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Opposing tensions of local and international standards for EAP writing programmes: who are we assessing for?In response to recent curriculum changes in secondary schools in Hong Kong including the implementation of the 3-3-4 education structure, with one year less at high school and one year more at university and the introduction of a new school leavers' exam, the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), universities in the territory have revisited their English language curriculums. At City University a new EAP curriculum and assessment framework was developed to fit the re-defined needs of the new cohort of students.In this paper we describe the development and benchmarking process of a scoring instrument for EAP writing assessment at City University. We discuss the opposing tensions of local (HKDSE) and international (CEFR and IELTS) standards, the problems of aligning EAP needs-based domain scales and standards with the CEFR and the issues associated with attempting to fulfil the institutional expectation that the EAP programme would raise students' scores by a whole CEFR scale step. Finally, we consider the political tensions created by the use of external, even international, reference points for specific levels of writing performance from all our students and suggest the benefits of a specific, locally-designed, fit-for-purpose tool over one aligned with universal standards.