Vocabulary and question difficulty in English 30 reading diploma examinations

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Secretan, Glenn
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education, 1994
This study examines sixteen reading tests given to English 30 students in Alberta between June 1986 and June 1993. The focus of the study is the vocabulary question, that is a multiple choice question that uses as alternative answers, words which might be of difficulty to the average grade twelve student. The words used as alternatives do not appear in context nor do they appear anywhere else on the exam. The student needs to be able to use the word correctly in order to answer the question correctly. The two research questions are (1) How many questions on Diploma Examinations between 1986 and 1993 were vocabulary questions? and (2) What are the difficulty levels of those questions? Difficulty level is defined as the number of students answering each question correctly, as shown by Alberta Education statistics. Individual exams comprised a variety of vocabulary questions ranging from a low of 7.1 % of total questions to a high of 25.7% of total questions. On several exams vocabulary questions were among the hardest on the test. In eight of sixteen exams vocabulary was deemed to be a large factor in determining student achievement. The average difficulty level of vocabulary questions varied between 51 % correct and 71.6% correct for the exams studied. It was found that vocabulary questions were on average more difficult than the mean for questions of all types (65%). In ten of sixteen exams, vocabulary questions were more difficult than questions of other types. A list is included which contains the 166 words used in vocabulary questions. A second list includes eleven words that appeared as possible answers on five or more exams. The author concludes that vocabulary questions make up a significant portion of questions on Diploma Examinations in English and that these questions comprise a high proportion of the most difficult questions on the exams. Further, he concludes that a student's vocabulary is a large factor in determining achievement on these tests. It is suggested that vocabulary knowledge is very important for students writing diploma examinations. Vocabulary acquisition and some approaches to vocabulary teaching are discussed. The author also presents a computer game designed for teaching vocabulary. Called "Olympus," it uses a Hypercard stack and uses a journey/maze approach. It uses a sample of the 166 word list taken from all exams. It was found that vocabulary knowledge is a factor in student achievement, and it is suggested that vocabulary instruction should be stressed in the classroom.
vi, 55 leaves ; 28 cm + 1 computer disk.
Vocabulary tests -- Alberta , Vocabulary -- Computer-assisted instruction , English language -- Study and teaching -- Alberta , English language -- Study and teaching -- Evaluation