Explanation Of Reading Comprehension Tests

Reading comprehension tests measure the individual’s ability to understand what they are reading on various different levels. Comprehension tests can be given in a number of styles, including selected response questions, written essays and oral responses. To perform optimally on these types of tests, one must understand what the reading comprehension entails.

Reading Comprehension Format

A reading comprehension test usually follows a specific format. The student is given a grade-appropriate reading passage. The passage can be expository or narrative. After reading the passage, the student is asked to answer a number of questions–which might include writing a brief or extended essay–to display overall comprehension of the passage.

Types if Questions

The skills analyzed in each question will vary. Many educators refer to the types of questions on a reading comprehension test as: right there, author and me, on your own, and think and search. Right there questions are those that have answers explicitly stated in the text. Author and me questions revolve around the intended answers based on the tone of the passage. Think and search questions are those that require the student to use contextual clues as well as prior knowledge. On your own questions are subjective and ask the students to evaluate sections of the passage with their own opinion.

Skills Assessed

Embedded in the test questions are subject-area skills that are addressed in the passage and the general-content area. Reading comprehension questions can assess the following skills: grammar, character analysis, literary elements, reading speed, prior knowledge and historical context.


Teachers use the scores from reading comprehension tests for assessment and lesson-plan adjustment. If one or more students are weak in a few areas, the teacher can then know, based on test scores, which skills must be covered more in depth.

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What Next?

If reading comprehension scores are not optimal for grade level–and a student falls beneath grade-level scores for a particular test or string of tests–the teacher can then decide to implement additional literacy strategies for the subject area. Reading comprehension tests are also not designated solely for English and reading courses. Understanding written material is integral in the success of any subject. Literacy strategies and comprehension techniques are commonly taught in other subjects such as math or science as well.