Although extensive research has shown that establishing an effective stance is crucial in academic writing, few studies have investigated nominal stance construction in academic texts. Utilizing Jiang and Hyland's (2016) functional classification model, this study explores the use of stance nouns in L2 texts written in response to Writing Task 2 in the Academic Module of the International English Language Testing Systems (IELTS) test. The analysis aims to reveal the extent to which particular uses of stance nouns are associated with the proficiency levels of writers as defined by the IELTS band scores. The use of stance nouns in a 90,007-word corpus of 300 scripts retrieved from the Cambridge Learner Corpus (CLC) was examined across three proficiency levels, "limited user" (level 4), "competent user" (level 6) and "very good user" (level 8). The results show significant differences in the use of stance nouns across the three levels. Level 8 writers employ stance nouns with greater frequency and variety and use the noun-complement structure, cognition nouns and premodifiers more frequently than writers at lower levels. These findings suggest that nominal stance construction is a defining feature of advanced academic writing and have important implications for EAP writing instruction and assessment. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.