Defining language goals in EMI: Vocabulary demand in a high-stakes assessment in Hong Kong

D Fung, E Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the rapid growth of English Medium Instruction (EMI) programmes around the globe, the language goals in such programmes have not been clearly defined, making it difficult to evaluate their success. Accordingly, our paper reports on a study that attempted to identify the language goals, operationalised as the vocabulary expected of learners, by investigating the under-explored area of EMI assessment. We sampled a corpus of 16 sets of examination papers in two subject areas, namely, Biology and Geography, spanning eight years in Hong Kong. The examination papers, analysed for their vocabulary profiles, indicated that students were expected to learn beyond the K3 level (the most frequent 3,000 words in English) and master mid-frequency words (K4−K8) as well as academic words. Our findings suggest that the less frequent words were not often shared by the two subjects. Analysing academic words also enabled us to showcase how some words were common across the two subjects while others were more subject-specific. Pedagogical implications are discussed, highlighting the need for teachers and students to attend to target language goals in EMI, and to consider the subject-specific nature of vocabulary items in EMI.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage and Education
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 2023


  • CLIL
  • English medium instruction
  • L2 English learners
  • Assessment
  • Subject-specific language
  • Vocabulary


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