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IELTS Teacher e-newsletter – January 2020

A Brief Guide To Interpreting Lexile Scores

by Jan Langeslag

Lately, Aptis group reports provided by the British Council include a Lexile score for each Aptis test taker in addition to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) levels achieved. The Lexile framework was developed by Metametrics with the aim of facilitating reading growth by selecting appropriate reading material for learners at different levels of reading proficiency.

Based on the outcomes of reading tests linked to the Lexile scale, such as Aptis, a number called a Lexile measure is assigned to a learner that gives insight in the complexity of reading material they are expected to be able to cope with. A similar measure on the same scale is given to an increasing number of books, articles and other potential reading materials. This enables learners and teachers to easily select reading material of appropriate linguistic complexity so as to maximize learning and maintain interest.

Lexile measures are expressed in two- to four-digit numbers on a scale running from 0 up to over 1500. There is no theoretical maximum value. For beginning learners, there is a range of negative numbers below zero down to minimum value of BR300 (“BR” for beginning reader). When a readers Lexile measure matches that of their reading material, readers are expected to understand roughly 75% when reading independently. Metametrics recommends using material that is between 100 points below and 50 points above a reader’s own Lexile measure. For example, a reader with a measure of L570 should be given reading material of between L470 and L630 on the scale.

Readers lacking motivation and/or confidence should be given material on the lower end of their Lexile range while highly confident and motivated learners with an identical measure might benefit more from material towards the upper limit of their recommended range. Either way, teacher support is still a necessity in order to maximize learning outcomes and maintain motivation. Since a class is likely to include students with varying Lexile measures, selecting material based on these measures that is appropriate to everyone is bound to be a balancing act. Moreover, reading material may be decided on at the institutional level with no leeway for individual teachers to include material of their own choice. It is therefore important teachers encourage their students to read in their free time with the support of parents and/or other adults. As Lexile measures are applied to an individual instead of to a group of learners, it is in the context of individual reading that the usefulness of the Lexile scale is maximized.

There are some things to keep in mind in the application of the Lexile scale. The measures applied to reading material are the result of purely quantitative assessment of two criteria: sentence length and word frequency. While it is true that these play a large role in deciding the difficulty of a text, there are other things that are not factored into the Lexile scale. The suitability of a topic for specific types of learners in one of them. In light of this, it is not recommended for teachers, parents or learners to uncritically select reading materials based on Lexile scores alone. Qualitative assessment of reading material’s age-appropriateness, suitability of topics, interest etc. still remains a necessity.



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