Text Selection and Reading Comprehension
Text selection to construct items in reading comprehension is not as easy as it seems to be. This is due to many factors such as scarcity of reliable or valuable resources or the high cost of relevant teaching materials, if available. These are viewed as the first major stumbling blocks for the teacher/test designer. Because of this, too much time is spent on looking for "juicy" reading passages. But the choice of appropriate text according to Hughes (1991:119) "depends ultimately on experience, judgment and a certain amount of common sense. Clearly, these are not qualities that a handbook can provide. Practice is necessary". So the following criteria should be kept in mind during text selection.
The first criterion in text selection is course relevant topics: texts should be in congruence with the topic areas dealt with in the textbooks and that students are familiar with. It is important therefore to avoid too technical, scientific or far-fetched literary texts that involve topics beyond students' conceptual reach or language proficiency. They would simply leave a negative impact on students and thereby do a disservice to them and to the teacher as well.
After relevance comes authenticity as another criterion to bear in mind while selecting your text as a test designer. Simulated texts from authentic grounds are highly recommended as long as they assess students' reading ability more realistically. They also increase their interest and motivation in the course of their interaction.
Third of importance to make a convenient text selection is linguistic accessibility. The teacher/ the test designer has to take into account students' communicative competence. Linguistic difficulty may hinder students to reach out for the required information to extract from the text. It could also slow down their reading passage. When students fail to understand a text, it is because of their inability to see how it is organized in terms of cohesion and coherence.
Exploitability is another criterion to care about in text selection. The chosen text has to give itself away to be exploited fully when it comes to testing the reading operations. This can be possible at two different but interrelated levels: it should lend itself to various test techniques in connection with the syllabus specifications, and it should assess the sub-skills operations which reading obviously requires. For instance, the ability to infer propositional meaning, to identify explicitly stated main ideas and so on.
One last criterion for text selection is length. It is advisable to be flexible as regards the text chosen but it is also recommended not to make it longer than the usual texts students have in the textbooks. However, if you opt for relatively longer texts, they are supposed to be linguistically and conceptually within students' reach. The main aim behind choosing the text is not reading as such but testing how students' interactions to explore how skillful they are in that.