Sample texts and questions to assess reading comprehension

Tool overview

This tool provides sample texts and questions to complement the information provided in the COVID-19: Advice on alternative assessments for reading comprehension. It also includes a brief summary of the Qualification Standards in Relation to Official Languages and the criteria for choosing suitable texts.

The sample texts and questions are only provided as a reference. Since they are publically available, they should not be used to assess reading comprehension in your staffing processes.

Some of the questions may be similar or they may focus on the same idea in the text. They are provided to show the different ways that questions can be formulated. Asking more than one question on a particular topic may help to get a more complete answer if the candidate does not provide enough information.

You may notice that the sample texts and questions provided in both English and French are similar, but not exactly the same. Nevertheless, the same level of linguistic proficiency is required to understand them.

B-level sample texts and questions
Qualification Standards in Relation to Official Languages

According to the Qualification Standards in Relation to Official Languages , a person at the B level should understand descriptive or factual material on work-related topics. They will:

  • grasp the main idea of most work-related texts;
  • identify specific details from the text;
  • distinguish the main idea from secondary ideas.

A person at this level will have difficulty reading texts that use complex grammar or less common vocabulary.

Texts at the B level:

  • are about familiar and less familiar work-related topics;
  • are straightforward, factual, concrete and descriptive;
  • will have a purpose like:
    • informing an audience about an event or initiative;
    • explaining the steps to complete a concrete, observable task;
    • giving factual accounts of actions taken or events that have occurred.
  • can include reference material, memoranda, reports, letters, e-mails, articles, notices, bulletins, minutes;
  • do not include complex grammar, less common vocabulary and abstract ideas.

Tip

Ask the test taker being assessed to read several texts, totalling at least 1000 words. They should be on different topics. By doing this, you will ensure that the test taker can read and understand a variety of texts.

First B-level text and questions

To:             Daniel Bourassa, Consultant
From:        Zara Patel, Consultant
Subject:    Translation

Hello Daniel,

As you know, I'm translating the report that you wrote last week. You have written an excellent document and I'm sure management will be happy with it.

The deadline set by our manager is 11 a.m. tomorrow. Until today, the translation of the report had been going well. I had some help from our colleague Natalia who translated all the tables and the glossary at the end of the report. Together, we had translated more than half of the report.

Unfortunately, I had a lot of computer problems this morning. Everything froze and I lost the last five pages that I had just translated. I called Technology Services, but the technician wasn't able to find the latest version of the document. So now I have to redo these pages alone since Natalia is not available to help me today or tomorrow.

I also noticed a problem with the table of contents and with the formatting of several pages. Should I fix these issues or will Publication Services do this?

I would like to meet with you to clarify the meaning of a few sections in the last part of the report. Would you have time this afternoon? I have no meetings, so we could meet whenever it's convenient for you.

At this point, I cannot guarantee that I will meet the deadline. If it's not possible, I will ask our manager if the deadline can be changed and I'll let you know what he says.

Have a nice day.

Zara


Examples of global questions

  • What is this email about? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What is the purpose of this email? Briefly describe it to me.
  • What are the main points of this email? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What is the current status of the report?

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions do not give away the answers.

  • Explain the roles of Daniel, Zara and Natalia.
  • Why does Zara have to translate some pages again?
  • Why does Zara want to know what Publication Services does?
  • Why does Zara want to meet with Daniel?
  • What will Zara do if she cannot meet the deadline?
Second B-level text and questions

Building Access During Renovations

As you know, renovations will be starting soon on the first floor of our building. They will be taking place from May 15 to May 30. During this time, there will be different procedures to access our building.

Employees will not be allowed to use the doors on the north side of the building (Sussex Street) for the duration of the renovations. Instead, they will have to use the door on the west side of the building (Blair Street). In addition, employees will not have access to stairwell A, but they will have access to stairwell B. The elevators will be working during the renovations.

As usual, employees will need to show their departmental identification badge to enter the building. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., two security guards will be posted by the door on the west side of the building. They will be checking the identification badges of employees who want to enter the building. Please note that no one will be able to access the building outside of these hours.

Visitors will not be allowed in the building during the renovations. Meetings with clients or business partners must be held by videoconference or at another location.

Parking in front of the door on the west side of the building will also be prohibited, even if it is only for a few minutes.

If you require any additional information, please contact Carla Marconi. She is the building manager who is coordinating the renovations. You can also stop by her office on the 3rd floor.

Examples of global questions

  • What is this text about? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What is the purpose of this text? Briefly describe it to me.
  • What are the main points of this text? Please provide me with a brief summary.

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions do not give away the answers.

  • Describe two new procedures that employees will need to follow during the renovations. OR Explain the procedure for employees to access the building.
  • When will employees be able to access the building during the renovations?
  • How long will the new procedures be in place?
  • How will employees be able to meet with visitors during the renovations? OR How can employees meet with people who do not work in the building?
Third B-level text and questions

Update – Installation of New Computers

Last January, our organization decided to replace all the computers used by employees. This means that we will have to install 500 computers. The Technology Services team is working hard to do this. Here's an update on the progress of this project.

Last month, our organization received 250 computers, which is half of the new computers ordered. As soon as they were received, computer technicians started installing the required software on them. All of these computers are now ready to be given to employees.

Computers will be replaced over the next three weeks, starting on March 6th. This will be done one floor at a time. The first week, employees on the 4th floor will receive their new computer. The second week, it will be employees on the 5th floor. The third week, employees on the 6th floor will receive their new computer.

Employees already know when their new computer will be installed. They have received a document explaining the steps to follow before they receive it. Most employees had no problem following them. Only a few of them had questions for the Technology Services team. They will also be receiving a document explaining all the new features available and how to use them.

We still do not know when we will be receiving the other 250 computers. Technology Services has contacted the supplier for more information on this. The type of computer that our organization ordered is in high demand right now, so that's why there's a delay.

For more information on this update, please contact François Morin. As the manager of Technology Services, he will be able to answer all of your questions.

Examples of global questions

  • What is this text about? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What are the main points of this text? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What is the status of the project?

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions don't give away the answers.

  • Describe how the computers will be distributed to employees. OR What is the schedule for the distribution of the computers to employees?
  • What did the computer technicians do when they received the new computers?
  • Please explain why they have only received 250 computers so far.
  • What did employees do to prepare for the delivery of their new computer?
Fourth B-level text and questions

To:             Robert Forster
From:        Christine Park, Manager, Funding Unit
Subject:    Form

Good morning,

On June 3, we received your funding request for a cultural event. I would like to follow up on this request.

Unfortunately, some additional information is required before your request can be processed. The correct form was completed, but some sections were incomplete. For example, the exact location of the event was not indicated. The city was mentioned, but not the indoor or outdoor location.

In addition, two mandatory sections of the form were not completed. In section 5, please indicate who will be attending this cultural event. In section 7, please specify the number of employees or volunteers necessary for the event.

I have attached your request form so that you can add the missing information. Since there are only a few days left before the deadline, it's important that the form be completed and returned to me as quickly as possible.

As soon as I receive your form, I will assign it to an agent. This agent will review your request and will determine if your event is eligible for funding. For more information on the eligibility criteria, please consult our website (www.canada.ca/organizationxyz).

Should you have questions about your request, I can be reached at 1-888-888-8888, extension 0000.

Thank you.

Christine Park, Manager, Funding Unit

Examples of global questions

  • What is the purpose of the text?
  • What is the status of the funding request?

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions do not give away the answers.

  • Why did Christine attach a copy of the form?
  • What information did the client forget to provide?
  • Why should the client return the form as soon as possible?
  • What will happen when the client returns the completed form?
C-level sample texts and questions
Qualification Standards in Relation to Official Languages

According to the Qualification Standards in Relation to Official Languages, a person at the C level should understand texts dealing with a wide variety of work-related topics. They will:

  • understand most complex details, inferences and fine points of meaning;
  • understand material that is specialized or unfamiliar.

A person at this level may have difficulty with very complex grammatical structures and may not understand some seldom-used expressions.

Texts at the C level:

  • are about a wide variety of work-related topics;
  • may be written in a formal or informal way;
  • are complex, containing detailed and/or abstract information;
  • can include policy papers, research papers, technical reports, persuasive texts, administrative correspondence, contracts (service agreements);
  • will have a purpose like:
    • expressing an opinion or argument;
    • providing information or comments on contentious issues;
    • conveying abstract ideas;
    • persuading an audience;
    • comparing and contrasting different options, opinions, etc.
  • may include commonly used specialized terms that are required for the job;
  • do not include seldom-used expressions and very complex grammatical structures.

Tip

Ask the test-taker to read several texts, totalling at least 2000 words. They should be on different topics. By doing this, you will ensure that the test taker can read and understand a variety of texts.

First C-level text and questions

Email exchange

To:             John Chang, Director, Client Services Directorate
From:        Catherine Arcand, Manager, Client Services
Subject:    Advice

Hello John,

As I briefly mentioned to you this morning, several members of my team have approached me regarding how to deal with clients who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with our new business hours. Since we changed our hours, the number of complaints per day has increased dramatically. My employees are finding this situation quite challenging and it is having a noticeable impact on their morale.

I am seeking your advice because I would like to align the guidance I give to my team with how you would deal with this situation. Since I report to you and you oversee the entire division, I wanted to brief you on this situation in case it escalates. I realize that the decision to change our business hours was not made lightly, and that management knew there would be some ramifications from this. As director, you are probably aware of other instances when this has happened and what strategies were used to help employees respond effectively to clients. As you know, my team deals with clients both by phone and in person, so it's important that they know in advance what they should say to clients regarding the change. Managing difficult conversations and client expectations is a big part of what they do.

My team has also raised the issue that there is a lack of consistency across units in how employees are dealing with complaints. They told me that employees in other units have received a document with suggestions on how to respond to clients. My team is wondering why they haven't received anything to help them. Would you know if this is indeed the case? If it is, could you tell me if there is a document in the works for my unit that I'm not aware of? My team feels that they are not properly equipped to do their job.

I would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss this situation.

Thanks.

Catherine


To:             Catherine Arcand, Manager, Client Services
From:        John Chang, Director, Client Services Directorate
Subject:    RE: Advice

Hello Catherine,

Thank you for your email. I appreciate knowing what challenges employees in my division are facing. I didn't realize the magnitude of this problem. Our organization prides itself on the high quality of customer service it provides, so we need to resolve this problem as quickly as possible.

I agree that we should provide employees who deal directly with the public with the appropriate tools to do their job. When management decided to implement a change to our organization's business hours, we were fully aware that we would receive some complaints, but we never anticipated such a high number.

This morning I contacted the other managers to see if their employees were also experiencing the same problem. Most of them acknowledged that their units were struggling with this and that they were trying to come up with a strategy to help their employees.

While I was talking to them, I enquired about the document you mentioned. There is most definitely a lack of consistency across units. Some units have created documents to guide employees with their responses. However, I was told that these documents are incomplete and only provide employees with a framework to guide them when responding to complaints. No complete answers have been developed.

Instead of only us meeting to discuss this, I have scheduled a meeting on Thursday with all the managers in the division so that we can agree on a common approach for handling complaints. I would also like to draft the key messages we would like to share with clients. I like the idea of a document with standardized responses to the most common complaints and questions received by each unit. All indications are that this will be of great benefit to our employees. At the meeting, I would like to discuss how each unit can collaborate effectively to ensure the needs of each unit and their respective clients are met.

So far, no one on your team has approached me about this situation. Please reassure the members of your team that management takes their concerns seriously and is looking at options to help them. I'm confident that we will come up with a plan at Thursday's meeting.

I look forward to seeing you there.

John

Examples of global questions

  • What is this email exchange about? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What is the purpose of this email exchange? Briefly describe it.
  • What are the main points of each email? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • Why is Catherine writing to John?
  • Why is John writing to Catherine?

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions do not give away the answers.

  • Why are employees concerned?
  • Please explain what Catherine's team does.
  • What issue did Catherine's team raise regarding how other units function?
  • In her email, Catherine mentions the existence of a document. Please describe this document.
  • According to John, what are some units doing to support their employees? OR What information did John receive about a document for employees?
  • Please explain what John is going to do to resolve this situation.
Second C-level text and questions

The Integration of New Employees

Starting a new job is both exciting and stressful. By seeing the value of properly integrating new employees into your team, you will establish a good relationship with them right from the start, and you will help to instill in them a sense of belonging to your organization.

Studies show that approximately 85% of employees decide whether or not they will remain with their new organization during their first year of employment. This highlights the importance of properly integrating new employees so that they remain in their position.

The implementation of an orientation program covering several topics is highly recommended. For example, this program should focus on the following aspects of your organization: its history, mandate, strategic plan, as well as its various policies and procedures. The orientation program should also provide new recruits with the opportunity to get to know their colleagues and to create a list of contacts.

Here are some suggestions on how to integrate your new employees. This is not a complete list; other ways could also be successful.

Before employees start working, they should be provided with the name of a contact person within your organization. As such, if they have questions or concerns, they will know who to contact. This is an easy way to support new employees.

New employees must feel welcome. To do this, we suggest that they be welcomed and introduced to colleagues by their contact person. To reduce the anxiety of some new employees, it may be helpful to give them a tour of the building as soon as they arrive.

Another highly recommended way of guiding new employees is to pair them up with a mentor. Mentors usually have lots of experience and will be able to advise new employees on how to do their work or on how to deal with difficult situations. In most cases, the mentor is the new employee's immediate supervisor, but it can also be someone else.

Putting together a welcome kit is an excellent way of providing information to new employees. It could include topics such as the organization's mandate or policies. This paper or electronic document will enable new employees to learn more about your organization. Depending on the size of your organization or even on the number of new employees joining at the same time, it may be worthwhile to offer a one-day workshop to go over the main information contained in the welcome kit. This type of training is often perceived as more personalized and increases the sense of belonging to the organization.

Finally, it's important to keep in mind that an integration program for new employees is a long-term project that can last from three to six months. Furthermore, it should be considered as an investment in the training and retention of employees.

Examples of global questions

  • What is this text about? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What is the purpose of the text? Please provide me with a brief description.
  • What are the main points of this text? Please provide me with a brief summary.

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions do not give away the answers.

  • According to the text, why is it important to properly integrate new employees?
  • In the text, different ways of facilitating the integration of new employees are suggested. Please describe them.
  • According to the text, why is the first year of employment so important?
  • According to the text, what must an effective orientation program contain?
  • According to the text, how is the mentor's role different from that of the contact person?
  • What are the different ways to share the information contained in the welcome kit? Please explain.
  • Why is it beneficial to offer a one-day workshop?
Third C-level text and questions

To:             Alex Markov, Project Manager
From:        Lisa Garcia, Consultations Coordinator
Subject:    Update on Consultations

Hello Alex,

As requested, here's an update on the last round of public consultations that were held last week.

Representatives from different sectors were present to discuss issues related to our project. These included its potential effects on the environment as well as its projected social and economic benefits. They had lots to say, and the meeting lasted for over three hours. The points of view expressed will be included in a comprehensive report that I should be able to draft by the end of next week. In the meantime, here's some information that you will probably find quite interesting.

Representatives from the cultural and tourism sectors feel that the foundation of the project is solid, that sufficient human and financial resources have been allocated, and that the timeline is realistic. They would, however, like to see the implementation of a better system to manage the money that has been set aside for each stage of the project. They intend to send us examples of best practices that worked well in similar projects.

Provincial and territorial delegates have all confirmed their government's financial contribution. However, they were not able to agree on the amount that each province or territory should contribute.

Environmental groups have raised some concerns regarding the measures that we will take to limit the adverse effects on the environment. They suggested additional measures as well as slight changes to current ones. Their suggestions are relevant, and I think we should take them into account.

At the end of the meeting, Jules revealed the preliminary results of the online survey used to consult the public. As you know, the public has until next Tuesday to complete the survey. Even though we haven't received all the surveys, it looks like our project is generally well regarded by the population. Jules did observe, however, significant differences between the points of view of both rural and urban respondents. He highly recommended that we look at this question more closely to determine the source of these differences. I agree with him on this.

So I think that's everything. I hope this update is enough for now. Don't hesitate to contact me if you need more information.

Lisa

Examples of global questions

  • What is this text about? Please provide me with a brief summary.
  • What is the purpose of the email? Please provide me with a brief description.
  • What are the main points of this text? Please provide me with a brief summary.

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions do not give away the answers.

  • Explain the main concerns or issues raised by those who attended the meeting. Explain any solutions suggested.
    • According to the representatives from the cultural and tourism sectors, what is the main weakness of the project? What aspects do they find positive?
    • What do the provinces and territories disagree on? What do they agree on?
    • How do environmental groups feel about the measures that were suggested?
  • What is the status of the consultations?
  • Up until now, what have the surveys revealed?
  • What's Lisa's opinion regarding the suggestions made by the environmental groups?
Fourth C-level text and questions

Partnership in Agricultural Research

Food is a major concern for most Canadians. In fact, they want to eat a healthy diet consisting of food that has been produced in an environmentally responsible way. As a result, more and more Canadians want to shop locally and buy food that has been produced in their region or province.

For several years now, our organization, Agri-aid, has been supporting small- and medium-sized Canadian businesses in the agricultural sector. Our clients are businesses that produce fruits, vegetables or grains. Up until now, our support has mostly been in the form of financial advice.

Over the last few months, our clients have expressed the need to promote research in the agricultural sector. In order to respond to this need, we have created a partnership with Canadiana University. It's important to note that this university is known worldwide for its expertise in agriculture. It has a state-of-the-art research centre, making it a partner of choice. Over the years, Canadiana University has developed partnership agreements with many other universities around the world, mostly in North America, South America and Europe. These agreements allow for the exchange of ideas, speeding up agricultural research.

The purpose of the partnership between Agri-aid and Canadiana University is to develop techniques that will increase the production of our clients. They sometimes face significant challenges because of the Canadian climate. That's why they would like advice on their agricultural infrastructure or on methods that could help them produce more food while still respecting the environment. Our clients must offer fresh and affordable products to Canadians, and they are convinced that an investment in agricultural research would help them do this.

With this new partnership, Agri-aid would ensure the link between our clients and university researchers. Since we are fully aware of the scope of activities and the challenges faced by our clients, we will be able to facilitate communication between all parties. We will also be able to create research groups made up of clients and researchers working in the same agricultural sector, which will optimize analytical work.

This new research partnership does not mean that we will stop offering clients financial advice. We will continue to offer this service. Agri-aid employees will have two options. They can either stay on as financial advisors or apply for a research advisor position. Research advisors will have to travel frequently since they will need to meet with both clients and university researchers. More information on the selection criteria will be provided shortly.

It goes without saying that Agri-aid's management team is rather proud of its partnership with Canadiana University. This new business relationship is the result of several months of hard work from all parties. We would like to thank and congratulate our partners at Canadiana University, as well as all the employees who helped to create this partnership.

Examples of global questions

  • What is this text about? Please provide a brief summary.
  • What is the purpose of this text? Briefly describe it.
  • What are the main points of this text? Please provide a brief summary.

Examples of specific questions

Tip: Make sure that your questions do not give away the answers.

  • According to the text, what are Canadians worried about?
  • Over the past few years, what has Agri-aid's role been?
  • Why was the partnership between Agri-aid and Canadiana University established?
  • Why was Canadiana University selected as a partner?
  • Please explain why the following statement is "true" or "false": The partnership will create new types of positions at Agri-aid.
  • Why is Agri-aid well positioned to establish a good relationship between its clients and university researchers?
  • Please explain why the following statement is "true" or "false": It only took a few weeks to establish the partnership.
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