Effects of L2 proficiency and gender on choice of language learning strategies by university students majoring in English

Adel Abu Radwan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the use of language learning strategies by 128 students majoring in English at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in Oman. Using Oxford's (1990) Strategy Inventory for Language Learners (SILL), the study seeks to extend our current knowledge by examining the relationship between the use of language learning strategies (LLS) and gender and English proficiency, measured using a three-way criteria: students' grade point average (GPA) in English courses, study duration in the English Department, and students' perceived self-rating. It is as well a response to a call by Oxford to examine the relationship between LLSs and various factors in a variety of settings and cultural backgrounds (see Oxford, 1993). Results of a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed that the students used metacognitive strategies significantly more than any other category of strategies, with memory strategies ranking last on students' preference scale. Contrary to the findings of a number of studies (see e.g., Hong-Nam & Leavell, 2006), male students used more social strategies than female students, thus creating the only difference between the two groups in terms of their strategic preferences. Moreover, ANOVA results revealed that more proficient students used more cognitive, metacognitive and affective strategies than less proficient students. As for study duration, the results showed a curvilinear relationship between strategy use and study duration, where freshmen used more strategies followed by juniors, then seniors and sophomores, respectively. Analysis of the relationship between strategy use and self-rating revealed a sharp contrast between learners who are selfefficacious and those who are not, favoring the first group in basically every strategy category. To find out which type of strategy predicted learners' L2 proficiency, a backward stepwise logistic regression analysis was performed on students' data, revealing that use of cognitive strategies was the only predictor that distinguished between students with high GPAs and those with low GPAs. The present study suggests that the EFL cultural setting may be a factor that determines the type of strategies preferred by learners. This might be specifically true since some of the results obtained in this study vary from results of studies conducted in other cultural contexts. Results of this study may be used to inform pedagogical choices at university and even pre-university levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-163
Number of pages49
JournalAsian EFL Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Cognitive strategies
  • Gender
  • Language learning strategies
  • Metacognitive strategies
  • Proficiency
  • Self-efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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