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Introduction to Reading Text

Reading Text refers to reading material in the form of sentences or paragraphs. Shorter pieces of reading, such as text appearing as words or phrases, are included under Document Use.

Reading Text generally involves reading notes, letters, memos, manuals, specifications, regulations, books, reports or journals. It also includes forms and labels that contain at least one paragraph of text.

Text reading tasks are rated on a scale from 1 to 5. The higher the rating, the more complex the task. This scale is compatible with the scale used in the International Adult Literacy Survey, (IALS), except that IALS Level 4 has been broken down into Levels 4 and 5.


Reading Text - Illustrative Examples

Here are some examples of the various levels of the Reading Text complexity rating scale. You may find these examples helpful as you look at the ratings given to the authentic materials provided in this Collection.

Level 1

Electrologists read directions on bottles of sterilant.

Bus drivers read notices from management posted on the bulletin board.


Level 2

Security guards read security incident reports left by the preceding shift.

Hide and pelt processing workers read sheets from suppliers to get information on new dyes for leather finishing.


Level 3

Police dispatchers read computerized incident reports and relate them to memos and directives from other law enforcement agencies.

Tour directors read books, journals and articles to get information about local flora and fauna, history and geology for tour commentary.


Level 4

Track maintainers read various sections and subsections of the "Equipment Inspection Processes" regulations to determine repair situations in which crews must stop trains.

Bylaw enforcement officers read legal opinions from lawyers concerning cases where the legality of bylaws has been queried.


Level 5

Materials testing managers read specifications, approximately 25 pages in length, for rarely used testing procedures. They interpret the application of the standard to specific cases, making high-level inferences as to how the information applies to specific cases.

Small business owner/operators read and interpret legal documents relating to ongoing business management such as incorporation, insurance and building leases.



Reading Text - Formal Definitions

Here are some basic descriptions as to the context of the various levels of the Reading Text complexity rating scale items.

Complexity Levels

Level 1

  • read relatively short texts to locate a single piece of information
  • follow simple written directions

Level 2

  • read more complex texts to locate a single piece of information or read simpler texts to locate multiple pieces of information
  • make low level inferences

Level 3

  • choose and integrate information from various sources or from several parts of a single text.
  • make low-level inferences from multiple sources.
  • identify relevant and irrelevant information

Level 4

  • integrate and synthesize information from multiple sources or from complex and lengthy texts
  • make complex inferences and use general background knowledge
  • evaluate quality of text

Level 5

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