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Jagged Profiles: Definition

August 28, 2017

This is our first post in a three post series on "Jagged Profiles". This post will introduce the concept and provide a definition.


There are four main skills in language learning, and English is no different. Learners have to develop proficiency in Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. But some students may be very strong in some areas, and weak in others. In contrast, other learners have a relatively even skill level across all four.

If a student's skills level across the four major linguistic areas of proficiency looks like the the score card of the student below, then they have a jagged profile.

The skills of Listening and Reading are significantly higher than their Speaking and Writing. When they enter a school, if the test is based only on a short essay they will be put in a relatively low level class and may find the text book too easy. In contrast if the entrance test is simply a multiple choice reading and listening then their score will be relatively high, but they may struggle to participate in group discussion activities in a higher level.

For everyone involved it is a difficult situation. For the student it is frustrating - their classes will go from feeling too easy to difficult. For their classmates it may be frustrating because students are either too much better than then, or too much worse. For the teacher they have to adjust their lessons to cater for different skill levels. For students who finish the reading very quickly they need to have a harder reading for them to do while the other students are finishing the first piece.

Do you have a jagged profile? For me personally in my Chinese learning, my Speaking and Listening are much better than my Reading and Writing. When I took language classes I felt like the pace was much too easy, that was partly because the entrance test included only Reading and Writing.

If you have a jagged profile where your Speaking isn't as good, then you can do things like read a book out loud and record it, or simply spend more time in conversation.



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