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Linguistic Complexity, Open and Distance Learning, Student Performance, Second-Language Learners
This study attempted to determine whether simplifying the linguistic complexity of a written summative assessment instrument would improve the examination results of second-language learners; the academic literature suggests that linguistic complexity impacts negatively on the performance of second-language learners. The module chosen for the study was the capstone module of the marketing department at the University of South Africa, an open and distance learning institution. A 2007 examination paper was modified in an attempt to make it linguistically simpler and was used again in 2009. The results of first-language learners were compared with those of second language learners, who represent a significant component of the universitys student population, across the two periods in question. The results were analysed using an independent two-sample t-test. The findings do not support the premise that simplifying the linguistic complexity of an assessment instrument would have a positive impact on the examination performance of second-language learners. The article highlights a number of issues and questions that require further research.