Reviewed by Peter Gee
23 May 2017
The book is divided into 45 two page units and these units are thematically organised into six sections. Sections 2-6 are supported by two page review units. Each unit is further subdivided into page length sections that each introduce related elements for example Unit 21 Statistics examines Describing proportions and Talking about averages.
The authors selected the target language of the units from the AWL and the Oxford Academic Corpus. This language is contextualised by being presented in short text(s) and then recycled in gap fill and matching exercises, which focuses the attention of the learner on the target language. The text and excises are appropriately “academic” with the exemplar texts being taken from journal articles; encyclopaedias or IB course books. Opportunity for freer practice of the target language is afforded the learner in some of the units and in all of the review sections. The book is intended to be both a “self help” book and a teaching resource. I tried out several units with my B1 students and found these units to be both teachable and appropriate to the B1 level.
The book’s format is particularly successful in presented and practicing the vocabulary in the two core sections: Description and Analysis and evaluation. These units provide the learner with clear contextualised examples of the language needed to write assignments from a wide range of academic disciplines. Most of the first section provides a useful overview of word level grammar i.e. parts of speech, verb patterns, prefixes and suffixes. The grammatical concepts are further developed by the highly useful Language reference section at the back of the book. This section also demonstrates how to best exploit an English-English dictionary and how to record new vocabulary. An important step if learners are to be ever weaned off electronic translating programmes. It also briefly covers register and academic style. Section two focuses upon the language needed by students to function in an academic institution and includes very useful units on feedback, reading, speaking and listening.
The use of short texts does however pose issues in the units concerned with linking vocabulary as in order to provide exemplars the texts have a unnaturally high density of these linking devices. The use of very short texts also obscures the distinction between paraphrasing and summary writing. A longer text could possibly both provide a wider variety of cohesive devices including anaphoric referencing and one of sufficient length to summarize. It would also be useful if the unit on citations mentioned the variety of citation systems. The final section of the book contains discipline specific sections but I feel that they are rather too short.
However, overall I found the book clear, easy to use and feel it would be useful for either independent study by a B1 level student or as part of a taught programme.