• Testing academic literacy in reading and writing for university admissions

      Holland, Martine (University of Bedfordshire, 2019-07)
      Currently university entrance decisions are heavily reliant on further education qualifications and language proficiency tests, with little focus on academic literacy skills that are required to succeed at university. This thesis attempts to define what academic literacy skills are and to what extent they correlate with three measures of university success. To answer these two research questions, I first investigated what academic literacy skills are through a survey of the literature, university study skills websites and existing academic literacy tests, and from these results drew up a checklist for academic literacy test validation. I then attempted to validate a new academic literacy test through a mixed methods study: first by calculating the correlations between performance in this test and university grades, self-assessment and tutor assessment, then through a case study approach to investigate these relationships in more detail. My tentative findings are that, within the humanities and social sciences, the academic literacy test is likely to correlate strongly with university grades, both in the overall results and in two of the four marking criteria: coherence and cohesion, and engagement with sources, with some possibility of correlation in the argument criterion. The fourth criterion – academic language use – did not correlate, but this may be an effect of this particular participant sample rather than the test itself. I also suggest two areas that may be difficult to elicit under timed exam conditions: eliciting appropriate source use when sources are provided, and eliciting synthesis of ideas across two or more given sources.