The pathways to higher education: lexical availability in adult candidate students and in young first-year students
In the past few years there has been an increase in the number of adult students in higher education courses, many of whom have returned to school after a break. Most of these students do not intend to continue their studies from the point where they stopped; rather, they want to prepare for specific tests in order to have direct access to higher education courses, which in Portugal is a legal option for students over the age of 23. In response to this new cohort, higher education institutions need to find out what kind of students these are, determining their characteristics, capabilities and major problems, if they are to provide them with successful learning opportunities alongside younger students. This article presents a comparative study of lexical competence, focusing on lexical availability, contrasting those adult applicants to higher education who are attending a course preparatory to higher education with first-year students who have just entered higher education. The results show significant differences between the two groups, the adult group in general showing poorer results. Their withdrawal from schooling is clearly reflected in their vocabulary activation with regard to transversal themes. The most salient contrasts are related to the number of words mentioned and the frequency of words in the group, as well as the greater or lesser proximity to the topic of the terms mentioned.
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