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Less than 20 per cent of students who did the stage two English exam last year achieved so-called "competence in English" - but two-thirds will still be deemed eligible for university entry.

Competence in English for university admission is normally achieved by a scaled score of at least 50 in an English course.

But the requirement is almost defunct because universities offer generous concessions to those who do not reach the target.

Figures released by the Tertiary Institutions Service Centre, which handles applications to WA's four public universities, show that just 17.1 per cent of students achieved a scaled score of more than 50 in stage two English.

The average scaled score for the 2200 students who did stage two English was 37.

About 80 per cent of the 9400 students who did the more difficult stage three English got a scaled score above 50, while 91.3 per cent of the 1800 stage three literature students achieved the target.

All stage three courses get a 15-mark bonus because they are considered more difficult, which effectively means the raw marks of students taking stage two courses are scaled down.

Because of this, universities also consider students' moderated school assessments when determining English competence.

The TISC report said that when the assessments were taken into account, at least 50 per cent of stage two students would achieve competence in English for the University of WA and 65 per cent would be deemed eligible for the other three public universities.

"Overall, 96.9 per cent of students who have applied for university have achieved university competence in English for at least one university," the TISC report said.

"Eighty-two per cent have achieved competence in English for all four universities."

Students who still did not make the grade could sit this month's Special Tertiary Admissions Test to demonstrate their competence.

English Teachers Association of WA president Wendy Cody said it was a "huge concern" that so few stage two students had a scaled score above 50, which was directly linked to the scaling process.

She said many more stage two students would have got a raw exam mark above 50, which was then scaled down significantly.

Ms Cody said there no longer seemed to be a need for a scaled score of 50 in English for university entry because there were so many ways to get around it.

"It doesn't even get mentioned very much any more because there are so many other ways to achieve university entrance," she said.

"And even then the universities all have bridging literacy courses."

Association of Independent Schools of WA executive director Valerie Gould said it was important for students to meet a minimum standard of English competence to succeed at university.

"But it's up to universities to determine what standards students should achieve for entry to university courses," she said.