Looking into Reading II: A Follow-up Study

This study investigated 25 ESL test-takers’ cognitive processing while completing a set of Opinion Matching tasks designed and piloted for use on the Aptis reading test and targeting the CEFR-B1 level. Insights were gained through the recording of participants’ eye traces during task completion, immediately followed by a stimulated recall after each task in which participants described, in their first language, how they had completed it.

The study follows up on the findings of Brunfaut & McCray (2015), who investigated test takers’ task processing on the full Aptis reading test, and found support for the construct validity of the test. However, a somewhat weaker alignment between the intended and actual reading processes used by test-takers was found for the B1 banked gap-fill tasks of the Aptis reading test. The aim of this follow-up study, therefore, was to explore the cognitive processing on an alternative, newly designed set of Opinion Matching tasks to be able to evaluate the extent to which the new tasks elicited the specified processes for this level of the Aptis reading test (see O’Sullivan & Dunlea, 2015).

Test-takers were found to use a wide range of cognitive processes while they were completing the B1 Opinion Matching tasks, covering both lower- and higher-level processes as defined in Khalifa &Weir’s (2009) model of reading. Most often, when they successfully solved the item, the test-takers had adopted a careful and global reading approach (and sometimes they also did some expeditious reading), and they had combined lexical processing and/or meaning-making within sentences, across sentences or at textual and intertextual levels with inferencing. This global comprehension approach and the extensive engagement with higher-level processing associated with the B1 Opinion Matching items not only differs substantially from the local and lower-level processing patterns associated with the original B1 banked gap-fill items, but also suggests a suitable match with the intended processes specified by the test developers for the Aptis B1 reading tasks.