Investigating linkages between international students’ English language proficiency, social–contextual outcomes, and wellbeing in US universities


Nelson Brunsting

Qiaona Yu

Jon Smart

W Patrick Bingham

Date Published:

21st October 2022

Pre-enrolment IELTS scores of international students at US universities linked with higher English confidence, higher social support from domestic students, and lower academic stress during students’ Spring 2021– Spring 2022 university experience.

This study examined the interplay between English language proficiency, English confidence, first language (L1) educational experience, academic stress, domestic student social support, social engagement, belonging, loneliness, and psychological wellbeing for 188 international students at 14 universities in the U.S. at three timepoints: Spring 2021, Fall 2021, and Spring 2022.

Longitudinal structural equation modeling revealed that English language proficiency (i.e., IELTS Overall Scores) predicted English confidence; higher IELTS scores were associated with higher English confidence. IELTS scores had a significant indirect effect on academic stress via English confidence, such that higher IELTS scores were linked with higher English confidence and thus lower academic stress across all three timepoints. IELTS scores approached significance with respect to indirect effect on domestic student social support via English confidence as well. We provide limitations and future directions for research.