Survey participants were 612 non-English major students from eight tertiary institutions in six provinces and municipalities in China (Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing, Shandong, and Yunnan). Of the 612 returned questionnaires, 59 questionnaires were discarded as invalid, as they were either incomplete or did not follow the instructions. Therefore, a total of 553 subject responses were used for the statistical analysis. Of the 553 subjects, 185 were males and 368 were females. Their age ranged from 18 to 24 with an average age of 21. They were in their first semester of grade three. They participated in the CET4 when they were in their second semester of grade two. CET4 is a nationwide English proficiency test given to non-English major tertiary students after two years of English study.
A number of factors determined the selection of the subjects from different Chinese tertiary institutions. First, the study was supposed to have a representative sample of Chinese non-English major students so that the findings of the study could be more generalizable. In a strict sense of sampling, the subjects selected in this study cannot be described as a representative sample because they were not strictly randomly selected. As it was difficult and impractical to use random selection of a sample from all the Chinese tertiary institutions, the researcher had to seek the help of several English teachers who were teaching in these universities and kind enough to help. Second, it was hoped that choosing subjects from universities of different types and levels could produce some general statistical tendency. The subjects in the present study were from different levels of tertiary institutions including key universities and non-key universities. In terms of orientation of academic training, they were from five types of universities: one comprehensive university, three science and technology universities, two finance and economics universities, one pharmaceutical university, and one teachers’ university. In addition, the study included a wide range of specialties such as science, engineering, law, economics, and literature. Therefore, the subjects in the present study can be said to be largely representative.