Teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP)

If you already work in the EAP sector, or are interested in starting to work in the sector, there is information here to help you.

An Introduction to English for Academic Purposes

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) involves teaching students to use language appropriately for study and research. It is a branch of ESP (English for Specific Purposes) which has expanded together with the growing number of international students undertaking higher education in English.  

As EAP has the broad aim of helping learners to study or research in English, it covers a wide range of academic communicative practice including: 

  • Pre-university, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching (from materials design to lectures and classroom activities)
  • Classroom interactions (tutorials, feedback, seminar discussions)
  • Research genres (journal articles, conference papers, grant proposals)
  • Student writing (assignments, exams, dissertations).  

EAP is an educational approach and a set of beliefs that is often contrasted with general English courses: the starting point for EAP is the learner and their situation rather than the language; EAP courses focus more on reading and writing, whereas many general English language courses concentrate on speaking and listening; EAP courses tend to teach formal, academic genres rather than the conversational and social genres taught on general English courses. 

According to Gillett and Wray (2006), EAP is a practical branch of ELT in which "the role of the EAP lecturer is to find out what the students need, what they have to do in their academic courses [target needs], and help them to do this better in the time available." 

Target needs analysis is therefore the starting point of EAP course design and teaching. On the basis of this the EAP lecturer or course designer can specify course objectives, which lead to an assessment of the resources available and the use of the appropriate syllabus and methodology. Implementation of the syllabus then leads to an evaluation of the course in terms of its effectiveness. 

Many EAP courses are pre-sessional ones, which are taken by students before they start their main academic studies. Some foundation courses are designed to prepare lower level students for entry to higher education. In-sessional courses take place whilst the students' are taking their main academic course. Teaching EAP involves helping students to move from one educational culture to another. This requires an understanding of both of these cultures and the language and study skills that they value.  

Gillett, A & Wray, L (2006) ‘EAP and Success' in Assessing the Effectiveness of EAP Programmes, BALEAP.

Find out more about EAP and stages in your development here:

With thanks to BALEAP and Sue Argent for developing content for this page.

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