Development of the "Chinese Character Difficulty Scale" for primary students

Magdalena Mo Ching MOK, Yee Man CHEUNG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


In Chinese language development, characters serve as the basic building blocks in sentence construction and in reading comprehension for pupils aged from 6 to 9. Consequently, measures on Chinese character knowledge can be used as a proxy for the language ability of young children. A Revised Chinese Character List, based on the original developed in 1990 and comprising 2376 characters, was recently published by the Hong Kong government. Nevertheless there was no guideline as to when during the first three years of primary schooling should these characters be taught. This study aims to develop a Rasch scale to measure the difficulty levels of the Chinese characters in the Revised List, so that teachers can make evidence-based decisions on their teaching. The sample for this study comprised 30 primary school teachers and about 2000 students in primary 1 to 3. Thirty-six versions of test booklets were designed to provide comprehensive coverage of all characters in the Revised List. Each booklet was made up of a list of 130 to 132 items (characters), with 50% linkage to the next booklet in the series. Teachers were also invited to identify reasons for sources of difficulty in relation to attributes of the characters.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Mok, M. M. C., & Cheung, Y. M. (2008, March). Development of the "Chinese Character Difficulty Scale" for primary students. Paper presented at the IOMW 2008: The 14th International Objective Measurement Workshop: Constructing Variables, New York City, NY.


  • Primary Education
  • Educational Evaluation


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