Estimations of Japanese University Learners’ English Vocabulary Sizes Using the Vocabulary Size Test
Stuart McLean(a), Nicholas Hogg(b) and Brandon Kramer(c)
(a) Temple University, Japan; (b) Osaka Yuhigaoka Gakuen High School; (c) Momoyama Gakuin University
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Measuring students’ lexica is time-consuming, as one sitting of the
Vocabulary Size Test (VST) usually takes 40-60 minutes. As a result,
teachers would benefit from being able to make reasonable estimates from
commonly available information. This paper aims to investigate: (1) What
are the mean vocabulary sizes of students at Japanese universities as a
whole, and by university department (hensachi)? and (2) Are a university’s
department standardized rank scores (hensachi) a useful proxy for English
vocabulary size? This study used a cross-sectional design where 3,449
Japanese university students were tested using Nation and Beglar’s VST.
The results showed an average score of 3,715.20 word families and that
VST scores were significantly higher for students in higher department
hensachi programs. This current department hensachi was also found to
have a stronger correlation with VST scores than with other covariates
when the entire sample was considered. Lastly, there appears to be a
lack of consistent knowledge of the most frequent words of English,
suggesting that curriculum designers at Japanese universities should focus
on teaching high-frequency English words. Although the findings support
the use of the VST for comparing receptive written vocabulary knowledge
between learners, they perhaps do not support its use in establishing a
vocabulary size to decide lexically appropriate materials.

McLean, S., Hogg, N., & Kramer, B. (2014). Estimations of Japanese university learners’ english vocabulary sizes using the vocabulary size test. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction, 3 (2), 47-55. doi: 10.7820/