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Psychometric analysis of the revised CompLEC test to measure reading speed and reading comprehension in university students | BMC Psychology

Reading comprehension is one of the fundamental constructs in university education since it focuses on the traineeship of skills and competences for the production and acquisition of knowledge [1, 2]. For more than three decades, reading has been the subject of numerous studies in the international context. In Latin America, it has gained great relevance in the last decade, which has made it possible to identify some trends and models [3]. In Peru, reading comprehension continues to be a problem; it is one of the countries with the lowest performance in this competence [4]. Undoubtedly, being efficient in studying and reading is not only related to understanding what one reads, but also to the speed with which one reads. However, the latter has not received as much attention as reading comprehension, despite the fact that several studies show a high percentage of low reading speed [5]. In addition to this problem, unfortunately, in Latin America there is an evident need for a greater number of tests that measure reading speed and reading comprehension in university contexts.

With regard to the literature review, understanding a text is a process that involves constructing meanings from the reader’s prior knowledge of the information contained in the text [6, 7]. Likewise, understanding a text involves the use of cognitive and meta-cognitive processes that allow the reader to understand the meanings of the text read [8].

Moreover, reading comprehension is understood as a global process through the use of nine micro-skills: perception means training eye movement in order to increase reading speed and comprehension; memory allows the retention of information from the text read; anticipation allows the reader to hypothesise, predict events, facts or ideas; quick and attentive reading gives the reader the ability to move from one point to another in the text, identifying relevant data; inference gives the reader the ability to deduce implicit information from the text; main ideas allow the reader to identify the essential point, summary, communicative purpose of the author, etc.; structure and form, in this phase, the background and form of the text are analysed; reading between the lines refers to recognising the information that is not explicit; and self-assessment made of the reading process [9].

With regard to the reading competence, PISA 2018 defines it as “understanding, use, evaluation, reflection on and commitment with texts in order to achieve own goals, develop knowledge and personal potential, and participate in society” [10]. Under this definition, reading competence motivates cognitive, personal and social development, allowing the reader to actively participate in political, economic and cultural life with a critical and reflective stance for the construction of a country with quality of life. Text processing is carried out through three phases: locating relevant information, understanding the information and drawing inferences, and finally, evaluating and reflecting on the form and content of the text [10].

Reading competence involves a set of cognitive-linguistic skills that start from decoding to the elaboration of mental schemes that allow the comprehension of the text and the approach to knowledge [11]. With regard to reading levels, Pinzas [12] indicates three processes: Literal, inferential and critical comprehension. Literal comprehension: it means understanding the explicit information of the text, it is the first step for inferential and evaluative comprehension. At this level the reader identifies characters, place, main facts, ideas, causes and explicit characters in the text. Inferential comprehension: at this stage the reader infers implicit information, deduces meanings, makes conclusions, answers hypotheses, etc. Critical or evaluative comprehension: this is the highest level of comprehension; the reader makes value judgements about the form and content of the text, but this level is only reached when good literal and inferential comprehension has been achieved.

On the other hand, speed or quick reading began at the beginning of the 20th century, during the First World War; the strategists of the Air Force observed that most pilots could not distinguish planes at a certain distance, so they began to develop speed perception exercises with the tachistoscope, a machine that projected images for five hundredths of a second on a large screen, obtaining good results. This same method was applied in the field of reading, achieving a doubling of reading speed, but only for a few weeks. In the 1960s, Evelyn Wood, a school teacher, discovered that proper training of the eyes allowed quick movements, and that comprehension could be maintained above the 400 words per minute barrier [13].

Reading speed is defined as the number of words a person reads in a specific period of time, specifically minutes and seconds [14]. Speed reading allows for greater concentration, perceptual ability and overall comprehension of the text [15]. According to Horacio [16], the words read per minute is obtained by dividing the number of words read by the time spent. On the other hand, the words comprehended per minute is obtained by multiplying the words read per minute with the comprehension rate, and then dividing it by 100. The measure of reading speed and comprehension depends on the content of the text and other factors.

With regard to background, the studies by Inciso and García [17] conducted on 497 students from two universities in the city of Lima confirmed that the use of strategies to overcome reading comprehension problems favours the level of academic self-efficacy. Chuquichampi and Ricapa [18], for their part, developed an investigation with the in order to find out the influence of the application of the method from the Institute for Speed Reading, Studying and Memory [Instituto de lectura veloz, estudio y memoria – ILVEM] on the reading comprehension of 640 university students; the instruments used were readings and a questionnaire that was applied throughout the semester. One of the main findings were the significant mean differences in the pre- and post-test of words read per minute (PT 155, PsT = 277), comprehension rate (PT = 55%; PsT = 84%) and words comprehended per minute (PT = 90; PsT = 237). Therefore, it is summarised that the strategy employed using the ILVEM method influences the reading comprehension of students. The contributions of Cumpa and Cruz [19] allow us to affirm that the application of a comprehensive Reading Programme favours the development of reading comprehension in pre-university students. In Japan, Shimono [20] conducted a study with the purpose of comparing reading fluency in terms of speed and reading comprehension in groups of university students; the quasi-experimental design research involved the participation of 55 students divided into three groups, where the first group practised a combination of timed reading and repeated oral reading paying attention to fragmentation and prosody, while the second group was exclusively dedicated to timed reading, and the third comparison group was part of an oral communication training. As results, it was found that even though the three groups started with insignificant differences in reading comprehension according to the pre-test report. The post-test results confirmed an increase in the level of reading comprehension, demonstrating that timed and repeated oral reading practice is effective in increasing reading fluency, unlike a traditional curriculum.

Nevertheless, the findings of these studies suggest the presence of limiting factors in the achievement of reading comprehension and reading motivation. The study of Vázquez et al. [21], applied an instrument of 26 items grouped into four areas: reading habits, reading frequency, reading comprehension and reading experience. The findings show that students do not have motivation and habits to promote reading, especially due to their lack of interest and other factors. Finally, the contributions of Locher and Pfost, [22] resulting from the research carried out on 28,795 people including schoolchildren, university students and adults in Germany, with the objective to find a positive relationship between the time spent reading and reading comprehension skills, based on a questionnaire applied to find out how much time they spent reading, considering all reading opportunities, not just academic ones; likewise, they used tests consisting on five types of texts with four to eight questions. The results obtained in the university group showed that the correlation between reading while busy and reading in free time was very low (r = 0.16), and the relationship between reading comprehension related to study and reading in free time was also very low (r = 0.05). In conclusion, even though both variables are positively related, the low correlation could be due to qualitative changes in the habit of reading.

Therefore, the study of the constructs of reading speed and reading comprehension is of utmost importance because they play a fundamental role in the academic success of students at the higher education level, so it is necessary to have instruments that adequately measure these constructs. Therefore, this study is justified because it provides the academic community with a valid and reliable test to measure reading speed and reading comprehension in the university context.

Therefore, the general objective is to determine the psychometric properties of the revised compLEC test to measure reading comprehension and speed in university students. Likewise, the specific objectives proposed are: to determine the validity based on the internal structure through techniques based on the Classical Test Theory and the Item Response Theory, to determine the factorial invariance of the scale according to the gender and age of the participants, and to determine the reliability of the scale.

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