Original Research

Content analysis of levels and aspects of comprehension in West African senior secondary school examination

Funmilayo M. Oguntade
Reading & Writing | Vol 12, No 1 | a293 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v12i1.293 | © 2021 Funmilayo M. Oguntade | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 July 2020 | Published: 30 July 2021

About the author(s)

Funmilayo M. Oguntade, Department of General Studies, School of Sciences, Federal University of Technology Akure, Akure, Nigeria


Background: Reading is one of the most complex and exclusively human mental activities. It is a foundational skill for all learning, whether at primary, secondary or tertiary levels. If students do not master effective strategies for reading, they may not be successful independent learners. The ability to comprehend written texts and answer relevant questions on them is a major feature that is examined in comprehension in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination.

Objective: This study was directed at analysing the content of the English language comprehension questions in the West African School Certificate Examination to identify the intensities of testing different aspects of comprehension so that teachers can lay emphasis on these aspects when they teach reading strategies to their students.

Method: The content analytical approach was used to identify the different aspects and levels of the comprehension passages. The analysis of the content was carried out by focusing on 10 different content sub-categories.

Results: The study revealed that most of the comprehension passages presented had never been used before and they were related to the students’ local environment. Literal and inferential questions dominated while critical and evaluative questions were rarely asked.

Conclusion: In the light of the pedagogic importance of critical and evaluative questions, it is recommended that examiners and teachers should lay emphasis on questions that demand higher-order reasoning to prepare students for the contemporary demands of literacy. In line with higher-order questions, it is also suggested that the curriculum should be amended to encourage critical evaluative thinking among secondary school students as it is an important part of literacy and language development.


content analysis; language testing; comprehension passages; secondary school


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