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A Review of the Academic Needs of Native English-Speaking College Students in the United States

Ginther, April; Grant, Leslie
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RM-96-04, TOEFL-MS-01
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Students, English, Literature Reviews, Reading, Student Needs, Writing (Composition)


This review was commissioned by the TOEFL 2000 Project as a preliminary step for a study examining the academic needs of entering undergraduate and graduate students in the United States. The review surveys literature concerning the academic needs of native English-speaking (L1) college students in the United States from several different perspectives. The literature reviewed can be divided into three categories: (1) literature that addresses student abilities either through an examination of their deficiencies or through categorizations of the writing tasks they must perform; (2) L1 "process" and Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) literature that addresses the nature of academic writing tasks with respect to the larger theoretical and institutional contexts in which those tasks are performed; and (3) literature that addresses the student's perceptions of and attempts to accommodate the academic demands of higher education. Each of these literatures contributes to understanding student needs in the academy. The implications of the perspectives represented are then discussed with reference to TOEFL 2000, the development of a revised test of English as a foreign language. A major consideration involves the derivation of test tasks for a population of examinees who are not native speakers of English from the wealth of information that describes academic demands on beginning undergraduate and graduate students who are native speakers of English. The connection between a needs analysis and test design is the critical area of concern. The review concludes with questions about the identification of the appropriate testing domain, the appropriate level of specification of test tasks, the fairness of testing academic tasks, and authentic language use in testing.

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