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Ho, W. K., Lim, T. K., & Wong, P. J. Y. (1996, November). What makes reading comprehension test items difficult? An exploratory analysis. Paper presented at the ERA-AARE Joint Conference, Singapore.
This paper reports on a sub-study based on a bank of test items
developed and calibrated for a computerized adaptive reading test for
primary and secondary students in Singapore schools. In the main study
(as reported in various papers by Lim Tock Keng et al, 1994, 1995), a
bank of multiple-choice test items constructed for primary 3 and 5 and
secondary 1 and 3 students was found to contain a relatively large
number of test items that were quite difficult for these students.
While generally it was feasible to guess the (rather obvious) reasons
for the very easy items, it was thought necessary to check empirically
on the factors that contribute to item difficulty. This sub-study
attempts to answer directly the research question (What makes test
items in reading comprehension difficult?) in relation to the items
developed for the primary 5 students (beween 10 and 11 years old). This
was done empirically from the perspectives of the linguistic features
of the item texts, propositional analysis, decision processing, and the
cognitive demand of the test items. The paper will be in five parts,
namely, (a) a brief discussion of the cognitive model of text
processing that underpins this exploratory analysis and the idea of
text difficulty, (b) the operationalisation of the variables, (c) the
statistical findings, (d) the sources of difficulty in English reading
comprehension tests of the type studied, for students whose first
language is not necessarily English, and (e) implications for test
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