Key Defining Linguistic Features in the Writing Performance of First-Year University Students Across Different Language Proficiency Levels

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Chalatip Charnchairerk


This study sought to investigate the key determining characteristics in the writing performance of first-year Chulalongkorn University students across language proficiency levels as measured by CU-TEP. The focus was on both syntactic and lexical complexity components. The sample comprised the writings from a corpus of 4,812 first-year students divided into four CEFR levels (C1, B2, B1, and A2), using CU-TEP and corresponding CEFR levels as the strata. The sample size of all four groups was identical comprising 50 students each, totaling 200 students. Multiple computational tools were utilized for data analysis. The findings revealed that the distinctive features typifying the most proficient writers include the production of longer as well as more clausally and phrasally complex sentences. They also demonstrated high lexical richness through the use of wide-ranging vocabulary and rare or sophisticated academic words. These features were also discovered in other less proficient groups but to a lesser extent at decreasing proficiency levels. It was also found that the syntactic complexity measures that better differentiated proficiency levels were: mean length of sentence, mean length of T-unit, and mean length of clause while all three lexical complexity indices were proven to be good predictors of L2 writing quality.

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Charnchairerk, C. (2022). Key Defining Linguistic Features in the Writing Performance of First-Year University Students Across Different Language Proficiency Levels. LEARN Journal: Language Education and Acquisition Research Network, 15(2), 858–891. Retrieved from
Research Articles
Author Biography

Chalatip Charnchairerk, Chulalongkorn University Language Institute, Thailand

An Assistant Professor at the Chulalongkorn University Language Institute (CULI). She has been involved with CU-TEP over the past several years as a test writer and an editor. Her research interests encompass language assessment, testing, and translation studies. She can be reached at


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