Below are some patterns of questions to test reading skills. Each pattern includes what students are asked to do to answer the question and some guidelines to help the teachers write this kind of question in a good way.
1. Read the following sentences and number them in the correct order:
- There should be only one correct order for the sentences to form a text.
- Write a complete text in the right order first, and then place the sentences at random.
- Sentences should be logically sequenced.
- Sufficient clues should be given.
- Use clear events, actions, time, definite/indefinite articles, logical connectors, and adverbs as clues.
- The marking scheme needs to be clear.
2. Read and answer multiple-choice questions:
- There should be only one correct answer.
- The distractors (wrong answers) should be wrong but seem like possible answers, the options are not too obviously right or wrong.
- The responses should be of equal length and mutually exclusive i.e., if the answer is ‘dog’, then, ‘animal’ can not be an option.
- All the information in the questions (stem) should be necessary.
- Include only one idea in each statement.
- Avoid the double negatives as they increase confusion.
- In MCQ format, texts need to be dense (packed with information) to provide sufficient distractors.
3. Quick reading for main ideas: Skimming:
- Establish a list of main ideas first and then find materials to write a paragraph about each of them. The main ideas will form the core ideas in the passage. Some paragraphs may not contain main ideas and these would act as distractors.
- The main idea should stand out clearly. Topic sentences should help. Discourse markers might be used to indicate importance. Keywords might be repeated.
- The passage should not be too dense and no inference should not be required.
- The passage should have a clear, logical structure.
- Most likely the text should have an argument-based structure, i.e., for and against, contrast/comparison, problem/solution, cause/effect.
4. Quick reading for specifics: Scanning:
The text you select should include:
- Dates of particular events.
- Names of places, people, objects…etc (i.e. descriptive text).
3. Careful reading for details:
- Decide first on the topic area of the passage.
- You can use outside resources to create the text but make sure it is suitable in terms of conditions for testing reading in the test specifications.
- Write the text and then develop a framework for questions.
- Provide the model answers for the questions you set.
- Get trustworthy, professional colleagues to check the text, the questions you set and the model answers you provided.
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