Tài liệu Ielts reading test taking strategies employed by high score candidates in academic training module

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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HA NOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ********************** IELTS READING TEST-TAKING STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY HIGH SCORE CANDIDATES IN ACADEMIC TRAINING MODULE (Chiến thuật làm bài đọc EL S được sử dụng bởi những thí sinh đạt điểm cao trong kỳ thi học thuật EL S) M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Teaching Methodology Code: 60140111 HANOI – 2017 VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HA NOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ********************** IELTS READING TEST-TAKING STRATEGIES EMPLOYED BY HIGH SCORE CANDIDATES IN ACADEMIC TRAINING MODULE (Chiến thuật làm bài đọc EL S được sử dụng bởi những thí sinh đạt điểm cao trong kỳ thi học thuật EL S) M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Teaching Methodology Code: 60140111 Supervisor: Dr. ư ng HANOI - 2017 c inh DECLARATION I hereby declare that this thesis is my own original research and written entirely by myself. Any citing in the thesis is followed by references and acknowledgement. I also hereby state that I agree to the requirements of the University of Languages and International Studies in terms of using as well as preserving my M.A. thesis. This condition means that any access to my thesis for study purpose should be allowed. Hanoi, 2017 Phí Thị Mùi i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT This research is one of the most challenging academic tasks that I had to face. I could not have been able to complete without the wholehearted help and guidance of my supervisor, my family, my friends, and my students. First and foremost, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Duong Duc Minh for his useful comments, remarks and engagement throughout the process of researching and completing my thesis. With patience and knowledge, he always steers in the right direction and encourages me to overcome many difficulties or problems when conducting the study. Furthermore, I would also like to thank the participants in the research, who contributed greatly to the success of the research and provided a great deal of useful information during collecting data stage. Last but not least, my sincere thanks also go to my family and friends for always supporting me and giving me confidence when I needed most. ii ABSTRACT This thesis aims to illuminate how the successful IELTS takers perform their IELTS reading test and provide a useful guidance for anyone concerning about IELTS reading test. This study is motivated by three research questions: (1) What test-taking strategies frequently used by Vietnam test takers in performing IELTS reading tasks? (2) How are those English test-taking strategies related to test takers‟ performance? (3) To what extent do the uses of English test-taking strategy of successful candidates vary significantly with their gender and learning experience? If yes, what are the main patterns of variation? The research employed multiple methods including a broad survey questionnaire of 100 participants and a thorough interview of 06 English language learners who had taken the IELTS test and gained at least 7.0 for reading skill to point out the common reading strategies used by high score test takers and indicate the influence of them on the test takers‟ performance. Moreover, further suggestions on how the strategy use differs among successful candidates are also concluded in the study. The findings from the research illustrate the variety in application of test-taking strategies and the impact of strategies on the results when taking the test. The findings also prompt an encouragement to learn and sharpen basic approach when taking the reading test, especially in IELTS reading which examine learners‟ proficient language skill. iii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS IELTS: International English Language Testing System SPSS: Statistical Package for the Social Sciences IDP: International Development Program P1: Interviewee 1 P2: Interviewee 2 P3: Interviewee 3 P4: Interviewee 4 P5: Interviewee 5 P6: Interviewee 6 iv LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: The number of participant according to gender. .......................................18 Figure 2: English experience of participants .............................................................19 v LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Characteristics of good language learners (Brown, 2007: 259-260) ............8 Table 2: IELTS: Guide for Teachers (British Council, 2008) ..................................18 Table 3: IELTS Reading test-taking strategies .........................................................25 Table 4: Reliability of General Strategies .................................................................26 Table 5: Reliability of Text-related Strategies ..........................................................26 Table 6: Reliability of Question-related Strategies ...................................................27 Table 7: George and Mallery‟s cronbach α value range ...........................................27 Table 8: Means and Standard Deviations Indicating Test-taking Strategy Use .......30 Table 9: Correlation between English Test-taking Strategy Use and Students‟ Test Performance ..............................................................................................................33 Table 10: Means and Standard Deviations Indicating Test-taking Strategy Use of Male and Female .......................................................................................................37 Table 11: Correlation between gender and IELTS test score. ..................................38 Table 12: Means and Standard Deviations Indicating Test-taking Strategy Use based on English learning experience. …………………………………...………..42 Table 13: The correlation between English learning experience and IELTS score. ........42 vi TABLE OF CONTENTS DECLARATION ....................................................................................................... i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ....................................................................................... ii ABSTRACT ............................................................................................................. iii LIST OF ABBRIVIATIONS .................................................................................. iv LIST OF FIGURES ..................................................................................................v LIST OF TABLES .................................................................................................. vi TABLE OF CONTENTS ....................................................................................... vii CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION ............................................................................1 1.1. Statement of the problem ...................................................................... 1 1.2. Purpose of the study .............................................................................. 2 1.3. Scope ..................................................................................................... 2 1.4. Research questions ................................................................................ 3 1.5. Expected outcome and significance of the study ................................... 3 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW...............................................................4 2.1. Reading .................................................................................................... 4 2.1.1. Definition of reading .........................................................................................4 2.1.2. Purposes of reading ...........................................................................................4 2.2. Language learning strategies ................................................................... 5 2.3. Strategies of successful language learners ............................................... 6 2.4. Reading comprehension and test-taking strategies .................................. 8 2.4.1. Reading comprehension strategies ....................................................................8 2.4.2. Test-taking strategies ........................................................................................9 2.5. The IELTS test ....................................................................................... 10 2.6. IELTS reading test ................................................................................. 11 2.7. Summary of previous studies ................................................................. 12 CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY ......................................................................16 3.1. Participants and setting ....................................................................... 16 vii 3.2. Research method .................................................................................... 20 3.3. Research Instruments .......................................................................... 20 3.3.1. Survey questionnaire ...................................................................................20 3.3.2. Individual interview .....................................................................................21 3.4. Data analysis procedure ...................................................................... 22 3.4.1. Data collection procedure ............................................................................22 3.4.2. Data analysis procedure ...............................................................................23 CHAPTER IV: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION .................................................26 4.1. Reading test-taking strategies used by IELTS candidates in performing IELTS reading tasks. .................................................................................... 26 4.1.1. Testing the reliability of data ..........................................................................26 4.1.2. Reading test taking strategies used by IELTS candidates ..............................27 4.2. How are those English test-taking strategies related to test takers‟ performance? ................................................................................................ 33 4.3. Is there any difference in English test-taking strategy use among successful candidates? .................................................................................. 35 CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION ..............................................................................44 5.1. Summary of the major findings ............................................................. 44 5.2. Implications for IELTS test takers and IELTS trainers. ......................... 45 5.3. Limitations and suggestions for further study ........................................ 46 REFERENCES ........................................................................................................47 APPENDENCES ....................................................................................................... I APPENDIX 1 ................................................................................................... I APPENDIX 2 ................................................................................................ III APPENDIX 3……………………………………………………………………III viii CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION Test-taking strategies have been playing a crucial role for language learners as nowadays test is used as a reliable way of checking and evaluating learners‟ knowledge. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), which is the world‟s leading English language proficiency test, with over 2.5 million IELTS tests taken annually, has been recognized as one of the most secure, valid and reliable means in assessing English language proficiency for education, immigration and professional accreditation. IELTS test, which is a high stake test, success or failure, can have a life changing impact on candidates. As a result, smart and critical reading and thinking strategies need to be used sufficiently in order to be successful or achieve the best possible score in the test (Bachman & Palmer, 1996; Rogers & Harley, 1999). There are numerous factors affecting the candidates‟ results except for knowledge and ability. One of the most important factors is learning and test-taking strategies (Bachman & Palmer, 1996; O‟ Malley & Chamot, 1990). Test-taking strategies are simply defined as specific actions or techniques taken by users to aid them overcome the test easier, faster and more accurate. As Oxford defines, learning strategies are “specific actions taken by the learner to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed and more transferrable to new situations” (Oxford, 1990). Reading is considered as a complex cognitive process of decoding, deriving and receiving message from the writer. It is a complicated and meaningful skill of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas, which requires continuous practice, development, and refinement, especially creativity and critical analysis. 1.1. Statement of the problem IELTS test, which serves as a testimonial system, has been gaining its popularity in many countries around the world. For many candidates, IELTS plays 1 an important role for their future career or further study. IELTS is the test of language ability, it concerns with the capacity to use various aspects of language including vocabulary, structure, grammar efficiently so having clear and strategic skills to handle the task would certainly helpful. Test-taking strategies have been the focus of many studies. In spite of many attempts have made towards learning and test-taking strategies, few was devoted to test-taking strategies used in reading modules of IELTS while for many Vietnamese candidates, reading is regarded as the most challenging one. All of these reasons stated have become the motivations that stimulate the researcher to carry out the study named “IELTS reading test-taking strategies employed by high score candidates in academic training module”. 1.2. Purpose of the study Test taking strategies are considered as keys to success for not only researchers, teachers but also for learners, especially test takers. For globally difficult standardized test like IELTS, it is necessary to have clear strategies to deal with the test best. The study will examine the test taking strategies used by high score candidates in the reading module of IELTS and evaluate the effectiveness of those techniques, further indicate the differences in English test-taking strategies use among winning candidates. The research will provide helpful guidance, example and assistance for readers in order to achieve their greatest potential. 1.3. Scope The study is aimed to document the test-taking strategies of 100 Vietnamese English foreign language (EFL) learners who had already attended the IELTS test and gained their latest IELTS band score for reading module of at least 7.0. Furthermore, exclusive interviews among chosen candidates (06 people) who show diversity in their reading strategies are carried out. 2 1.4. Research questions The study is going to answer the following research questions: 1. What test-taking strategies frequently used by Vietnam test takers in performing IELTS Reading tasks? 2. How are those English test-taking strategies related to test takers‟ performance? 3. To what extent do the uses of English test-taking strategy of successful candidates vary significantly with their gender and learning experience? If yes, what are the main patterns of variation? 1.5. Expected outcome and significance of the study By conducting this research, the researcher expects to find out the most commonly efficient used test-taking strategies among IELTS candidates and evaluate the effectiveness of those techniques. Furthermore, an analysis of the difference in test-taking strategy among users will be revealed to answer the question how much is the variable? Once finished the paper could serve as a good reference for those who wish to have a closer view into the test-taking strategies employed by students in response to some specific comprehension tasks. Both IELTS candidates and IELTS trainers could refer to the findings of the study to have more effective using as well as teaching reading IELTS strategies. 3 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1. Reading 2.1.1. Definition of reading According to Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics (1986), reading can be defined as the process of “perceiving a written text in order to understand its contents. This can be done silently. The understanding that result is called reading comprehension.” Collins English Learner‟s Dictionary describes reading as “an act of looking at and understanding point”. On the other hand, Anderson (1985) considered reading as a complex process in which the reader had to construct the meaning of the text and used various interconnected informative sources to understand the real meaning of the passage. Moreover, skilled reading needed to be constructive, fluent, strategic, motivated and a lifelong pursuit. Another interesting definition of reading is reading is an energetic interactive process of “the reader's existing knowledge; the information suggested by the text being read; and the context of the reading situation” (Wixson, Peters, Weber, & Roeber, 1987). Simply defined, reading is a process of reducing the uncertainty about meanings a text conveys and it can be understood as a negotiation of meaning between the text and its reader. The way the readers interact with the text is decided by the knowledge, expectations and strategies the readers use. Importantly, most texts are understood in different ways by different readers. 2.1.2. Purposes of reading The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) assessment framework indicates that there are two main purposes of reading: reading for literary purposes and reading for informational purposes. Grabe and Stoller (2002) devided the purposes of reading into seven subtypes, including: searching for simple information; skimming quickly; learning from texts; integrating information; writing or searching for information needed for writing; 4 criticizing text and getting general comprehension. Actually, the aims and objectives of reading depend greatly on the readers and different readers will have different reading purposes. 2.2. Language learning strategies “Learning strategies” is a familiar term since it can be applied into varieties of fields regarding both content and context such as math, science, history, languages and other subjects. According to Weinstein and Mayer (1986), broadly defined learning strategies are "behaviours and thoughts that a learner engages in during learning" which are "intended to influence the learner's encoding process" (Weinstein & Mayer, 1986). In 1988, Mayer developed the definition more specifically and described learning strategies as "behaviours of a learner that are intended to influence how the learner processes information.” Speaking of language learning strategies, there have been numerous definitions about this category. Foreign or second language learning strategies are specific actions, behaviors, steps or techniques students use often consciously to improve their progress in apprehending, internalizing, and using foreign language (Oxford, 1990). Strategies are the tools for active, self-directed involvement needed for developing foreign or second language communicative ability (O‟Malley & Chamot, 1990). Many scholars have attempted to categorize language learning strategies including some famous linguists like Wenden and Rubin 1987; O'Malley et al. 1985; Oxford 1990; Stern 1992; Ellis 1994, Wenden and Rubin in 1987 classified language learning strategies into three main forms, consisting of learning strategies, communication strategies, and social strategies. In contrast, Oxford‟s (1990) taxonomy includes direct and indirect strategies. In 1985, O'Malley and Chamot developed a classification of three types of language learning strategies: 5  Metacognitive strategies that comprise of thinking about (or knowledge of) the learning process, planning for learning, monitoring learning while it is taking place, and self‐evaluating of learning after the task had been completed.  Cognitive strategies, which involve mental manipulating or transforming of materials or tasks, it is intended to enhance comprehension, acquisition, or retention.  Social/affective strategies, as the name suggests, they concern with using social interactions to assist in the comprehension, learning or retention of information. Nevertheless, different scholars have proposed different categorizations for learning strategies (Brown, 1987; O‟ Malley & Chamot, 1990). Most of them recommend that students develop the following strategies:  Cognitive strategies: Learners employ cognitive strategies to focus on the important aspects of material to be learned, to comprehend input, to store for future use what they have learned, and to develop facility in using the learned material.  Communication strategies: These strategies are developed to initiate conversation, to maintain conversation, to negotiate meaning, and to terminate conversation.  Global strategies: They are used to read a paper in the second language, to make friends who speak the second language, to go to movies in the language, metacognitive strategies, to plan for learning, to monitor learning, and to check the outcome. 2.3. Strategies of successful language learners There have been many studies investigated the characteristics and styles of good language learners as a way to improve and transfer them to less successful language learners. Moreover, there have been many studies proved the close 6 relationship between strategies application and the possibility of success of students (Rubin (1975), Stern (1975) and Naiman, Frolich, Stern, and Todesco (1978)). According to Rubin (1975), it was essential to enlighten less proficient language learners by encouraging them to learn the strategies of those who were more talented and she listed seven strategies which good language learners often applied, including: guessing, communicating, avoiding inhibition, attending to form, practicing, monitoring and attending to meaning. Stern (1975) also proposed 7 language learning strategies which he believed to be characteristics of good language learners, consisting of experimenting, planning, developing the new language into an ordered system, revising progressively, using the language in real communication, developing the target language into a separate reference system and learning to think in the target language. Brown in 2007 described an account of good language learners‟ personality and he emphasized the need for teachers to enhance students‟ acquiring information process instead of just delivering it. 1. Finds their own way. 2. Organize information about language. 3. Are creative, developing a “feel” for the language by experimenting with its grammar and words. 4. Make their own opportunities for practice in using the language inside and outside the language classroom. 5. Use memories and other memory strategies to recall what has been learned. 6. Make errors work for them and not against them 7 7. Use linguistic knowledge, including knowledge of their first language, in learning a second language. 8. Use contextual cues to help them in comprehension. 9. Learn to make intelligent guesses 10. Learn chunks of language as wholes and formalized routines to help them. 11. Learn certain tricks that help to keep conversation going. 12. Learn certain production strategies to fill in gaps in their own competence. 13.Learn different styles of speech and writing and learn to vary their language according to the formality of the situation. Table 1: Characteristics of good language learners (Brown, 2007: 259-260) Generally, many writers such as O‟Malley and Chamot (1990), Oxford (1990), Wenden (1991), Cohen (1998), Cohen and Macaro (2007) and Griffiths (2008) have suggested that learners might be able to learn language more effectively by the use of language learning strategies and those language learning strategies differ from users to users. 2.4. Reading comprehension and test-taking strategies 2.4.1. Reading comprehension strategies Comprehension is always the foremost purpose of any readers with different proficient level and the defining factor to decide the degree of command is reading strategies. Most of the previous studies indicated that using effective and appropriate reading strategies would certainly enhance comprehension. Different learners will have distinctive reading comprehension strategies. However, generally there exist two most popular ones, they are top-down and bottom – up strategies. The top-down strategies facilitate readers to comprehend a larger piece of text, such as paragraph. This type of strategies help readers recognize 8 the whole meaning of the passage easier. On the contrary, the bottom-up strategies deal with sentence-by-sentence, which means in order to understand the whole text, readers need to read and understand each sentence first (Cohen, 1998; Phakiti, 2003; Rogers & Harley, 1999). 2.4.2. Test-taking strategies Each test taker has favorite strong tactics to deal with the test and it is important to explore and identify those strategies so that high-qualified ones should be encouraged to be adopted by test takers. There have been a number of studies into this field since as Cohen (1998) indicated, “In order to assess reading comprehension in a second or foreign language, it is necessary to have a working knowledge of what that process entails.” As a result, an approach to test-taking strategies is necessary to understand how test-takers handle the task. Test takers use different test-taking strategies, this is demonstrated in many studies (Bachman & Palmer, 1996; Cohen, 1998; Phakiti, 2003; Roger & Harley, 1999). According to Rogers and Harley (1999), test-taking strategies were processes which helped learners to use “the features and format of a test” to get more correct answers in a test-taking situation. The test-taking strategies might be talked about were: “reading the rubrics and instruction carefully, planning the allocated time properly, making use of key words in the questions, delaying answering complex and difficult questions, and reading and evaluating the work in order to check the answers”. In other aspects, Cohen (1998) claimed that test-taking strategies involved language use strategies and testwiseness strategies. To “keep”, “retain”, “remind”, and “apply” the information for the test, there were four useful kinds of language use strategies, consisting of retrieval, rehearsal, cover and communication strategies, meanwhile testwiseness strategies related more to testtaking experience and knowledge (Cohen, 1998; Goh, 2002). Phakiti in his study in 2003 concluded that the use of metacognitive and cognitive strategies had constructive association with the reading comprehension test performance. 9 Moreover, higher examinees tended to use more metacognitive strategy than the lower successful examinees. Generally speaking, test-taking strategies are skills which can be learned and acquired. It is obvious that among candidates with the same proficiency, the one equipped with specific test-taking strategies will certainly get higher score than learners that have not learned any test-taking strategies (Anderson, 2002; Bachman & Palmer, 1996; Cohen, 1998; Khaldieh, 2000; Phakiti, 2003; Rogers & Harley, 1999). In addition, the knowledge of how to prepare for exams and take them can have a significant impact on learners‟ perceptions towards exam, decrease their testanxiety, increase their self-confidence, make a difference in exam scores, and finally, help them to be more successful (Pour- Mohammadi & Abidin, 2012). 2.5. The IELTS test Generally recognized as one of the most reliable testing system, IELTS- the International English Language Testing System is specifically designed to assess the language ability of candidates needing to study or work in English speaking countries. IELTS certificate is the valuable ticket for those who wish to enter to university in not only the UK but also in other countries in the world. Moreover, it is highly regarded by employers in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. IELTS is jointly managed by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL), British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia. IELTS conforms to the highest international standards of language assessment. There are two forms of IELTS testing: Academic and General Training versions. Each test includes 4 skills: Speaking, listening, reading and writing. This paper is going to focus on reading skill of Academic Training module, which measures English language proficiency needed for academic, higher educational environment. 10
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