How STAR Reading Measures Comprehension

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    Chris Job

    STAR Reading test items are presented in two formats. In one format, students read a single sentence with a blank to indicate a missing word. The student chooses a word that will complete the sentence from a list of three or four words. The other format consists of a multi-sentence passage taken from authentic children’s literature or nonfiction text. One sentence in the passage contains a blank to indicate a missing word. Here, too, the student must read the passage and choose the word that will complete it from a list of three or four words.

    While the format of STAR Reading items sometimes leads educators to believe that it only assesses vocabulary knowledge, the test actually draws on a much more complex set of reading skills. Each item is carefully constructed so that the correct answer fits both the semantics and the syntax of the sentence. The incorrect options either fit the syntax of the sentence or relate to the meaning of something in the sentence, but they do not do both. This the test-taker must not only apply vocabulary knowledge but must also utilise background knowledge and semantic and syntactical skills. Only if the student uses all these cognitive skills can he derive meaning from the text, which, experts agree, is the essence of reading comprehension.

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