초록

In search of the optimal length of reading comprehension passages in English language tests, this paper looks at existing test specifications searching for any consensus on the text length. Test specifications or released test items were classified in terms of the purpose and target test-taker population of the tests. In analyzing the high school graduation tests in major US states in terms of the text length, number of passages and their test time, the study found that for the US secondary schools (grade 6 and above), at least an average of 500 words were designated for a passage to meet the statewide grade school standards for the English using ability. The specified length of a passage in major EAP tests including IELTS and TOEFL was seen to converge around an average of 700 words. The passage length of tests for general purposes was found to be much shorter, evidenced in a few different tests currently administered in Europe, the US and Korea. With regard to these findings, the paper further looks into some other considerations (local independence assumption of item response theory that influences the number of items per passage, power vs. speed test and readability of a text) in tailoring the length of reading passages that suits the test purpose. The uses of the findings are also discussed and a suggestion for future research is made in the last section of the paper.

키워드

Length of reading comprehension passages, test specifications, test purpose

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