December 7, 2016

Ever hear of the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests?  (They’re both freely available as part of MSN’s Outlook and Word.)

“The Flesch-Kincaid readability tests were named after a talented Mr. J. Peter Kincaid and his team of developers.

The tests were originally developed under contract with the US Navy and were designed to assess the difficulty of understanding in technical manuals around the year 1978. Within a few years, the tests became the standard within the Department of Defense and quickly spread throughout government.

 What do the tests test for though? Essentially, the tests break text down into two parts (word length and sentence length) and then evaluate both parts for readability.  .  .  .

 There are two parts of the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests:                                                                                                                       Flesch-Kincaid reading ease                                                                                                                                                                    Flesch-Kincaid grade level test

 They both measure word and sentence length and their results relate conversely to one another.

 For example, if a piece of text has a high Reading Ease score, it should have a low grade level score.  .  .  .”  (“A Guide for the Web Content Writer: How To Create Content Up To Flesch–Kincaid Readability Standards” by Julia McCoy)

It’s the latter test that should most concern you when making a training purchase decision.

National studies agree that close to half of our workforce does not sufficiently comprehend anything written above a 4th grade reading level.  And, even more disturbing is the fact that only slightly more than one-third of our high school graduates can comprehend and form opinions from what they read today.

Here’s an illustrative story.  Some time ago the CEO of a major automobile manufacturer did a study and discovered that the written communications and procedures being used by his company were the cause of many plant accidents and inefficiencies.  He found out that the problem was a result of two things:  a) those communications were being written, for the most part, by college graduates and  b) many of his employees had difficulty in reading comprehension.  (The writing level of one group did not match with the reading level of the other group.)

So, he ordered that every document be re-written to a 6th grade reading level.  Only after this project failed to make much improvement in plant efficiency did he publicly state that he should have required a 4th grade reading level.

What does all this mean to you?  Well, when making your training purchase decisions it would serve you well to ask the vendor what grade level test had been applied to the courseware he’s representing.

Unfortunately, I would bet that he’ll give you a blank stare.

“Never heard of such a thing,” he’ll likely say.

Well, that will tell you all you really need to know.  That vendor understands very little about the learning process.  He’s only in the business of taking your money.  His products are not designed to improve the skills level of your workforce nor to add to your company’s bottom line.

Knowledgeable corporations and the U.S. Department of Defense require the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Easiness test and/or the Grade Level test before purchasing any written training material.

You’d be wise to follow suit.

More on Monday  –  –  –

        — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning  (Mondays & Wednesdays)

 (This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)