A question of answers in reading comprehension
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 22:46 authored by Linda L. Gerot
The question - what makes a written text easy or difficult to comprehend? - is a complex one. Traditionally, difficulty has been considered to be a property of texts alone. I have refuted this view.The basic postulate tested herein is that difficulty is a product of the interaction of three factors: the reader, the text and the questions used to test comprehension. For the analysis of this interaction, the systemic-functional model of language was employed, and four questions in particular were addressed: (i) What kinds of questions are asked in reading comprehension tests?; (ii) What are these questions testing?; (iii) Are the questions graded in difficulty?; (iv) What makes a question easy or difficult? A system for the classification of reading comprehension test questions was formulated by reference to the ways in which the information needed to reconstruct the correct answer was encoded in the language of the test passage. Thus, answers to questions (i) and(ii) above were provided. Empirical research revealed that test questions were graded in difficulty, and that the difficulty of a question depended upon: (i) the degree of integration required to reconstruct an answer; (ii) the alternative answers offered in multiple-choice tests; (iii) the polarity of answers in tasks involving yes/no questions. Finally, the implications of these findings for the assessment of reading comprehension and readability are discussed.