English for Academic Purposes

English for academic purposes (EAP) has been developed to teach precollege or college-level students the necessary skills and vocabulary needed to be successful at the college and university level. Such an approach is often used in intensive programs associated with colleges and universities. Traditional curriculum in this approach has often been built around the discrete language skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking, and sometimes grammar and vocabulary. More recently other programs have become more integrated or built around academic content areas. Academic skills may include teaching students to give speeches, write research papers, work in groups, read academic texts, for example. Students learn not only the English to go with these tasks, but also the discourse and rhetorical patterns specific to the target academic culture. Although vocabulary and language structure may focus on specific fields, focus is often on vocabulary and structure that is common to all academic fields as well.
Strategy of English for Academic Purposes

English Skill Level: Advanced Beginning to Advanced
Grade Level: Upper Elementary to Adult

Although there is no one specific way to approach English for Academic Purposes, most programs try to focus their curriculum around the skills and content that students will use in their college or university classes.
  • Teachers conduct a needs analysis of the academic skills, content, discourse, and vocabulary which students will need to be successful in an academic setting.
  • Teachers consider the following questions:

Will the program be built around content or discrete skills?
Are the students undergraduates, graduates, or a mix?
Are the students in one field only or several different ones?
Will students be only in EAP classes, or will they also be taking regular academic classes?
How will the teacher decide when students’ English and academic skills are good enough to meet the demands of the college or university?

  • From the information obtained from the needs analysis as well as answers to these questions, the teacher designs a curriculum that provides the students with what they will need to know in an academic setting. The content of the curriculum might include topics such as science, psychology, and business. Skill areas might include giving speeches, reading textbooks, writing papers, working in groups, listening to lectures, and taking notes.
  • Teachers develop assessment instruments that will give them and other concerned parties the information needed to feel confident that students will be successful when they enter their field of study.
Applications and Examples of English for Academic Purposes

An Intermediate Speaking and Listening Class in a Discrete-Skills Program 

The focus of the class is the topic of space exploration. Students are given a short exercise that lists famous events in space exploration such as when the telescope was invented, when Pluto was discovered, when the first space flight took place, when a human first walked on the moon. Students are asked to match dates with the events. As a class, students guess the dates to see if they know the answer. Students are asked if they think space exploration is a good thing and why or why not. These introductory exercises are used to discover and highlight students’ knowledge about space. In addition, vocabulary or concepts that students may need to know for the upcoming lecture can be previewed. Students listen to a fairly brief lecture about space. This lecture might be given by the teacher, be on video, or be on audiocassette. Students listen only to the lecture the first time. The second time, as students listen they fill in the missing information in an outline. Students may compare their answers with other students or check their answers on an overhead the teacher displays. Students then listen a third time so they can attend again to those parts they had difficulty understanding. Students are asked what they think living in space would be like. Students are then put in groups and given time to design a space colony. Students plan and draw their colony. Once students have designed their space colony, they give a presentation about it to the rest of the class. Students can be reminded about the use of the future and the conditional tenses for their presentation. Other students ask questions about the students’ colonies. Then students are asked which colony they would like to live on and why. The teacher or the students (or both together) can fill out an assessment form evaluating the students’ presentations.

An Integrated Skills Course for Graduate Students Already Enrolled in Some Academic Classes 

The semester course is divided up into academic topics such as demography, applied linguistics, biological sciences, marketing, and computer technology. For each academic topic, students break into groups for about a two- to three-week period and practice working in groups. Students are given information on how to disagree politely, how to make a point, how to interrupt another speaker, and so on. Students are given tasks to complete. For example, students may develop a plan for a business they hope to develop. They will do research on their line of business. They may present their plan to others to get support. This includes putting necessary information on graphs, tables, and charts and being able to explain the information. Students write up their results.
In addition, throughout the semester students will do individual projects related to their field of study. For example, graduate students may give a twenty-minute presentation on an aspect of their field that will be understood by a general academic audience. Students will also practice listening to lectures and note taking. Students will also be guided in writing academic material such as summaries, essays, and research papers. Throughout the semester students will be required to hand in various parts of their research paper such as an abstract, a thesis statement, an outline, and several rough drafts checked for structure, vocabulary, and organization and coherence. This paper can be a real paper they are writing for one of their university classes. In fact, as often as possible, assignments are related to what is actually going on in their university classes. Students are evaluated through tests that include multiple-choice questions, short-answer questions, and essay questions so that students may practice the types of exams they will likely encounter in their academic classes.

Weaknesses and Modification of English for Academic Purposes
  • Because EAP focuses on the particular needs of students in higher education, those students not involved in or planning on continuing their academic studies may find the academic orientation irrelevant or even boring.
  • Modifications can be made if you have a mix of students by including topics that all foreign language students will encounter, such as shopping, numbers, finance, and transportation.