Selecting Texts

Successful choice of texts depends ultimately on experience, judgement, and a certain amount of common sense. Clearly these are not qualities that a handbook can provide; practice is necessary. It is never the less possible to offer useful advice. While the points may seem rather obvious, they are often overlooked.

1. Keep specifications constantly in mind and try to select as repre- sentative a sample as possible. Do not repeatedly select texts of a particular kind simply because they are readily available.

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2. Choose texts of appropriate length. Expeditious reading tests may call for passages of up to 2,000 words or more. Detailed reading can be tested using passages of just a few sentences.

3. In order to obtain both content validity and acceptable reliability, include as many passages as possible in a test, thereby giving candi- dates a good number of fresh starts. Considerations of practicality will inevitably impose constraints on this, especially where scanning or skimming is to be tested.

4. In order to test search reading, look for passages which contain plenty of discrete pieces of information.

5. For scanning, find texts which have the specified elements that have to be scanned for.

6. To test the ability to quickly establish the structure of a text, make sure that the text has a clearly recognizable structure (It’s surprising how many texts lack this quality).

7. Choose texts that will interest candidates but which will not over- excite or disturb them. A text about cancer, for example, is almost certainly going to be distressing to some candidates.

8. Avoid texts made up of information that may be part of candidates’ general knowledge. It may be difficult not to write items to which correct responses are available to some candidates without reading the passage.

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