The free written recall task is used in much current L2 reading research (Bernhardt, 1983; Carrell, 1983, 1984a, 1984b; Connor, 1984; Lee & Ballman, in press). An examination of the work using this task as a measure of comprehension reveals variation in design and findings: measurement of quantity recalled, method of textual analysis, the language used to recall, the level of the learners, and pre-reading instructions given. The purpose of this paper is: (1) to elaborate the differences between studies using a free written recall task to measure L2 reading comprehension; and (2) to report the results of experimentation that attempts to test the significance of the language of recall (native versus target) and the effect of knowing, prior to reading, that the subjects would be required to recall the passage. Results showed that passage recall is significantly better when done in the subjects' native language than in the target language. Also, a significant interaction was found for prereading instructions and level of the learner. Implications for research design are discussed.