reading assessment

Reading Comprehension Assessment

In order to read, we should decode the printed words and comprehend the texting in order to find out the making of sense and meaning of the printed word. Students in the classroom vary with a
wide range of backgrounds and literacy skills. Some students have good reading skills thus they can understand the material very well, while other students may have difficulties. Thus, assessing the students reading comprehension is a must to do by the teacher.

This article will focus on the principles of reading comprehension in terms of reading aspects or skills to be measured in reading. Further, the reading types and kinds of reading tasks that can be used in the reading assessment are also presented in this article.

Type of Reading

There are many reading types that can be used in reading assessment. Brown (2004, p.189) mentioned three kinds of genres of reading, namely:

  1. Academic reading: general interest articles (in magazines, newspapers), technical reports (e.g., lap reports), professional journal articles, reference material (dictionaries), textbooks, essays papers tests, directions editorials, and opinion writing
  2. Job-related reading: messages (e.g., phone messages), letters/emails, memos (e.g., interoffice), reports (e.g. job evaluations, project reports), schedules, labels, signs, announcements, forms, applications, questionnaires, financial documents (bills, invoices), directories (telephone, office), manuals, directions.
  3. Personal reading: newspapers and magazines, letters, emails, greetings cards, invitations, messages, notes, lists schedules (train, bus, plane), recipes, menus, maps, calendars, advertisements (commercials, want ads), novels, short stories, jokes, drama, poetry, financial documents (e.g., checks, tax forms, loan applications), forms, questionnaires, medical reports, immigration documents, comic strips, cartoons.

Brown (2004, p.187) said that the genre of a text enables the students to apply certain schemata that will assist them in extracting appropriate meaning.  For example, if students know that a text is a recipe, they will expect a certain arrangement of information (ingredients) and will know to search for sequential order directions.

Read also: Definition, Purposes, and Strategies of Reading

Aspects of Reading Comprehension Assessment

In designing the assessment, the teacher should make adjustments in formulating the questions or tasks for the students. If the competencies to be achieved by the students’ concern with short functional texts and monologue of long functional texts, the area to be measured can be vocabulary, grammar interpretation, punctuation interpretation, the purpose of the author or social function of the text, organization of ideas or generic structure, and so forth. Thus, it is important to understand the aspect or skill in reading assessment.

Harris’ (1996) Reading Assessment Aspects

Harris (1996) provides some aspects to be measured in reading comprehension assessment as follows:

  1. Language and graphic symbols. It covers:
    – Understanding vocabularies and their meanings.
    – Understanding the grammatical patterns.
    – Understanding the graphic symbols (punctuation, capitalization, italicization, etc.).
  2. Ideas include:
    – Identifying the writer’s purpose and central idea.
    – Understanding the subordinate ideas which support the main ideas.
    – Drawing conclusions and inferences.
  3. Tone and Style. These aspects talk about:
    – Understanding the author’s attitude toward the subject and understanding the tone of writing.
    – Identifying the methods and stylistic devices by which the author conveys his ideas.

Brown’s (2004) Reading Assessment Aspects

In a more detailed explanation, Brown (2004) divides the aspects of reading assessment into micro and macro skills. Micro skills in reading comprehension are as follows:

  1. Discriminating among the distinctive graphemes and orthographic patterns of English.
  2. Retaining chunks of the language of deference lengths in short-term memory.
  3. Processing writing at an efficient rate of speed to suit the purpose.
  4. Recognizing the core of the word and interpreting word order patterns and their significance.
  5. Recognizing grammatical word classes (e.g., nouns, verbs), systems (e.g., tense, agreement, and pluralization), patterns, rules, and elliptical forms.
  6. Recognizing that particular meaning may be expressed in different grammatical forms.
  7. Recognizing cohesive in written discourse and their rule in signalling the relationship between and among clauses.

In a broad sense, micro-skills of reading comprehension include understanding micro components of languages such as phonemes, morphemes, syllables, words, phrases, and sentences.

Meanwhile, macro skill in reading comprehension is:

  1. Recognizing the rhetorical forms of written discourse and their significance for interpretation. 
  2. Recognizing the communicative function of written text according to form and purpose.
  3. Inferring context that is not explicit using background knowledge.
  4. Describing events, ideas, etc., inferring links and connections between events, deducing causes and effects, and detecting such relations as the main idea, supporting the idea, new information, generalization, and exemplification.
  5. Distinguishing between literal and implied meaning.
  6. Detecting cultural-specific references and interpreting them in the context of the appropriate cultural schemata.
  7. Developing and using a battery of reading strategies, such as scanning and skimming, detecting discourse markers, guessing the word’s meaning from context, and activating schemata for interpreting texts.

Macro skills include more major reading skills, including getting specific information, general information, textual meaning, textual references, and even understanding beyond textual meaning.

Reading Assessment Task Types

Heaton (1991, p.105)Word matching, sentence matching, pictures and sentences are matching tests for the initial stages of reading. Matching tests for intermediate and advanced stages; true/false reading tests, multiple-choice items, completion, rearrangement, cloze procedure, open-ended and miscellaneous items, and cursory reading.
Brown (2004, p.190)reading aloud, written response, multiple choice, picture-cued items, matching test, editing, gap filling test, cloze test, C-test, cloze-elide test, short-answer test, ordering and summarizing test.
Alderson (2000, p.202)Multiple-choice, cloze test, gap-filling test, matching, ordering, editing, cloze-elide, short-answer, free-recall, summary, gapped summary, information-transfer.
Reading Assessment Task Types

From the table above, reading assessment task types could be cloze test, gap-filling formats (rational cloze formats), C-tests (retain initial letters of words removed), cloze elide (remove extra word), text segment ordering, text gap, choosing from a “heading bank” for identified paragraphs multiple-choice, sentence completion, matching (and multiple matching) techniques, classification into groups, dichotomous items (T / F / not stated, Y / N), editing, short answer, free recall, summary (1 sentence, 2 sentences, 5–6 sentences), information transfer (graphs, tables, flow charts, outlines, maps), project performance, skimming, scanning, sequencing of events/ordering task, reading aloud, and picture cued. More details will be explained in the next article.

References and Recommended Reading

  • Alderson, J. Charles. 2000. Assessing Reading. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Brown, H. D. (2004). Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.
  • Harris, D. P. (1969). Testing English as a Second Language. New York: Mc. Graw Hill.
  • Heaton, J. B. (1991). Writing English Language Tests. New York: Longman.
Tenry Colle
Tenry Colle

Hi! My name is A. Tenry Lawangen Aspat Colle. I am a motivated and resourceful English educator. In addition, as the owner of @rymari.translation17 has shaped me to be a punctual and dependable translator of Indonesian to English and vice versa.

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