University of Iowa reading test effective at identifying reading problems due to brain injury

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Knowing you have a medical problem or skill deficiency even though tests indicate you are fine can be frustrating, as many individuals recovering from brain injuries can tell you. Most of these patients pass conventional reading assessments, despite complaints of reading difficulties. However, a University of Iowa test could verify the reading difficulty these individuals have.

The Iowa-Chapman Reading Test appears to be more sensitive than other assessments, able to pick up on even subtle reading problems. In a recently published study, 89 percent of 64 patients with lingering complaints of reading difficulties performed below expectations on the Iowa-Chapman test, even though the patients did well on other standard tests.

"Ken Manzel, a senior technician in my lab, and I had been intrigued by the fact that many patients with brain injuries said they had trouble reading even after they passed the other tests," said Daniel Tranel, Ph.D., UI professor of neurology. "We decided one of the problems had to be the tests. Maybe the tests weren't doing the job."

To overcome some of the limitations of existing reading assessments, UI researchers developed their own test based on the Chapman-Cook Speed of Reading Test, originally created in the 1920s to determine silent reading speed and comprehension in grade school children. The researchers were hoping to avoid the ceiling effect found in most reading tests. The other tests were so easy and the test takers had so much time to finish the exercise that almost everyone passed. In contrast, patients must complete the Iowa-Chapman test in two and a half minutes.

"It's pretty hard to do it in two and a half minutes," Tranel said. "You really have to hustle."

The Iowa-Chapman test consists of 25 one- to two-sentence paragraphs, each of which contains one word in the second half of the passage that spoils the meaning. For example, one of the items reads: Tom got badly hurt the other day

Contact: Jennifer Cronin
University of Iowa

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