Language and Academic Assessment for Programmes taught in English (Academic Readiness Screening/ACRES)

Since 2015, the Center for Multilingual Academic Communication (Movi) has developed a set of tasks as part of academic language proficiency assessment in the student selection process. The set of tasks consists of items aimed at determining applicant academic ability for accessing field-specific language skills as part of a larger process for determining suitability for programmes, the academic readiness of the applicants. On these pages ACRES, Academic Readiness Screening*, is presented and information is given for applicants participating in ACRES, as well as Master's programmes or PhD programmes interested in using ACRES.

The aim of ACRES is to look at language skills as part of a wider academic whole, not as skills confirmed by separate validated tests. However, within current university resources, internationally validated language tests are still officially required for demonstrating language skills of applicants to most master’s and doctoral programmes. ACRES complements the information provided by these official test results, providing both the department and Movi’s teachers with valuable and diverse information about the competencies of the students selected for the university. This is because general academic language tests cannot give a complete picture of how students will perform within a specific field of studies, something the screening process aims to provide by tailoring the screening to specific fields of study at the university (Dimova, 2020, p. 11-12; Rose, Curle, Aizawa & Thompson, 2020, p. 2149). 

Internationally validated language tests do not tell how the student will  perform in the discipline-specific studies - ACRES aims at the assessment of discipline-specific academic abilities.

The applicants involved in ACRES have found the tasks meaningful as the tasks also give them an idea of the level of competence required at our university. Participating programmes feel that the core of the ACRES process, i.e. the assessment of academic readiness on a larger scale rather than assessment only of language, is valuable and brings added information to the application process in terms of identifying the most suitable students for the programme.

ACRES is a development project initiated by Movi and the Strategic Development Unit. The development work of ACRES is a continuation of the project Language proficiency and academic performance: Insights into international MA programs (2014–present) under the Education Council, which has monitored the progress of student studies in all master's programmes taught in English at the University of Jyväskylä from 2014 to 2017.

In 2016, ACRES was added to the general selection criteria for Master's programmes taught in English at the university, and in 2017 the screening was also added as a possible part of the language and academic readiness assessment for PhD dissertation researcher applicants. Currently, each year several PhD applicants attend this screening.

The original pilots in 2016 were Educational Sciences (EDUMA) and Corporate Environmental Management (CEM). In the 2020 selection round, Nanosciences, Mathematics, and Nuclear and Particle Physics programmes also joined through an initial pilot process for the screening. In the 2022 selection round, Psychology of Physical Activity, Health and Wellbeing (PSYACT), Responsible Management and Business of Sport (RESPO), and Biological and Environmental Science (BESMP) joined ACRES as piloting programmes. All programmes decided to choose the screening as the only form of language proficiency validation. However, at the current time, a couple of the programmes from 2020 have since been discontinued at JYU. With recently granted permission, CEM is continuing to use the same ACRES structure for their admissions process following the end of the piloting process.


*) Academic readiness is a multidimensional concept. In our development work, we also strive to define the concept in line with our own policies and practices at the University of Jyväskylä. There is some literature on the subject. At this stage, the following, in particular, seems to be suitable for our application of the concept:

  • Barnes, W., Slate, J. R., & Rojas-LeBouef, A. (2010). College-readiness and academic preparedness: The same concepts?. Current Issues in Education, 13(4).
  • Cliff, A., & Hanslo, M. (2010). The design and use of ‘alternate’ assessments of academic literacy as selection mechanisms in higher education. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 27(3), 265-276.
  • Conley, D. T. (2007). The challenge of college readiness. Educational Leadership, 64(7), 1-6.
  • Dimova, S. (2020). English language requirements for enrolment in EMI programs in higher education: A European case. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 47, 1-13.
  • Rose, H., Curle, S., Aizawa, I., & Thompson, G. (2020). What drives success in English medium taught courses? The interplay between language proficiency, academic skills, and motivation. Studies in Higher Education, 45(11), 2149-2161.

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