The Internet TESL Journal

What Type of Student Are You?

Gerard Counihan
profesorSs [at]


These questions and the author's personal interpretations are likely to trigger conversation.

The Questions

Answer the following questionnaire by putting a True (T) or a False (F) after each sentence.

(If you are hesitating between T and F, put both).

  1. I often study English, at home, in a library, on the train.
  2. I need English for my work, to pass an exam, to get a job.
  3. I don't like making grammar mistakes when I speak English.
  4. I began learning English because my parents felt it was necessary for the future.
  5. I love speaking English with other learners of the same level.
  6. I go to English conversation classes because I simply want to, not because I have to.
  7. I think my teachers should force me to speak more in conversation class.
  8. I would love to go on a year-long world tour, even if I had little money.
  9. If I don't speak in conversation class, it is because the topic/task is bad.
  10. I watch English-language TV and films in English-even though I understand nothing!
  11. I hate it when one person does all the talking in conversation class.
  12. Quite often, I am happy just to listen to the teacher.
  13. I often feel a little stupid when I talk in conversation class.
  14. I think the teacher is what motivates a student most.
  15. I prefer learning grammar, vocabulary, etc to speaking English.
  16. I wish I could go to a conversation class every day instead of just twice a week.
  17. Basically, I think a conversation class should be for practising the grammar you have just learnt.
  18. I regularly ask the other students questions and comment on what they say in conversation class.
  19. I am a woman.


A, E, F, H, J, P, R = True. This, basically, indicates a self-motivated, hard-working learner. It also indicates desire to socialise, to meet other races and cultures. This is what language is for. The perfect student: A talker and a worker!

B, D, G, I, K, N = True. There is a strong sense of being "obliged" to learn, which is not self-motivation. Not a crime, but the learner must want to achieve for himself. Also, this type of learner blames his performance on others/external factors. This may not be the ideal ingredient for a good communicator/worker.

C, O = True. This can mean that you are a perfectionist. You pay attention to formal detail. Can be good, but it can also be an obstacle to communication. An anxious talker.

G, I, K, L, N = True. This implies a degree of passiveness. If you want to talk, don't think about it-act! This learner could also lack self-motivation. A sporadic talker.

M = True. It happens everybody at the beginning. But you must get over this after a few classes. You will

Q = True. This is a big issue. But how can you talk about the world with a few set phrases? You may be a traditional learner expecting a traditional class. Remember, the ultimate aim of English is to communicate.

S = True. Bingo! It is said that women work harder-at languages too. They also miss less classes than men.

As with everything related to motivation, it is impossible to be categorical, ie seemingly negative factors can end up motivating some learners. Also, some of the above statements may apply to several interpretations. Nothing is black and white.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IV, No. 9, September 1998