Students seek out an English tutor for a variety of reasons. Given the multifaceted layers of English subjects and levels, it can sometimes be overwhelming when trying to identify what your specific needs are. One question that I get asked a lot is: what is the difference between General and Academic English?

The University of Western Australia states the following: General English aims to achieve a high standard of everyday English communication skills and covers the four main skills of:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening and
  • Speaking

English for Academic Purposes is designed for students planning to begin tertiary studies. It introduces students to academic study skills.

And it’s as simple as that. But is it? Moreover, maybe the question isn’t whether there are differences, but to simply understand that all students have different needs, and are learning English for different reasons. For example, at Victoria University (as with all Universities), the English language requirements for certificates, diplomas & advanced diplomas vary, and you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved one of the following levels of English language proficiency:

  • IELTS (Academic Module): Overall score of 5.5 (no band less than 5.0)
  • TOEFL Internet: Overall score of 55. Section scores no less than:
  • Listening: 9
  • Speaking: 16
  • Reading: 10
  • Writing: 18
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Overall score of 42-49 (no section score less than 40)
  • University of Cambridge – Advanced (CAE): Overall score of 162. No individual band less than 154
  • VU English – English for Academic Purposes (EAP) (Level 4): achieved

On the other hand, if you are a secondary student preparing to sit your VCE units, you may need to achieve particular study scores in your studies and have an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) to get into university or TAFE. For Units 1 and 2 you will receive either S (Satisfactory), or N (Non-Satisfactory). Your school may give you a grade for each unit, but only the S counts towards your VCE. For Units 3 and 4 you will have grades calculated from A+ to E, UG (Ungraded), or NA (Not Assessed) for your assessment tasks, as well as an S or N.

So it stands to reason that decisions must be made, well in advance when considering particular areas of study. Once you have done your research and you understand your specific academic requirements, then you are ready to take the next step. Even if you simply wish to improve your writing skills, grammar, reading skills, etc, you must set a goal – because this, in turn, supplies the motivation. There are many different reasons to improve your English, whether it is for job opportunities, entrance into University, or to simply improve your communication in business or social circles – a functional language is needed if you are to create new opportunities and function (and flourish) in an English speaking society.

So whatever your individual English needs are, do your research, understand what your requirements and goals (personal and academic) are and begin your journey towards a higher, and more defined level of education.

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