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a shocking finding about ielts test scores
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desert_traveller



Joined: 28 Nov 2006
Posts: 306

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 1:53 pm    Post subject: a shocking finding about ielts test scores Reply with quote

IELTS Test taker performance 2011

Mean band score for the most frequent countries or regions of origin (Academic):

41 countries on the list, bottom five: Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar

Mean band score for the most frequent countries or regions of origin (General Training):

39 countries on the list, bottom two: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates

Mean band scores for the most common first languages (Academic):

40 languages on the list, bottom one: Arabic

Mean band scores for the most common first languages (General Training):

42 languages on the list, bottom one: Arabic

source:

http://www.ielts.org/researchers/analysis_of_test_data/test_taker_performance_2011.aspx

(Data at source not sorted by overall score, I did the sorting by myself.)

It seems IELTS is really not for Arabs, and particularly not for Gulf Arabs.

Or, Arabs, and particularly Gulf Arabs, are really not for IELTS.

However you put it, the fact remains: there is a pattern there, and if there is a pattern, there must be an explanation as well.

Any conjectures?
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16064
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 3:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, but not conjecture... experience.

Their English language skills are low. (reflects what I have seen from the 1980s.) I would expect that you would see the same results from the TOEFL.

VS
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Zara461



Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Posts: 58
Location: 007-Kingdom

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 5:27 pm    Post subject: Re: a shocking finding about ielts test scores Reply with quote

desert_traveller wrote:
It seems IELTS is really not for Arabs, and particularly not for Gulf Arabs.

Or, Arabs, and particularly Gulf Arabs, are really not for IELTS.

However you put it, the fact remains: there is a pattern there, and if there is a pattern, there must be an explanation as well.

Any conjectures?

Well, statistically speaking, I think the above statement is not valid.

There are Arabs in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa who are good in the English language, at least academically, and if you look at most of the US/UK universities, you will find plenty of academics who are Arabs.

You statement is similar to:
It seems The Arabic Language Proficiency Test (ALPT) is really not for Westerners, and particularly not for American/British people.

And again, statistically speaking, I don’t see any pattern (socially or scientifically) in both statements.
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Dedicated



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 748
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

desert_traveller,

As an IELTS examiner for both the speaking and writing components of the IELTS exam, these statistics do not surprise me.

Usually, Arab students score quite well on the speaking and listening sections of the exam, but poorly on the reading and writing. As regards reading, Arab students have generally only been exposed to the traditional bottom-up approach or grammar translation method when taught reading. This is "word forward reading" leading to slow, often aloud, subvocalization as they would do when reading the Holy Quran. This slows them down dreadfully in the IELTS reading, which has about 2,700 words in 3 passages and 40 questions in one hour.

As for writing, Arabs write from right to left and have a very different grammar to English. Arabic has a 3 consonant root at its base so students are often confused by the lack of patterns in English that would allow them to distinguish nouns from verbs and consequently make many errors in word forms. Short vowels are unimportant in Arabic and do not appear in writing, leading to frequent spelling mistakes in English. They have no verb "to be" in the present tense and no auxiliary "do" and no modal verbs.

Arab students on average continue to be an oral culture - they write and read little in Arabic, let alone in English. They are often entered unprepared (by institutions such as HCT) into the IELTS exam so see how they will "get on". This probably accounts for these statistics.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12736
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 7:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Dedicated,

Nice analysis Smile

Regards,
John
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12304
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are certainly differences between Gulf Arabs and other Arabs in English levels. I too was an IELTS Examiner for some time and it made me very aware of the low leavel of many candidates from KSA and the Gulf.
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Zara461



Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Posts: 58
Location: 007-Kingdom

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dedicated wrote:
Arab students on average continue to be an oral culture - they write and read little in Arabic, let alone in English. They are often entered unprepared (by institutions such as HCT) into the IELTS exam so see how they will "get on". This probably accounts for these statistics.

This is obvious, because the Arabic language (L1) and culture are important influence on the learning of Arab students. This cultural transfer will affect the English writing of Arab students.
I think English teachers in the ME or elsewhere, should take into account the culture of Arab students when developing English language programs. The recognition of cultural transfer will lead to Arab students to succeed in their English writing.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Zara461,

"I think English teachers in the ME or elsewhere, should take into account the culture of Arab students when developing English language programs. The recognition of cultural transfer will lead to Arab students to succeed in their English writing."

This is also obvious - or, at least, one hopes it would be Very Happy

Regards,
John
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16064
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zara461 wrote:
The recognition of cultural transfer will lead to Arab students to succeed in their English writing.

I'm not sure that this is all that true. Most all teachers that I worked with were fully aware of this situation and attempted within the limitations of imposed curriculum to help their students.

But, until the the administrations understand that process, teachers will continue to be blamed for not being able to bring students up to required level in a couple semesters... even if you make them sit in EFL classes for 5 hours a day. (which is not uncommon)

Teachers are too often stuck between the unrealistic expectations of the administration AND the students.

VS
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Rena58



Joined: 03 Apr 2013
Posts: 23
Location: The free world

PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear veiledsentiments

You´ve nailed it Laughing
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crewmeal1



Joined: 08 Jul 2010
Posts: 75

PostPosted: Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"But, until the the administrations understand that process, teachers will continue to be blamed for not being able to bring students up to required level in a couple semesters... even if you make them sit in EFL classes for 5 hours a day. (which is not uncommon)"

I wonder how many administrators have a reasonable IELTS score. In my experience many wouldn't get off the bottom rung!
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D. Merit



Joined: 02 May 2008
Posts: 173

PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another factor is that gulf Arab students repeatedly take the tests as a 'practice run'.
It is not uncommon for students to take the test five or six times when in other countries students work on improving their skills and then take the test, gulf Arabs take the test in the hope that the test itself will improve their ability.
This is also a factor in, for example, SE Asia, where students from Laos tend to get better scores than students from comparatively wealthy Thailand. In Laos the students concentrate more on getting their skills up to scratch before the test because it's such an expensive test to take.
In contrast, in the UAE my students reported knowing one candidate who had taken the test seventeen times.
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abayababy



Joined: 26 Dec 2012
Posts: 109

PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I think English teachers in the ME or elsewhere, should take into account the culture of Arab students when developing English language programs. The recognition of cultural transfer will lead to Arab students to succeed in their English writing.


Easy to say. Not so easily done. I wouldn't mind some concrete examples, Zara 461 or anyone for that matter, that illustrate a means to that end. Thanks.
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Zara461



Joined: 17 Nov 2012
Posts: 58
Location: 007-Kingdom

PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

abayababy wrote:
Quote:
I think English teachers in the ME or elsewhere, should take into account the culture of Arab students when developing English language programs. The recognition of cultural transfer will lead to Arab students to succeed in their English writing.


Easy to say. Not so easily done. I wouldn't mind some concrete examples, Zara 461 or anyone for that matter, that illustrate a means to that end. Thanks.

Well, I quote from Cook (1999):
“L2 users’ knowledge of a second language is not the same as that of native speakers even at advanced levels. L2 users’ knowledge of their first language (L1) is not the same as that of monolingual native speakers. L2 users think in different ways to monolinguals. ... Trying to get students to be like native speakers is ineffective; their minds and their knowledge of language will inevitably be different. The benefits of learning a second language are becoming a different kind of person, not just adding another language. The main obstacle to setting the successful L2 user as the goal is the belief that the native speaker speaks the true form of English. This implies the comparison of one group with another: the language of non-natives has always to be compared with that of natives; anything that deviates is wrong. For other areas of language study, William Labov established that it is discrimination to treat one group in terms of another group that they can never belong to, whether women as men, black Americans as white Americans, or working-class as middle-class. People must be allowed to be what they are when this is an unchangeable effect of birth or of early up-bringing. An appropriate goal for many students is then using the L2 competently for their own purposes and in their own ways, which may very well not be the same as those of a monolingual native speaker and indeed may not involve native speakers at all. Students can become successful L2 users rather than forever ‘failing’ the native speaker target” .
http://abisamra03.tripod.com/nada/languageacq-erroranalysis.html

May be the answer to your question can be found in the following references:


“Teaching of English to Arab Students: Problems and Remedies”
http://interesjournals.org/ER/pdf/2012/June/Ansari.pdf

“INFLUENCES OF ARABIC PRAGMATIC TRANSFER ON EFL ARAB EARNERS”
http://www.academia.edu/1484723/Influences_of_Arabic_Pragmatic_Transfer_on_EFL_Arab_Learners

“Humans are prone not only to commit language errors themselves but also to err in their judgements of those errors committed by others” – (James, 1998, p. 204).

BTW, I am not an English teacher, but I am very interested in the above topic.
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abayababy



Joined: 26 Dec 2012
Posts: 109

PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am familiar with Ansari's work. I tried to read the article once while I was doing research. It was painful to read stuff like this:
Quote:
But from the
technical point of view, reading and writing skills are
the most important. So the emphasis should
be on reading and writing. If a student learns how
to read words or sentences, he would automatically become
able to write and speak English. If he does not know how to read, listening words would fall flat on his ears.
I was kind of embarrassed for the guy.

I was actually hoping someone would share a few tricks of the trade, i.e techniques and methods to get the Saudi student engaged and interested. After all, they are always saying "Teacher, it's not my fault", so obviously we are doing something wrong.
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