Evaluating Reading Progress

If you are a student or teacher, it is important to evaluate the achievements students have made in reading. As we already discussed earlier in a different post, Goals are a good way to mark the progress you have made and provide motivation to your true intentions of reading. However, as an administrator and teacher, I have found there are other ways to evaluate progress with statistics and the simple eye-test. Below are a couple of different ways you can try to see progression in reading and English development. Each method requires different resources to use, so it is recommended to use the method which is most convenient for you.

1. Reading Test

This method is best to demonstrate knowledge with context clues and understanding appropriate uses of vocabulary. Based on the test subject’s reading ability, choose a text (this may come from a book, news article, magazine, newspaper, etc.) which about 1,500 words long. From this text, separate it into meaningful paragraphs to show the organization of the passage. Leave the 1st paragraph as it is, do not change it; change the rest of the text by deleting every 10th word and leaving a blank or ____. Ask the test subject to read the passage and try to fill in the blanks with their knowledge and understanding of the text. This can be used at the beginning and end of a semester, or it could be used to see how much a test subject knows about the passage. The main concern when deciding an appropriate text is making sure the content is not too difficult for the reader. Choosing science terminology may not be appropriate for example if the reader is unfamiliar with the terminology. You can give this as a starting test and finishing test to see how well the student is doing better.

The example below shows what a potential passage would look like, courtesy of the LA Times

evaluating reading

The students are not expected to guess the answer perfectly, but instead guess which words could be placed in those blanks. The focus is understanding the sentence structure and identifying missing parts of speech. For example, the first blank (Earth) is a noun. An advanced student should get the answer Earth, but lower level students may still identify the answer as a noun and name another planet or object. As an evaluator, you need to determine how close to the actual answer you are wanting the students to achieve.

2. Reading Notebook

Having a notebook for either a class or individual reasons is a great way to view progress from the beginning of your studies to when you have completed a goal or semester/class. This is mainly a long term progression check because you are showing your original work and the end result after studying and learning more English. Students are allowed to express their ideas and writings about books they read or passages they read from class/outside sources. The notebook can be treated as a diary or as a log of read material used as a reference of read material.

The key to this is to treat it as a notebook, not a study book. You should be able, after 6 or so months go back and see how you have changed as a writer and reader. The material, content, reading strategies, and writing can all have changed from beginning to end and hopefully you are able to identify the changes yourself. A study book is where you take notes and use the notes as study material; you may review for a test. This book is not meant to be reviewed but instead reflected upon. Teachers are allowed to provide feedback on the work in the notebook and can use this notebook for themselves to progress their feedback and notice any repetitive comments/notes.

evaluating reading

3. Creating a portfolio

Some people may already be familiar with the portfolio concept but basically, a portfolio is a file you keep throughout your years in school or over a long period of time which includes various work you have completed to showcase your skills and interests. English portfolios are important because like reading notebooks, they include material you can reflect on and see the progression you have made in English. However, a portfolio can include edited material and most of the time includes various forms of your experience in English. This may include book reports, essays, sample writings, videos of presentations, poster boards, activities, drawings, etc. The goal of a portfolio is to express your English skills to those interested in your skills with a large amount of content and material. I had an English portfolio from grade school to high school and it was nice seeing the work which I did in Elementary School and the content I was writing about in High School. For any administration or teacher really looking into this idea more I recommend this method because it can be very motivational for new English learners to see the value in their work from the beginning of their journey to a new stage in their language development.

4. Interviews

One method I found very useful when evaluating a student’s reading ability is through interviews. This method can be modified according to any type of situation and the administrator has a lot of flexibility with how the interview process is handled. An interview may require preparation time to create the questions and a means to evaluate the various answers available, however a teacher should be able to immediately identify the level of comprehension the student has of the interview topic. To be creative, you could have students interview other students to test their comprehension, you could have teamed interviews, or even have a reversal with the teacher and student. The key with interviews is how to phrase the questions to eliminate ambiguity.

A different post will go into detail about how to create fair questions for tests, interviews, and other forms of assessment, however the important part of question making as a teacher involves knowing what type of questions you want the students to answer. With various reading strategies, questions need to be specific enough so the listener understands the question and is able to answer accurately. Questions such as “what is the story about?” is very vague and can create various degrees of responses. Asking for a summary of the important parts of the story would be a better question because it allows the listener to think of the main ideas and connect them into a summary. Remember to ask only important information which fulfills the purpose of the question. a comprehension question should not ask for too specific information that is irrelevant to the plot of the story. “What color was the child’s jacket?” for example may not be a good question if the jacket is not important to the story line. Asking questions like this confuse the students and make them believe they need to memorize all of the details in the story.

At times, when interviewing, answers to questions may have been learned from prior knowledge, specifically when interviewing about nonfiction books. Therefore, the interviewer needs to be more knowledgeable about the specific book or content and ask specifics about it. Another area to be aware of is book adaptations. When having students read books which have a movie based on it, at times the student may rely on the movie to complete their reading assignment. An adult student tried to read the Brother’s Grimm version of the Little Mermaid and insisted he read it all. In the interview I asked what happened to the little mermaid at the end of the story and the student replied, “she got married and lived happily ever after.” For those who don’t know, in the Disney movie, The Little Mermaid, Ariel marries Prince Eric and they sail off into the sunset. In the Brother’s Grimm version, the little mermaid fails at making the prince fall in love with her and she quietly turns into bubbles and washes away into the sea. I was able to identify if the student read the book correctly from this question.

With interviews, if time permits itself the interview can also act as one-to-one teaching where the teacher can provide feedback to the student and truly harness any difficulties the student may have with their reading material. This can be very rewarding to the teacher and student as it gives both the opportunity to really feel invested in the language learning process together outside of a classroom setting.


There are other ways to assess and evaluate a student’s reading skills however these four are fairly easy to do whether you are a parent preparing their child or a teacher looking for ways to test your student’s reading abilities in class. What are some other ways you know of?