The Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test: Assessing English reading comprehension and vocabulary in South Africa

  • Yvonne Broom
  • Deborah Dianne Jewson


This study evaluated the Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test (SDRT) as a measure of vocabulary and reading comprehension for South African Grade Eight learners. Two subtests, Auditory Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension, of the Brown level of the SDRT were administered to three consecutive years of Grade Eight learners attending a former Model C school in Gauteng. All of the 631 subjects had received at least five years of English medium education. The sample included 279 English First Language (EFL) learners and 352 English Additional Language (EAL) learners with 316 males and 315 females. The EAL learners performed significantly below the EFL learners on both the Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension subtests of the SDRT. There was a significant difference in performance between male and female learners on the Comprehension subtest but not on the Vocabulary subtest. Both subtests demonstrated internal consistency although their validity may be compromised by items that demonstrated bias against EAL learners. The suitability and utility of this test in the multilingual South African context is discussed.


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Author Biographies

Yvonne Broom
Dr Broom is a senior lecturer in the Psychology Department at the University of the Witwatersrand.  She trained as an educator and worked as a teacher before returning to University to complete her PhD. She is interested in research into reading in multilingual educational contexts.E-mail address:
Deborah Dianne Jewson
Deborah Diane Jewson is an educational psychologist in private practice. She is also a supervising psychologist at the Bellavista (Supporting Education through Evaluation and Knowledge) S.E.E.K assessment unit. Her fields of interest include assessment of reading and reading interventions in the South African context.