Research has shown that vocabulary recognition skill is a readily measured and relatively robust predictor of second language performance in university settings in English-speaking countries. This study builds on that research by developing an understanding of the relationship between word recognition skill and Academic English performance in English-medium instruction (EMI) university programs in English-as-a-lingua-franca (ELF) contexts. The use of a Timed Yes/No (TYN) test of vocabulary recognition skill was assessed as a screening tool in two EMI university foundation programs in an Arab Gulf State: in a metropolitan state university (N = 93) and a regional private institution (N = 71). Pearson correlation coefficients between the TYN test and performance on university placement and final test scores ranged between 0.3 and 0.6 across the two groups and by gender within those groups. This study indicates the TYN test measures have predictive value in university ELF settings for screening purposes. The trade-off between validity, reliability, usability and the cost-effectiveness of the TYN test in academic ELF settings are discussed with consideration of test-takers’ digital literacy levels.