(1) Why was the question asked in ASSET test?

Reading comprehension is said to be most effective when readers can analyse facts and reach accurate conclusions. For this, it is essential that the passage be read entirely and all the essential facts be identified. This question required students to constantly refer to the passage and eliminate options to come to the correct answer.

(2) What did students answer?

Only about 34% of 10,480 students chose the correct option D, “likes to live in company.” Almost 42% of students chose A, “is found in all parts of Africa” which was also the most common wrong answer.

Possible reason for choosing A: Students have merely skimmed through the question and the passage. They may have read “found” and “Africa” in the second line of the passage, and chosen this option blindly. They have missed the fact that the Red Colobus is found only in Zanzibar, in East Africa; but the option mentions, “all parts of Africa”.

Possible reason for choosing B and C: Very few students have chosen these options. It is possible that these students read the line – “…and are most active during the cooler parts of the day” and misinterpreted it. Students choosing B may have thought that since the Red Colobus is active only during cool hours, it sleeps the rest of the time. Students choosing C may have thought that “cooler parts of the day” refers to “night”.

(3) Learnings

  • The data clearly indicates that insufficient use of the text to answer questions is what has led students to answer this question wrongly. They are unable to eliminate even the most starkly evident wrong answer. It can be said that a wrong habit or the tendency to skip the text is hampering students’ abilities to infer and analyse correctly.
  • It is possible that students are merely looking for familiar words in the question/options in the passage, they do not even read enough to see if their answer is at least plausible.
  • Students who answered correctly may have read the passage entirely and tried to eliminate all the options to arrive at their answer. Or they may have simply picked up clues from “social” “live in groups of 30-50” to arrive at this answer.
  • It may not so much be the reading abilities, but the reading strategies that some students use, that prevent them from answering questions such as this, correctly.


4) How do we handle this?

A clear issue identified by the data in this passage is that students are unable to recapitulate parts of the passage effectively. The reason for this may be that the passage is unfamiliar to them. Since the purpose of teaching reading comprehension is to ensure students learn to deal with unfamiliar texts as well as lessons from the textbook, it is essential to give them some amount of practice in that.

When a new chapter is introduced, extract a portion out of it, or pause after every few paragraphs and ask students questions based on that part. For e.g. Who are the main characters here? What is the situation being described here? Who spoke these lines? Where is this scene taking place?

This can be done through the chapter to help students create a habit of constantly referring to the text to find answers.

Alternatively, any lesson from the text book can be conducted as a reading comprehension exercise, using all the strategies meant for reading comprehension. And inclusion of an unseen passage for comprehension can be included in each test/ examination to assess the effectiveness of this activity.



Useful Links

Website: http://abcteach.com/directory/reading_comprehension/grades_46/ (a demonstration with various passages on how to give comprehension practice to students)


Educational Initiatives

Educational Initiatives

Founded by a group of IIMA alumni, with ample personal experience of educational institutions, Educational Initiatives (EI) is an effort to ensure every child learns with understanding.

Established in 2001, Educational Initiatives believes in making a difference in education through personalized learning and ensuring that students learn with understanding.

EI has over 15 years of expertise in education, with a deep understanding of child psychology and efficient methods of teaching, based on detailed research and a formidable database of student learning through ASSET.

Our detailed research has proven that children today respond to rote-based questions relatively well, however, they fail to answer unfamiliar or application based questions due to unclear core concepts.
Educational Initiatives