Reading Comprehension Tests: General or Subject-Specific?

Miriam Shoham, Arna S. Peretz, Renée Vorhaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Tests of reading comprehension have traditionally been based on tests which are considered to be comprehensible to the educated layman, thus not requiring specialist knowledge. However, recent developments in language testing are moving towards subject-specific tests. Such ESP (English for Specific Purposes) tests are based on the belief that it is more valid to test the reading comprehension of an engineering student on an engineering topic rather than on a social science topic and vice versa. Empirical evidence in favor of either the general or the specific approach is lacking. This paper is a report of a study designed to investigate the relevance of student background discipline on tests of reading comprehension in EFL (English as a Foreign Language). One hundred and eighty-five students from three faculties: Science and Technology, Biology, and Humanities and Social Science, were tested on three texts related to their respective fields of study. It was found that content area passages do affect student performance on reading comprehension tests, but not as greatly as had been expected. It was also found that the order of presentation of a reading passage in a multiple-text test does not affect student performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-88
Number of pages8
JournalSystem
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1987

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