Effect of Gender – Oriented Content Familiarity and Test Type on Reading Comprehension

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor Alzahra University, Tehran

2 M. A., TEFL Alzahra University, Tehran


One important issue that any material or test designer should bear in mind is to be careful about developing teaching and testing reading materials which would not be to the benefit of a group of readers or examinees and to the detriment of some others. One of the factors which may cause difference between the performances of English learners or test takers is the selection of reading tests with which some learners have familiarity and others not. This study sets forth to analyze whether gender and topic-familiarity can be determining factors in the differences among the performances of foreign language learners on reading comprehension tests. For this purpose, 64 (34 females and 30 males) intermediate students of the Bayane Salees Institute in Tehran completed a topic-familiarity questionnaire and took three tests of reading, composed of one male-oriented text (Car Maintenance), one female-oriented text (Women’s Shoes) and one neutral text (Beliefs about Numbers). Two different measures were used to assess comprehension: multiple-choice and free recall. Findings revealed that males had better performance on the male-oriented text and females did better on the female-oriented text. The performances of males and females on the neutral text were seen to be the same as expected. It was also evidenced that males did better on the male-oriented and females did better on the female-oriented test on multiple choice tasks; on the neutral test, both genders performed the same. However, interestingly, in the free recall tasks, the males outperformed females in all three tests. This result brings about the assumption that males might be better at free recall kind of reading measurement, though this conclusion requires more investigation.