Vol. 7. No. 4 M-2 March 2004
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Author http://www.selfaccess.com/sa_home.php?dirReload=sa_writers.php
This information is available on the site from the home page.
Contact informationSelfAccess Physical Address:
English-To-Go Ltd
Level 4, 68 Shortland Street. Auckland 1001
New Zealand
Postal Address:
English-To-Go Ltd.
PO Box 2345
Shortland Street
Auckland 1001
New Zealand.
Phone: +64 (9) 375-3020
Fax: +64 (9) 375-3041
sales@selfaccess.com More information on the company is available at: http://www.english-to-go.com/english/aboutus.cfm?CFID=5374604&CFTOKEN=78559657
Type of productAn interactive, on-line self-study learning tool for English language students providing both Academic English and General English. The lessons are based on Reuters news articles and offer reading, writing, listening and grammar practice. The academic lessons contain the types of questions and tasks used in IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC and FCE exams. The General English lessons range from elementary to advanced.
PlatformMac, Windows, Linux, cross-platform
Minimum hardware requirementsMinimum PC:
Pentium I
Windows 95
IE5 or later, NS6 or later, or equivalent.
33kB dialup modem connection to the Internet
Recommended PC is
Pentium 4
Windows XP
IE6.1 or later, NS7.2 or later or equivalent
Broadband Internet connection.
Note : IE = Internet Explorer browser, NS = Netscape browser
The site works well on MAC software including IE and Safari
Any computer system and browser combination that is W3C DOM standards compliant should work fine on this site.
PriceUS $6.001 Month membership (minimum)
US $15.003 Month membership
$27.00 6 Month membership
$38.00 9 Month membership
$48.00 12 Month membership
"SelfAccess can be licensed on computers throughout an institution or within a specific lab environment. Each licensed computer can access [the] resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."


Selfaccess.com is an on-line self-study learning tool for English language students; the library is divided into two sections: Academic English and General English. The Academic library was devised to provide preparation for exams such as IELTS, FCE, TOEIC or TOEFL. There are over 120 Academic English lessons and 147 general English lessons, prepared by professional teachers and based on Reuters news articles. Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency. Two new lessons are added to the site each week. The General English library has material for elementary to advanced levels while the Academic English library was designed for Intermediate to Advanced levels. Practice is given in reading, writing, listening, vocabulary and grammar. Basically different British English varieties are used, but other dialects are occasionally represented.

Program Design and Use

The site is well-designed and easy to use. There is an efficient search engine which allows users to choose their article by release date, lesson title, keyword and, in the General English library, by level, or just browse all the lessons. Each description includes the title of the lesson, topic, skills practiced, and level. [-2-]

Since the lessons are based on articles from Reuters, a great variety of topics are represented and, in the Academic English library, the topics reflect many of those that appear in the most popular examinations. A given lesson is often based on more than one article on the same topic.


Many of the lessons were designed using the HotPotatoes[1] program and are user-friendly. However, it is often necessary to scroll up and down a lot due to screen size. This can be uncomfortable in many of the activities.

The General English library includes lessons of different lengths. Some have one or two different activities while others have four or more. The Academic English library lessons are much longer and can have up to 12 different activities. Many different activity formats are used: cloze, matching, ordering, multiple choice and identify the errors. In the cloze exercises users are asked either to choose the correct answer or type it in.

The reading activities, using the Reuters articles as texts, are usually timed and deal with comprehension and some reading strategies. Most exercises practice comprehension using either multiple choice, cloze or true / false / not given formats, but there are often strategy-based exercises like those related to vocabulary-in-context in which the student is required to locate specific words in the text based on definitions or synonyms, and others in which they have to match general statements or headings with the paragraph they represent.

Most of the listening comprehension activities are traditional multiple choice, putting topics in order, dictation, or cloze. Almost all are based on Reuters articles. The recordings used are, in general, good, but occasionally regional accents make the exercises more difficult.

There are not as many grammar and vocabulary exercises as reading and listening. Vocabulary building activities often precede lower level General English reading exercises. Grammar is more commonly practiced as a cloze activity in the General English library and as error identification in the Academic English library.

The writing activities are quite good considering the limitations of the program (obviously students can't do free writing). Some require users to choose connectors or order paragraphs. The most innovative activities ask users to rebuild a text by choosing sentence fragments from a list in the correct order. Some are actually quite difficult, even for a native speaker.



This site is very useful for a student involved in an academic English program or in preparation for a popular proficiency examination. The large number of lessons available, their completeness and authenticity of the texts they are built around provide any student with adequate preparation for exams or an academic experience in English. Each lesson is designed to be completed in one hour, which is a reasonable time period to devote to independent English study.

One weakness is that there is very little feedback and the errors are not explained. The student would have to have a teacher or various textbooks available for error clarification. Also, general English learners will find very little practice on this site since most of the reading and listening lessons are built around Reuters articles; there is no authentic conversational English presented and all writing "production" is limited to either letters (similar to short academic papers) or articles. A course for students not interested in academic English skills would require additional material related to other situations: conversations, authentic real-life recordings, and, in general, more realistic situations.

In reality, although designed as a self-access site, www.selfaccess would be very useful for the classroom teacher. Students could be directed to specific lessons and, supported by classroom instruction, work at their own speed either in a computer lab or at home. Institutional sales are available for this purpose.

The cost is reasonable, but since payment is by credit card (or Paypal) access is limited to students who have the possibility of purchasing on the Internet. However, a person without a credit card could use the offer of a week of free access if they were interested in "cramming".

In conclusion, www.selfaccess is a very complete site that an academic English student could use to great advantage, especially when supported by a prepared teacher to guide the student through the learning process.


1] HotPotatoes. Half-Baked Software. http://web.uvic.ca/hrd/halfbaked/

About the Reviewer

JoAnn Miller develops on-line materials, and teaches on-line courses for in-service teachers that demonstrate methods for incorporating the Internet into the classroom.

JoAnn Miller
EFL consultant, www.efltasks.net
Mexico City, Mexico
<miller@efltasks.net >

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