37What is EAP?

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

I write so many articles about study tips, but I realized that I did not write hardly anything about EAP and what it is. 

What Does EAP Stand For?
EAP stands for English for Academic Purposes. This is slightly different from ESL (which is stands for English as a Second Language).

Let’s look at how they differ.


ESL is used a lot in the U.S., especially in elementary, middle, and high schools and even some colleges. The purpose is to help students who speak other languages (mainly Spanish) learn English. In many cases, students entering such programs have very little ability to use the language. 


EAP is basically study for students who want to enroll at colleges or universities. Such classes focus on the four skills: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. The main purpose is to make students ready for achieving success in academic classes.

How EAP develops each of the four skills.
Reading: Students read for critical thinking and understanding. Students also discuss their reading in class and learn several basic skills such as summary writing, scanning, and skimming to improve their ability.

Writing: At NIC, students learn how to write all of the basic writings found in colleges and universities, such as paragraphs, essays, research writing, and reports. They also develop their timed writing skills, which is helpful for testing like TOEFL and IELTS. 

Listening: Students at NIC improve their listening through note-taking skills and other listening activities. Note-taking is about 90% of what you do in a classroom abroad, so it is an important part of our EAP program. Students also get used to listening to natural and casual English with our Listening Journals that we require them to do each week.

Speaking: Students discuss in almost every class. They discuss their writing topics, readings, notes, and other topics. They also give speeches and long presentations each semester. Moreover, students have one-on-one interviews with teachers each semester and do a series of debates in some levels.

As you can see, EAP does a lot to prepare students for studying abroad.

Finally, many students ask me what is the benefit of coming to NIC rather than going straight abroad. I have come up with three reasons why I feel it is important to come to NIC instead:

1) Programs at some colleges and universities abroad are created for their schools/programs.
Most new NIC students do not know where they want to study when they enter NIC. And it is normal to be unsure of this. By coming to NIC, students have an entire staff to show them lots of information to make that very important decision. Moreover, many college and university directors and staff come to NIC to give students even more information during the year.

2) Unfortunately, ESL programs at some colleges and universities have students with different purposes.
At NIC, everyone’s purpose is clear and simple: They want to study abroad and learn college academic skills. However, when I was teaching in the U.S., I had students studying for so many different purposes. It was hard to make a good class because of this. For example, some students only came for one semester to improve listening. I had some students who just came for the summer wanting to learn grammar, and I had some students who did not even want to enter a college or university; they just wanted a study experience abroad for a few months. With all of these students mixed together, it’s hard to focus on what is very necessary to succeed in an academic class. At NIC, however, everyone’s purpose is clear, and everyone is focused on learning academic skills over the year. Besides, if a student’s scores and grades are high enough, she can still take some academic classes here and transfer some of them abroad.

3) NIC allows students a chance to gain confidence, ability, and motivation to complete a degree abroad.
It’s difficult to start taking academic level classes in English. This is really difficult for a high school student who is used to Japanese style classes. NIC is a good “bridge” between what was learned in high school and what is necessary to learn abroad at a university. That’s why our students achieve a lot of success abroad.

So these are just some differences between ESL programs elsewhere and NIC’s EAP program. If you have any more questions, please come visit me on campus to find out even more. I am always more than happy to answer any of your questions.

Good luck!!