The Ordering of Reading Subskills Across Text Types: Is There a Definite Ordering?

Zailani Jusoh, Noor Lide Abu Kassim


Factors influencing reading performance include texts used as stimuli and tasks/items accompanying the texts to assess comprehension. As both texts and items are integral to reading, it is crucial for a study investigating the pattern of item difficulty across different text types; narrative and expository, to be conducted. To determine item difficulty, five commonly assessed reading subskills were identified. They were understanding explicitly stated information (ESI), references (REF), deriving word meaning (VOC), understanding main idea (MID) and making inferences (INF). To obtain a more accurate representation of subskills, eight sets of reading tests consisting a large number of items (n=177) were used. This was made possible through the use of common item linking technique based on Rasch measurement model. The findings show that subskill ordering for narrative and expository vary slightly, indicating that there is no definitive ordering of individual subskills across text types. However, the patterns for low order (LOSs) and high order subskills (HOSs) are observed to be similar. LOSs are consistently less challenging than HOSs in both text types. Nonetheless, for LOSs, despite showing the same ordering, they are comparatively more challenging in expository. Subskills within HOSs, however, do not show any particular patterns. The study concludes that reading is made up of LOSs and HOSs as mooted by experts despite the subskills not showing definite ordering. Additionally, determining subskill difficulty is complex as a number of variables need factoring in. An implication from this is that awareness of elements influencing reading comprehension difficulty is important so that measures could be taken to minimise problems associated with reading.

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