It is a task, not an exercise: What is the difference?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Some classroom studies (e.g., Chan, 2012; Magharabi, 2019) and researchers (e.g., Ellis, 2015; Ellis et al., 2020) have warned that the construct of task, the key concept in task-based language teaching (TBLT), is often confused with the construct of exercise, causing the task's loss of ‘taskness.’ However, no systematic attempt has been made to distinguish between the task and exercise constructs. Therefore, this article systematically compares the construct of a task with that of an exercise to help teachers distinguish between the two (Ellis et al., 2020, p. 10), thus enabling them to use pedagogic activities properly. To this end, the article answers the question “Based on the task-based language teaching approach, how do we distinguish a task from an exercise?” Using a reading activity as an illustrative example with two scenarios, the article identifies and explains 10 key differences between a task and an exercise. Acknowledging that these differences are not always clear, the article concludes by emphasizing its purpose: not to suggest that exercises are worthless and tasks are worthy but to outline the value of understanding their differences for their pedagogical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103299
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024


  • Exercise
  • Pedagogic task
  • Second language teaching
  • Task-based language teaching
  • Taskness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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