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English for academic purposes online

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This online module is aimed at both UK-based and international students who are already studying or are planning to study at university. L185 focuses on the development of academic reading and writing skills but will also help you make progress in academic speaking and listening skills. It will be useful if you wish to improve your existing competence in academic English. If your goal is to raise your IELTS scores to enable you to gain entry into a university of your choice, its approximate entry and exit IELTS scores are between 5.0–5.5 and 6.5–7.0.

What you will study

To succeed at university, you need to be able to read and think about a wide range of study material, make useful notes, and write assignments that answer the question. This module will help you to develop the skills and language to do this. You’ll explore how university study materials are organised and how academic language is used in them.

You’ll work with authentic materials from a range of Open University modules which cover areas of academic study such as science, the arts, humanities, social sciences, business, and health studies. You’ll look at the similarities and differences in language across these subjects, while developing the particular language and skills you need for your chosen areas of study.

The module is made up of 40% reading, 40% writing, 10% listening and 10% speaking. Your interactions with the study materials, your tutor and other students on the module will take place online. You'll complete interactive activities, contribute to forums and participate in online tutorials (learning events) in real time.

You will learn

At the end of the module, you’ll have developed your understanding and practice of:

  • using language for a range of academic purposes, including description, comparison, explanation, evaluation, persuasion, problem solving, cause and effect, and argument
  • selecting information and ideas from different sources and using this to support an academic argument
  • reflecting on and critiquing academic texts
  • communicating more effectively in a global and academic environment
  • developing understanding of the conventions of good academic practice

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you progress to other modules.

There are no academic entrance requirements for this module but a certain level of English is recommended, though not compulsory.

The Skills for OU study website provides further information and support on improving your English skills.

Please note that:

  • If you live outside the UK and English is not your first language, the module starts at an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) level of approximately 5.0–5.5 / Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) level of B1-B2, or equivalent, in each of the four English language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking). You can find out more about the different levels at this website.
  • If you live in the UK and English is your first language, the module starts at a Skills for Life literacy level of approximately Level 1 or equivalent.
  • If you live in the UK and English is not your first language, the module starts at a Skills for Life ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) level of approximately Level 1 or equivalent.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module or your level of English, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

You'll also be provided with a printed resources book, and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment details and submission section
  • access to forums where you can communicate with your fellow students
  • access to online tutorials (learning events).

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will be allocated to your study group, and who will be available to provide support and guidance, and who will mark and provide feedback on your assignments. Feedback provides the basis for your development as a student, and you will be able to contact your tutor by email or phone throughout the module. You will also be supported by other students in your group, with whom you will be able to communicate via your Tutor Group Forum (TGF).

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

One of the TMAs will require you to use an audio recording tool to record your voice.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying L185 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

English for academic purposes online (L185) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2028.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
1 Interactive computer-marked assignment (iCMA)
No examination

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