Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Spanish Pre-University Students' Use of English: CEA Results from the University Entrance Examination

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Spanish Pre-University Students' Use of English: CEA Results from the University Entrance Examination

Article excerpt


In this paper an updated overview of the main errors that Spanish students make when writing the English exam in the University Entrance Examination is provided. To do so, a Computer-aided Error Analysis (CEA) (Dagneaux, Denness & Granger, 1998) was conducted on a representative sample of the students who took the exam in June 2008 in Jaén, and wrote a composition on the same topic. The use of the most widely-used error taxonomy, the Error Tagging Manual version 1.1. (Dagneaux, Denness, Granger & Meunier, 1996), and the analysis of the results by means of descriptive statistics foster the possibility to replicate this study and move forward in the description of the students' written command in the foreign language at this stage. The comparison of the findings obtained in this study and those from previous (C)EAs on the English exam reveals that some common tendencies may be shown.

KEYWORDS: English exam, University Entrance Examination, Computer-aided Error Analysis


Este artículo aporta una visión general actualizada de los errores más importantes que los alumnos españoles cometen cuando escriben el examen de inglés de la Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad. Con este fin, se realizó un Análisis de Errores Informatizado (Dagneaux, Denness & Granger, 1998) en una muestra representativa de los estudiantes que realizaron el examen en Junio de 2008 en la Universidad de Jaén, y que escribieron sobre un mismo tema. El uso de la taxonomía de errores más usada, el Error Tagging Manual version 1.1. (Dagneaux, Denness, Granger & Meunier, 1996), y de la estadística descriptiva para analizar los resultados, favorecen la réplica de este estudio y la posibilidad de mejorar la descripción de la destreza escrita en la lengua extranjera. La comparación de los resultados en este artículo y otros Análisis de Errores (Informatizados) previos muestran que se pueden exponer algunas tendencias comunes.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Examen de Inglés, Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad, Análisis de Errores Informatizado


The University Entrance Examination (UEE, henceforth) in Spain is a high-stakes exam which may determine the degrees which students may access, so it is crucial that the reliability and validity of the individual subject exams which compose it are analysed and improved, if necessary. Being conscious of the importance of these two "measurement qualities" (Bachman & Palmer, 1996: 19, 23), studies have been conducted on individual subject exams of the UEE at different universities, regarding rater-related issues (the rater's gender, his/her working place, or the board of raters), exam-related issues (the exam formats, the type of evaluation done, i.e. holistic, focused-holistic or analytic, the individual subject exam rated, i.e, biology, foreign language, etc.), and candidate-related issues (for instance, the test-taker's attitude towards the exam)1.

Among the individual subject exams analysed, the one for the English language has also been the focus of research. According to García Laborda (2006), the studies which have considered any aspect related to the English exam in the Spanish UEE have been divided into three categories: first, the studies in which the validity the exam design is tackled; second, the ones which offer results regarding the issues of construct validity, inter- and intra-rater reliability, the raters' scoring process, the raters' gender or working place and their effect on the rating process, etc.; and, finally, those which highlight the need for the improvement of this individual subject exam and suggest future lines of research.

No doubt, these publications have proved crucial for the progressive improvement of the English exam and its evaluation along the years. However, there is a fourth block of studies which have paid attention to the students' written command of the foreign language (FL) at this stage of their FL learning process or interlanguage (see Díez-Bedmar, 2011), as reflected in their pieces of writing in the English exam in the UEE. …

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