Higher-degree research being undertaken by Xuan (Emily) Wang




Associate Professor David Hirsh and Associate Professor Aek Phakiti

Thesis title:

The relationship between receptive and productive vocabulary sizes for EFL high school learners in China



Project description

This project aims to investigate the relationship between receptive and productive vocabulary sizes for EFL high school learners in China along three dimensions:

  • the relationships between three different kinds of vocabulary size (receptive, controlled and free productive);
  • the relationship between reading proficiency levels and vocabulary sizes;
  • and whether reading proficiency levels influence the relationships between the three different vocabulary sizes above.

In order to explore these dimensions, participants in this study were recruited from three high schools of different performance levels in a Northern city of China. 246 participants completed all vocabulary size tests including two bilingual translation tests, the Lex 30 test and one IELTS reading practice test from the General Training Module. The English-Chinese translation test was used to measure participants’ receptive vocabulary sizes; the Chinese-English translation test was used to investigate their controlled productive vocabulary sizes; Lex 30 was used for measuring their free productive vocabulary knowledge; and the IELTS reading practice test was used for measuring participants’ reading proficiency levels.

Exploration of the first dimension seeks to fill a methodological gap in the literature, since very few studies have focused on free productive vocabulary size and the instruments used to research this topic. Furthermore, the research conducted to date has produced mixed findings and the methodological tools used in this research appear to still be in their infancy. The second dimension aims to deepen our existing understanding of practical vocabulary acquisition and teaching in order to provide more indications for classroom learning and teaching. The final dimension seeks make a theoretical contribution to this field of learning by investigating the impact of reading proficiency levels on the relationship between different vocabulary sizes.

Xuan Wang started her PhD immediately after completing her the Master of Education (TESOL) at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney. Xuan has a strong passion for research and teaching. Xuan currently works part-time teaching the AMEP (Adult Migrant English Program) at Navitas and prior to this she worked as a part-time IELTS (The International English Language Testing System) English teacher in writing and reading.


  • Thomas and Ethel Mary Ewing Scholarship in Education (2015 – 2017)
  • The Alexander Mackie Research Fellowships (2016)


  • Wang, X. (2014). The relationship between lexical diversity and EFL writing proficiency. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, 9, 65–88.

Conference presentation