What Is a Critical Reading Test?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 08 May 2020
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A critical reading test, also known as a reading comprehension test, is a type of exam given to students of all ages to test their ability to read a passage of text, and then answer questions about it in order to test their understanding. In general, students will be asked multiple-choice questions about the passage they just read, though in some instances they may be asked to write a brief essay in response. A critical reading test may be given for a variety of reasons; often they are part of standardized tests to check a school's performance compared to other institutions. They may also be used for college admissions purposes, or to test foreign language comprehension.

Most critical reading tests are structured fairly similarly. A brief passage will be provided, followed by a series of questions related to the passage to test student's understanding of what they just read. The reading level of the passage will correspond to the reading level of the students taking the test, and will be designed to be read in the time period provided. If students need to write an essay in response to the critical reading passage, they may be given more time. The student is usually, but not always, allowed to refer back to the passage while answering the questions, depending on the design of the specific test.

A standardized critical reading test is given almost every year at some schools, often combined with other tests in science and math. This allows schools to compare their performance to other schools, and often to garner funding if their students perform well. For students applying to traditional four-year colleges, admissions tests that include a critical reading portion should be expected as well, often as a requirement with the application. Students of all ages learning foreign languages might also be given a critical reading test, as this is a great way to test true comprehension of the language, and not just the vocabulary.

There are some general tips that are often given for succeeding at a critical reading test. Experts generally recommend skimming the passage first to get the overall idea, then reading the questions, then going back and reading the passage more thoroughly. This ensures that the student knows what he or she is looking for and has time to answer the questions as she goes, rather than spending too much time studying the passage, and not having enough time to answer the questions. Another tip is not to over-think the questions; they are usually just designed to test reading ability, not subject knowledge, and therefore all of the answers can be found right in the passage itself.


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