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Part One-B Rationale for the Reading Test

This paper aims to provide relevant information about the reading test and justify the
procedures of the development of test and the theories in relation to test design
underlying the test.

Relevant information about the test

This is placement test designed for students who will attend the pre-sessional
academic language course in a private language school in Liverpool. Students who are
able to achieve the level of intermediate or above will be enrolled into the advanced
course; otherwise, they will be enrolled into the fundamental course.

This is reading test including 16 question items. Candidates are given 25 minutes to
finish the reading test. There are three types of tasks in the test: multiple-choice
questions (MCQ), identifying true/false/not given (T/F/NG) and matching due to the
following reasons. First, they can make sure the reliability of the scoring system.
Second, considering there is only one examiner to check candidates’ responses, they
are able to decrease the workload of the examiner. All the question items are designed
in terms of the order of the passage, which can ensure candidates are able to focus on
comprehending the passage and are not confused by irrelevant issues.

Each section of the test targets at different sub-skills. The following table shows the
information in detail.
Items Sub-skills being targeted
Item 1-5 Scanning for specific information
Item 6 Identifying pronominal reference

Item 7 Making propositional inference

Item 8 Recognising the relationship between ideas
Item 9-12 Skimming for main ideas of paragraphs or sections
Item 13-16 Identifying factual information
Table 1

It should be noted that item 8 may become the most challengeable item to candidates
because this item requests candidates to understand the holistic meaning of the
paragraph and to identify the logical relationship between ideas, it imposes a large
amount of linguistic burden and cognitive burden on candidates. for the rest of the
items, their level of difficulty is very similar.

Justification of the Test


They test provides more than one type of tasks, and the items in test target at different
sub-skills of reading. These setting can help elicit candidates’ comprehensive
performance on reading. Moreover, candidates who are good at perform one specific
type of tasks and not good at the other would not greatly influenced. Based on the
two points, the question items can increase the reliability of the test. The other aspect
that can increase reliability of the test is the scoring stage. The test does not contain
any open question and each question item only has one correct answer, so the scoring
stage increases reliability of the test.

The last but not the lease, the readability of the passage also increases reliability of
the test. This is a placement test for students who will take a pre-sessional academic
English course, so the level of language proficiency for most of them is not very high.
As a result, I intentionally choose a passage that is not as complicated as passages from
the IELTS or the TOEFL to make sure that the test can measure low-level candidates’
reading ability, which is an indication of reliability of the test.

Picture 1

The three tables in Picture 1 show the readability of passages from the TOEFL, the
IELTS and my test (from left to right; the information is provided by Microsoft Word
2016). It is very clear that the value of Flesch Reading Ease of my test is the highest in
Picture 1, which indicates the passage is the easiest one to read.

this is a placement test for students who will take a pre-sessional academic English
course. the level of difficulty is not very high, compared with the IELTS or the TOEFL.


Hughes (2003: 137) suggests that for a placement test “a rough and ready indication
of reading ability is enough”. Therefore, I do not include a broad range of reading skills
in my test; instead, the sub-skills targeted by the item questions focus on reading
comprehension at sentence-level (see Table 1). This is the reason why there are not
any question items targeting at decoding sentence structure, recognising the author’s
purpose, recognising words in context etc,. based on this point, my test is of construct

Because I wrote the specification of test in advance and then I wrote the test by strictly
following the specification, the test is of content validity.
Authenticity and Practicality

Because this test aims to measure candidates who will take a pre-sessional academic
course, the test should reflect candidates’ use of language in academic context. When
we examine the type and form of the text, we are able to find that although it is not a
text from a university-level course book, it is an expository from an website, which
university students are likely to read such type text when they find background
information online.

This test only contains 16 question items in total and only take less than half an hour
to finish. The test, therefore, is very easy to administered. Besides, the types of tasks
can ensure that only one examiner is able to finish the scoring work at ease. these two
points indicates the practicality of test.

Potential Washback

Douglas and Abeywickrama (2010) suggest that an “effective” placement test plays a
diagnostic role at the same time. They explain that by taking a placement of test
students can be divided into different levels of classes, so teachers can specifically
focuses on different students advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, this test is
able to help the teachers in the institution design an effective curriculum. Moreover,
it is also beneficial to students’ learning process. The teachers can provide a feedback
of the placement to students, so they can understand which reading skill is their
weakness and which is their strength, and spend much time on their weaknesses.


Brown, H. D., & Abeywickrama, P. (2010). Language assessment : principles and

classroom practices. White Plains, NY : Pearson Education, 2010.

Hughes, A. (2003). Testing for language teachers. [electronic book]. Cambridge :

Cambridge University Press, 2003.