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Comparing Newspapers

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GCSE Maths Coursework Year 10

By : Charles Motraghi 10 ALT / 10 C1


I hypothesize that a broadsheet newspaper will have a higher reading age than a tabloid newspaper.

I predict this because readers of broadsheet newspapers are expected to be better educated, and therefore, the reading age will be higher. Looking at the content of a typical tabloid article suggests that the material requires a lower reading age (Killed by fear of the dentist, is an example).

I will go about proving, or disproving my hypothesis, by using two of the formulae for calculating reading  age provided with my coursework paper. Since I cannot tell which of the formulae is the most accurate, I will first use the formulae on books of which I know the reading age. If they seem reasonable, i.e. within a predetermined range of what the publishers suggest the reading age to be, I will continue to use them to determine whether my hypothesis above is correct or incorrect. I will also devise my own formula, using criteria not used by the other formulae, to complement their results.

For further analysis, I will compare the mean, mode, median, standard deviation and range of the results I gather.


First, I will use the two formulae to see what reading age they attribute to a book for which the reading age is stated by the publisher. If the formulae give reasonable results, i.e. within the range stated by the publisher, then I will use them with the newspapers.

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Here are my results:


Out of 100

Out of 150

Syllables per word

Harry Potter

Harry Potter













I will now see what forecast formula shows the reading age of this Harry Potter book to be:

W= 76 / 4 = 19

S=( 1 x 66 ) + ( 2 x 30 ) + ( 3 x 3 ) + ( 4 x 1 ) = 139

R = 25 – ( 99 / 10 ) = 25 – 9.9 = 15.1

I can now tell that the forecast formula is flawed, because the reading age it comes up with is far outside the range 9-12. Now I will see what the syllables formula shows:

R = 2.7971 + ( 0.0778 x 19 ) + ( 0.0455 x 139 ) =10.59

From this I can see that the syllables formula is the most accurate, and therefore I will use this to find the reading age of the broadsheet and tabloid newspapers.

However, the syllables formula doesn’t include the amount of syllables per word as criteria, so I have made my own formula which incorporates this. This is how I worked my own formula out.

First, I have to determine what criteria I am using. I know that because the syllables formula does not factor in syllables per word, I will use that instead in my formula. So far, my formula looks like this:

R = (total number of syllables in 100 words / 100)

However, it is far from complete. This would give very strange results, so I must raise the number I get given as the reading age. To find what number to multiply it by, I should use a reading age that I have already worked out to help me work out what the multiplier should be. This is how I will do it:

R = 10.59

10.59 = (139 / 100) = 1.39

10.59 / 1.39 = 7.61        (the reason I divided the reading age by

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Improvements: I could have used data from a whole newspaper, I could have used a computer or something which could have helped me keep count of words, I could have spent more time developing a formula, incorporating many forms of criteria, such as cumulative frequency of syllables per word, etc, I could have selected a passage which didn’t end in the middle of a sentence. I could have compared the front pages of the newspapers, to see if there was any difference there, or lack of one, and I could have compared the length of articles.

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This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Comparing length of words in newspapers section.

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