentations, initiating
comments, responding; verbalising data
R.R. Jordan (1997)
Complexities of Sri Lankan
University System
vis-a-vis English

National Universities – established at
various times, and varying in size and
resources

Each university caters to a variety of
Faculties

Wide discrepancy in student standards of
English – at entry
 Standards of English within universities –
not uniform as different Faculties demand
different levels of proficiency
 Outcome of ELTU Development Project
sponsored by the British Council
 Identified by all Heads of University
ELT Units as a priority activity
 Design concept based on Common
European Framework-facilitated by
John Slaght of the Centre for Applied
Linguistics and Language Studies,
University of Reading, UK.
• University of Colombo
– Dr D Mendis, Ms N Mahesan, Ms S Ilangakoon,
Ms R Kulasingham
• University of Kelaniya
– Ms D Wettewa
• University of Peradeniya
– Ms C Ellawala
• University of Sri Jayawardenepura
– Ms P Nagasunderam, Ms C Galapatti, Mr DLS Ananda
• Open University of Sri Lanka
– Prof R Raheem, Ms D Devendra, Ms V Medawattegedera,
Ms R De Silva
English Language Skills Minimum Level - UTEL Level 5
 Can make use of visual layout and more complex punctuation in order to
get a general understanding of a text
 Can identify & understand the main ideas in a more complex text
Reading  Can use contextual, structural and morphological clues to deduce
meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases
 Can understand negation, simple passive structures and functions of
basic modals
 Can infer implicit information in simple texts
 Can write down notes if they are dictated slowly
 Can use all basic tenses appropriately to convey meaning with a fair degree of
accuracy and fluency
Writing
 Can handle relative pronouns and more complex coordinating and
subordinating conjunctions (e.g. ‘because’ ‘since’ ‘while’ etc) appropriately
 Can handle complex punctuation (e.g. comma as a clause marker, hyphen in
compound words)
 Can summarize a short text on a familiar subject with a fair degree of accuracy
English Language Skills Minimum Level - UTEL Level 5
 Can identify and understand the key ideas in a longer text.(e.g. lecture)
 Can understand simple explanations and descriptions in short academic
texts
Listening
 Can understand internal cohesion (e.g. within a paragraph)
 Can understand instructions pertaining to a process (e.g. an experiment)
 Can comprehend fairly complex questions (e.g. with modals and/or
embedding)
 Can cope with a limited range of features of spontaneous speech (e.g.
false starts, fillers, hesitation, rephrasing)
 Can use a limited range of cohesive devices to make a short speech on a
general topic
Speaking
 Can use simple “WH” and “yes/no” questions appropriately to ask for
information
 Can provide appropriate responses to fairly complex questions with a
reasonable degree of accuracy
 Can express opinions on familiar topics with a reasonable degree of fluency
and accuracy
English Language Skills –
UTEL Level 6
 Can differentiate main ideas from supporting details in complex texts
 Can identify and understand internal cohesion. (e.g. relating one part of
Reading
the text to another)
 Can identify and understand the functions of discourse markers
 Can understand cause and effect, definitions, comparisons contrast
 Can extract appropriate information from complex texts
 Can summarise a longer and more complex text in one’s own academic
discipline with a reasonable degree of accuracy
 Can describe a process using sequence markers with a fair degree of
accuracy
Writing
 Can make notes from a text in one’s own academic discipline or on a
familiar topic
 Can express notions of cause and effect, comparison and contrast,
definitions fact, opinion etc with minimum errors in academic writing
 Can write short reports/essays with a reasonable degree of accuracy and
fluency
English Language Skills –
UTEL Level 6
 Can take down effective notes
 Can draw inferences from academic texts
 Can understand opinions in and draw inferences from short ac
Listening
texts
 Can differentiate between main and supporting ideas and take
down notes appropriately in short spoken discourse (e.g.
lectures)
 Can distinguish between formal and informal styles of discourse
 Can interact in small groups on familiar topics
Speaking  Can speak with confidence and an acceptable degree of fluency
on familiar topics
English Language Skills –
UTEL Level 7
 Can understand implicit information in complex texts by
making inferences
Reading
 Can distinguish between fact, supposition, opinion, arguments
etc
 Can identify and understand complex grammatical structures
 Can relate one part of a text to another
 Can write short articles, assignments, tutorials with minimum
errors
Writing
 Can handle descriptive, narrative, expository and argumentative
prose with a reasonable degree of accuracy and fluency
 Can sustain a certain degree of coherence in an extended piece of
academic writing
English Language Skills –
UTEL Level 7
 Can identify and understand illustrations, examples and
digressions and deviations in academic discourse
 Can identify and understand discourse markers which signpost
rhetorical structure of a fairly lengthy text/mini lecture/short talk
Listening  Can identify and comprehend points made by multiple
speakers(peers) including asides and incomplete utterances
 Can identify various registers
 Can take down notes appropriately on more complex academic
texts
 Can participate in informal peer group discussions on academic
topics using appropriate interactive strategies
Speaking  Can make a short formal presentation
 Can handle questions of clarifications, suggestions, comments
etc. related to the presentation
8
Reading
Writing
 Can identify and
understand ambiguity
in long and complex
academic texts
 Can handle all cohesive
devices to maintain flow and
coherence in a piece of writing
 Can understand the
writer’s intention,
attitudes, and tone
 Can understand ellipsis
 Can use register and style
appropriately
 Can complete academic
writing tasks with accuracy
and fluency
 Can understand
functions of complex
punctuation
 Can respond critically
to complex academic
texts
 Can understand and
interpret attitudes,
opinions and stance of
most speakers in a
discussion
 Can identify and
understand the rhetorical
structure of a text – cause
and effect, comparisons,
contrast etc
 Can comprehend and
take notes on complex
academic discourse
 Can comprehend
abstract concepts in
complex texts
9
Listening
 Can write a summary of a
thesis
 Can summarise and
paraphrase complex
academic texts
 Can handle a wide range of
academic tasks (e.g. Project
reports, expository or
argumentative thesis)
 Can analyse complex
argumentation in an
academic text
 Can convey value judgements
and critical comments
convincingly
 Can skillfully handle a wide
range of structure, styles and
vocabulary
Speaking
 Can make an effective
seminar/research paper
presentation.
 Can defend one’s position
on an academic topic with
confidence
 Can make effective
contributions to
discussions and debates
in an academic context.
 Can understand and
distinguish between
primary and anecdotal
discourse. (e.g. asides)
 Can participate
effectively and
appropriately in a multispeaker environment
 Can understand and
follow academic
discourse in a multi
speaker environment in
any variety of English
with ease
 Can present and defend
academic papers and
research proposals with
fluency and grammatical
accuracy
 Can perform eloquently
and effectively in any
context

Writing
– Composition (Short argumentative essay)
– Describing a graph

Reading
– Comprehension passages

Speech
– Personal Interview
– Short speech on given topic

Listening
– Comprehension passage
Scope of TEP Project
2009
 Test samples of students from a
variety of disciplines across 12
universities and 2 private sector
institutions that had been granted QEF
funding by the IRQUE Project, a World
Bank funded project for conventional
universities and institutions
 Each sample to consist of 50 students
 27 groups
Details of Test of English
Proficiency (TEP) -2009
 Level tested – Benchmark 5 abilities
 Academic level- Completed 2 years of study
 All four language skills tested-as decided for
UTEL
 2 tasks per Skill
 Test administered to 25 groups across 12
universities and 2 private sector institutions
 Internationally moderated+ locally moderated
Disciplines Tested &
Participant Institutions
• Medicine: Colombo, SJP, Ruhuna, Jaffna
• Science: Jaffna, Peradeniya, Kelaniya, Rajarata, Sabaragamuwa
• Agriculture: Peradeniya, Eastern, Sabaragamuwa
• Accountancy: ICASL, Kelaniya, SJP
• IT: APIIT
• Engineering(Civil, Mechanical, Chemical): Moratuwa
• Earth Sciences: Moratuwa,
• Management and Commerce: SJP, Kelaniya
• Social Sciences: South Eastern, Peradeniya
• Languages: South Eastern
• Veterinary Science: Peradeniya
• Food Science: Wayamba
Average Performance in Reading by Institutions
40
37.4 37.6
30.1
30
33.4 33.8
34.6 34.7 34.7
27.8 28.3
24.7
22.2
23.3
20
15.2
11.8
10
SEUSL
PDN
KLN
PDN RJRT JFN EUSL APIIT
SABA
MWAWYMB
MWA
Name of the University
JFN ICASL KLN MWA SJP
Med.
Vet. Sci.
Med.
Acct.
Med.
Chem.Eng.
Bio. Sci
Acct.
Med.
Civil Eng.
Mech. Eng.
Food Sci.
Earth Res.
App.Sci.
Agri.
IT
Agri.
Phy.Sci.
App.Sci.
Sci.
Mgt. Com
Bus. Mgt.
Sociol.
Langs.
0
Soc.Sci
Average Mark
26.7 26.7
31.8
31.2 31.2
32.5 32.7
35.8 36.1 36.2
SJP RUH PDN CMB
Average Performance in Writing by Institutions
30
26.4
25.5
22.2 22.2
23.0 23.2 23.4
20
18.5 18.5
19.5
19.0 19.3
17.5
16.9 17.2
16.4 16.8
14.9
12.4
10.0
10
7.4
SEUSL
JFN KLN PDN SABA MWA KLN PDN JFN EUSL SABA KLN
MWA
Med.
Med.
Appl.Sci
Med.
Acct.
Food Sci.
Mech. Eng.
Acct.
Sci.
IT
Chem.Eng.
Civil Eng.
Bio. Sci.
Agri.
Agri.
Med.
Sociol.
Bus. Mgt.
Earth Res.
Appl.Sci
Vet. Sci.
Mgt. Com
Phy.Sci.
Langs.
0
Soc.Sci
Average Mark
20.8 20.8 20.9 21.2
APIIT PDN SJP MWAWYMBICASL SJP RJRT RUH CMB
Name of the University
Average Performance in Listening by Institutions
40
34.9
32.8 33.2 33.3
31.3 31.4
23.8
24.6 24.9 25.2
25.8 26.1
26.8 27.0
28.0 28.0 28.3 28.3 28.5
22.6
19.8
20
17.5
15.2
10
SEUSL
JFN
KLN
MWA SABA MWA PDN SABA EUSL SJP
Vet. Sci.
Med.
Acct.
Med.
Bio. Sci.s
Civil Eng
App.Sci
IT
Med.
Chem.Eng.
Food Sci
Sci.
Med.
Acct
Agri.
Agri.
Socio
Earth Res
App.Sci
Mech. Eng
Bus. Mgt.
Mgt. Com
Phy.Sci.
So.Sci
0
Lang.s
Average Mark
30
29.1 29.3
JFN PDN WYMBMWA RUH APIIT RJRT MWA KLN SJP ICASL CMB PDN
Name of the University
Average Performance in Speech by Institutions
40
34.3
32.9
29.7 29.9
30.8
27.8 28.3
25.4 25.4
21.9
19.0
20
19.7
26.2 26.6
23.5 23.6 23.8 24.1
22.8 22.8 23.0
20.6
15.4
13.2
14.2
10
SEUSLPDNSEUSL
KLN
PDN KLN EUSL
SABA
MWA
RJRT MWAWYMBICASL RUH SJP PDN MWA CMB SJP
Name of the University
Med.
IT
Phy.Sci.
Med.
Med.
Chem.Eng.
Vet. Sci.
Acct.
Med.
Acct.
Food. Sci
Mech. Eng.
Appl.Sci
Earth Res.
Civil Eng.
Appl.Sci
Agri.
Agri.
Bio. Sci.
Sci.
Bus. Mgt.
Mgt. Com.
Langs.
Sociol.
0
Soc.Sci.
Average Mark
30
JFN APIIT JFN
Performance in Reading (all students = 845)
Mean
29.86
Standard Deviation
9.29
Mark Range in Reading
Performance in Reading (All Students)
400
357
350
N o. of Students
300
240
250
= 125
200
150
123
92
100
50
33
0
0-10
11-19
20-29
M ark Range
30-39
40-50
Performance in Writing (all students = 845)
Mean
18.85
Standard Deviation
7.55
Mark Range in Writing
Performance in Writing (All Students)
400
360
350
296
N o. of Students
300
250
200
= 476
150
116
100
68
50
5
0
0-10
11-19
20-29
M ark Range
30-39
40-50
Performance in Listening (all students = 845)
Mean
27.13
Standard Deviation
8.27
Mark Range in Listening
Performance in Listening (All Students)
400
367
350
300
No. of Students
268
250
200
= 150
150
125
100
60
50
25
0
0-10
11-19
20-29
Mark Range
30-39
40-50
Performance in Speech (all students = 845)
Mean
24.12
Standard Deviation
8.47
Mark Range in Speech
Performance in Speech (All Students)
400
368
350
N o. of Students
300
250
200
=248
213
184
150
100
50
39
35
0
0-10
11-19
20-29
M ark Range
30-39
40-50
Findings of TEP

Variation in performance across
the University system


Overall - Writing is a weak skill

Benchmark 5 could be accepted as
an appropriate standard for
undergraduates in second year of
study
Performance in Reading, Speech
and Listening – satisfactory at
Benchmark 5 level
Problems and Issues
 Non-professionalism of Some QEF
Coordinators
 Unacceptable interpersonal behaviour
 Unhelpful/uncooperative
 Inability to cope with email correspondence
 Unacceptable standards of student
behaviour within the examination hall
 General knowledge of students – very
limited
Suggestions for incorporating
Benchmarks into University ELT
programmes
 Identify Benchmark level of students at
entry –Faculty/discipline-wise

Define target Benchmark level(s) for
different years of study – Faculty/disciplinewise

Match target level(s) with current level and
identify what can be achieved within
academic time provided

Design ELT courses with Benchmarks as
objectives

Use Benchmarks as guide to evaluation
Thank you for your attention
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ENGLISH & ENGLISH LANGUAGE TESTING