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Reading Test

In the Reading Test, you’ll see questions like those asked in a lively, thoughtful, evidence-based discussion.


Try Reading Questions Now

It’s About the Everyday

The Reading Test focuses on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education: the stuff you’ve been learning in high school, the stuff you’ll need to succeed in college. It’s about how you take in, think about, and use information. And guess what? You’ve been doing that for years.

It’s not about how well you memorize facts and definitions, so you won’t need to use flashcards or insider tricks or spend all night cramming.

Quick Facts

  • All Reading Test questions are multiple choice and based on passages.
  • Some passages are paired with other passages.
  • Informational graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts, accompany some passages — but no math is required.
  • Prior topic-specific knowledge is never tested.
  • The Reading Test is part of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section.

What the Reading Test Is Like

When you take the Reading Test, you’ll read passages and interpret informational graphics. Then you’ll use what you’ve read to answer questions.

Some questions ask you to locate a piece of information or an idea stated directly. But you’ll also need to understand what the author’s words imply. In other words, you have to read between the lines.

What You’ll Read

To succeed in college and career, you’ll need to apply reading skills in all sorts of subjects. Not coincidentally, you’ll also need those skills to do well on the Reading Test.

The Reading Test always includes:

  • One passage from a classic or contemporary work of U.S. or world literature.
  • One passage or a pair of passages from either a U.S. founding document or a text in the great global conversation they inspired. The U.S. Constitution or a speech by Nelson Mandela, for example.
  • A selection about economics, psychology, sociology, or some other social science.
  • Two science passages (or one passage and one passage pair) that examine foundational concepts and developments in Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics.

What the Reading Test Measures

A lot more goes into reading than you might realize — and the Reading Test measures a range of reading skills.

Command of Evidence

Some questions ask you to:

  • Find evidence in a passage (or pair of passages) that best supports the answer to a previous question or serves as the basis for a reasonable conclusion.
  • Identify how authors use evidence to support their claims.
  • Find a relationship between an informational graphic and the passage it’s paired with.

Words in Context

Many questions focus on important, widely used words and phrases that you’ll find in texts in many different subjects. The words are ones that you’ll use in college and the workplace long after test day.

The PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 focus on your ability to:

  • Use context clues in a passage to figure out which meaning of a word or phrase is being used.
  • Decide how an author’s word choice shapes meaning, style, and tone.

Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science

The Reading Test includes passages in the fields of history, social studies, and science. You’ll be asked questions that require you to draw on the reading skills needed most to succeed in those subjects. For instance, you might read about an experiment then see questions that ask you to:

  • Examine hypotheses.
  • Interpret data.
  • Consider implications.

Answers are based only on the content stated in or implied by the passage.

Sample Questions

Learn about the Reading Test firsthand by viewing sample questions from the PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10.