University of Cape Town | EAP | ELC

As we gear up to launch our English for Academic Purposes Course in January 2017, we thought it a fitting time to address the topic and briefly touch on what exactly EAP is, so that you the student can decide if this is something you could benefit from.

In the EFL (English as a Foreign Language) industry, we commonly break up English courses according to the specific needs of the student. General English, by far our most popular course here at the UCT English Language Centre is a course designed to tackle all aspects of the language (all skills), such as speaking, reading, writing, listening and grammar. The courses will generally follow a set course book, and students will be grouped according to levels.
Levels can be determined in a variety of ways, such as the CEFR standard (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) which grades students into three divisions initially, then is divided into 6 levels. Each level describes what a student can do in the skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking). For example, a B1 or Intermediate level student can:
• understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
• deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
• produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
• describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Other types of courses will include exam preparation courses for international benchmarking exams such as the IELTS or TOEFL. We differentiate the general courses from other types of courses by putting these into a category called ESP, or English for Specific Purposes (Legal English, Medical English, etc.)

English for Academic Programmes is one such example of ESP.

University students who are completing their studies in English, which is not their mother tongue, but who may speak English very well, will attest to the fact that Academic English – the English they are having to read, write, listen to and speak in class and/or for their degrees – is very different from the English they speak to their friends or family.

According to The Open University, the main purpose of Academic English is to express a relationship between ideas. The language we use to do this is very specific, and although the vocabulary will vary between the subjects you are studying, the language at an academic level will share some common features such as:

• formality and impersonal style;
• avoids contractions (e.g. can’t, won’t – rather cannot, will not);
• avoid linking words such as AND or BUT to start sentences;
• avoids personal pronouns (I, You, We, etc.) and prefers impersonal structures;
• will often use the passive form;
• uses expressions which are non-committal and/or binding such as ‘tends to, it is possible that, one may assume that…;
• it is objective and impartial;
• it includes many references to other writers, authors, texts, tests, research, etc.;
• texts are very well structured and follow a definitive form.

Let’s compare the following two texts which are stating the same thing in very different ways:

In this essay I am going to explain how I researched if there are more dogs or cats in Cape Town. I think that there are more dogs than cats.


This research methodology employed a qualitative research methodology to investigate the question ‘Are there more dogs or more cats in the Cape Town area?’.The findings from this research conclude that at the time of research, in this specific area, there were more dogs than cats present.

For many people, it may seem like an impossible task to be able to write in a formal, impersonal, passive, objective way. But as with any other ESP course, you will learn the language in stages. It is important to note that you will need to be at an intermediate or higher level to join this course, so that the majority of time and focus can be on EAP and not on general English issues which must be addressed in the general English lessons. You will learn all of the above in the EAP course, and this includes ways to introduce a new idea in your writing and speaking, formal language for describing graphs or flow charts, for example. You will also learn how to link ideas with the appropriate language and how to conclude essays, dissertations, research, presentations, etc.

We look forward to welcoming you onto our specially designed and tailor made EAP course in January 2017. Contact us for more details or to find out course costs and how the course is structured.

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