Reading and Writing

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 387–402 | Cite as

The role of question type and reading ability in reading comprehension

  • Naomi F. Tal
  • Linda S. Siegel
  • Michael Maraun


Performance on a standardized reading comprehension test reflects the number of correct answers readers select from a list of alternate choices, but fails to provide information about how readers cope with the various cognitive demands of the task. The aim of this study was to determine whether three groups of readers: normally achieving (NA), poor comprehenders (CD), with no decoding disability, and reading disabled (RD), poor comprehenders with poor decoding skills, differed in their ability to cope with reading comprehension task demands. Three task variables reflected in the question-answer relations that appear on standardized reading comprehension tests were identified.Passage Independent (PI) question can be answered with reasonable accuracy based on the reader's prior knowledge of the passage content.Inference (INFER) questions required the reader to generate an inference at the local or global test level.Locating (LOCAT) questions require the reader to match the correct answer choice to a detail explicitly stated in the text either verbatim or in paraphrase form. The relations among reader characteristics, cognitive task factors and reading comprehension test scores were analyzed using a structural relations equation with LISREL. It was found that the three reading groups differed with respect to the underlying relationship between their performance on specific question-answer types and their standardized reading comprehension score. For the NA group, a high score on PI was likely to be accompanied by a low score on INFER, whereas in the CD and RD groups, PI and INFER are positively related. The finding of a negative relationship between background knowledge and inference task factors for normally achieving readers suggests that even normal readers may have comprehension difficulties that go undetected on the basis of a standardized scores. This study indicates that current comprehension assessments may not be adequate for assessing specific reading difficulties and that more precise diagnostic tools are needed.

Key words

Comprehension deficit Dyslexia Question type Reading comprehension Reading disability 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Naomi F. Tal
    • 1
  • Linda S. Siegel
    • 2
  • Michael Maraun
    • 3
  1. 1.School of EducationTel Aviv UniversityIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Applied PsychologyOntario Institute for Studies in EducationTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Measurement, Evaluation & Computer ApplicationOntario Institute for Studies in EducationCanada

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