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Top down, bottom up and classroom reading anxiety and their effect on reading performance of undergraduate engineering students in Pakistan

Ashfaque Hussain Soomro (Department of Basic Sciences, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, Pakistan)
Imran Khan (Department of English Language, College of Arts, Hail University, Hail, Saudi Arabia)
Muhammad Younus (Department of Education and Learning Sciences, Iqra University, Karachi, Pakistan)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 5 April 2019

Issue publication date: 18 June 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore EFL reading anxiety of first-year undergraduate engineering students and its effect on their reading performance in a public sector engineering university in Pakistan. It specifically aims to explore their top-down, bottom-up and classroom EFL reading anxiety.


Data for the present study were collected from 200 first-year engineering students to explore their reading anxiety. A 20-item questionnaire developed by Zoghi and Alivandivafa (2014) was used to measure students’ EFL reading anxiety, while an IELTS academic reading test was used to measure their reading performance. The data were analyzed through exploratory factorial analysis and multiple regression analysis to determine which type of reading anxiety has a significant effect on students’ reading performance.


It was found that the bottom-up reading anxiety and the classroom reading anxiety have a significant negative impact on the reading performance of the first-year undergraduate engineering students of a Pakistani university. However, top-down reading anxiety has an insignificant negative impact on the reading performance of university students.

Research limitations/implications

The data for the current study were drawn from one Pakistani public sector engineering university, and all the students were first-year undergraduates. The data were collected through a self-reported questionnaire and IELTS (academic) reading test. Some of the students may be unfamiliar with the IELTS test pattern, so their reading performance might have been affected.

Practical implications

Teachers should adopt such a methodology in their EFL classrooms which helps students reduce their reading anxiety. Reading texts must be selected considering the proficiency level of students, and reading strategies must be explicitly taught to reduce bottom-up and top-down reading anxieties. Teachers should create a positive learning environment in their classroom by encouraging students to make an effort to improve their reading skills in order to deal with classroom reading anxiety. Students must be explained that they should help one another rather than ridiculing each other’s reading mistakes. Differentiated instruction can also be adopted to facilitate weak readers. The teachers can provide additional/out of the class support to weak readers in order to help them deal with reading anxiety.


The EFL reading anxiety among university students in the Pakistani context has received little attention from the researchers. Furthermore, although the impact of EFL reading anxiety on EFL students’ reading performance has been explored previously, the impact of three types of EFL reading anxiety on EFL learners’ reading performance has not been adequately investigated.



Soomro, A.H., Khan, I. and Younus, M. (2019), "Top down, bottom up and classroom reading anxiety and their effect on reading performance of undergraduate engineering students in Pakistan", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 590-603.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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