Types of Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand and interpret written texts. There are different types of reading comprehension, each serving a specific purpose.

In this article, we will explore these types with helpful examples to better understand how they work. Whether you’re reading a novel, a textbook, or an article online, having a good grasp of these types can greatly improve your understanding. Let’s explore this skill together.

Literacy Rates and Reading Comprehension – English Syllabus Guru

Literacy Rates and Reading Comprehension

PISA 2018 Report on Reading Comprehension

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 report found that 15% of 15-year-old students globally struggled with basic reading comprehension tasks. (OECD, 2019)

Definition of Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension means understanding written text. Literal comprehension involves identifying key details and facts, while inferential comprehension requires drawing conclusions based on the information. Vocabulary comprehension means understanding the meaning of words in the text. These types of comprehension work together to provide a comprehensive understanding.

Critical comprehension involves evaluating the credibility and bias of a text and identifying the author’s purpose and point of view. Different types of reading comprehension, including literal, inferential, and vocabulary comprehension, are important for understanding and evaluating written text.

Importance of Comprehension Skills

Strong comprehension skills are important for understanding different types of texts effectively. They help with following instructions, evaluating information, and interpreting complex texts in daily life. These skills also contribute to critical thinking and forming educated opinions based on the information presented.

Additionally, strong comprehension skills help with identifying main ideas, making inferences, and drawing conclusions from the material being read, which is important for making informed decisions. They also help understand the context, purpose, and tone of written material, which is essential for interpreting and analyzing any text.

English Syllabus Guru

Proficiency Level Requirement for Jobs in the United States

Reading Proficiency Requirement for US Jobs

70% of jobs in the United States require workers to be able to read at a proficient level. (National Center for Education Statistics)

Types of Reading Comprehension

  1. Literal Comprehension
  2. Inferential Comprehension
  3. Vocabulary Comprehension
  4. Evaluative Comprehension
  5. Applied Comprehension
  6. Structural Comprehension
  7. Critical Comprehension

Literal Comprehension

Literal comprehension is one of the 10 types of reading comprehension. It involves strictly interpreting the text from sources like textbooks, news articles, recipes, or instructions. This type of comprehension focuses on the exact wording and facts in the text.

For example, following the main ingredients in a recipe to achieve the desired outcome is literal comprehension. In a news article, understanding the main argument the author is making is also literal comprehension. Similarly, grasping the main idea of a paragraph in a textbook chapter represents literal comprehension. It requires the reader to understand and interpret the text exactly as presented, without adding personal analysis or interpretation.

Example: Reading a recipe and understanding the ingredients and steps required.

When you’re reading a recipe, it’s important to identify the main components of the dish. For example, in a spaghetti and meatballs recipe, the main ingredients may include pasta, ground meat, tomatoes, onions, and spices.

Understanding the main elements of the dish is essential for successful preparation. It’s also crucial to take note of the tools and kitchen equipment needed. This may include a pot for boiling the pasta, a skillet for browning the meatballs, and a cutting board and knife for chopping the vegetables.

By understanding both the ingredients and the necessary tools, individuals can effectively navigate the cooking process and achieve a delicious results.

What are the main points?

Building effective reading comprehension skills involves three main ingredients: vocabulary, decoding, and critical thinking.

Vocabulary is important for understanding word meanings, while decoding helps recognize and understand individual words. Critical thinking allows the reader to analyze and grasp the overall meaning of the text.

To enhance comprehension, readers can use strategies like summarizing, making predictions, and asking questions. By utilizing these tools and ingredients, readers can improve their ability to understand and interpret different types of texts, leading to better overall comprehension.

Inferential Comprehension

Inferential comprehension means drawing conclusions, making predictions, and understanding implied information while reading. It’s more than just understanding the words; it involves thinking about the text. For instance, inferring a character’s emotions from their actions and descriptions. Or predicting the next events based on clues. Inferential comprehension helps readers engage deeply, understand underlying messages, and enjoy the content more.

Mastering this skill improves overall understanding and enjoyment of written material.

Example: Reading a news article and inferring the author’s bias or opinion.

When reading a news article, it’s important to know the author’s bias or opinion. You can do this by looking at the language used, the sources cited, and the overall tone.

For instance, if the author uses emotional language or only cites supporting sources, they may be biased. In a book review, the reviewer shares their opinion, but it’s up to the reader to decide.

In an advertisement, the advertiser may use persuasive techniques like appealing to emotions or using celebrity endorsements. These skills are crucial for developing strong reading comprehension and critical thinking.

National Center for Education Statistics – English Syllabus Guru

National Center for Education Statistics – English Syllabus Guru

Prose Literacy Skills in the United States (2019)

US adults with below basic prose literacy skills: 21% (2019) (NALS)

Vocabulary Comprehension

Understanding the meaning of words and phrases in a given context can be achieved through various strategies. These include using context clues, decoding word structure, and using prior knowledge. Context clues, like synonyms, antonyms, and examples, can help readers infer the meaning of unfamiliar words. Understanding the context of a passage is important in determining the meaning of specific words or phrases, as it provides clues to the overall message.

Prior knowledge and background information also play a significant role in aiding vocabulary comprehension. Readers with relevant background knowledge are more likely to grasp the meaning of certain words.

For example, a person with experience working in a medical setting is more likely to understand medical jargon compared to someone with no prior exposure. Being mindful of different strategies, contexts, and prior knowledge can greatly enhance one’s ability to comprehend vocabulary in a given context.

Example: Reading a Literary article and understanding literary terms.

Some literary terms can be found in the article. One of these is “symbolism,” which uses objects or elements to represent deeper meanings in a literary work. Another term is “imagery,” which uses descriptive language to create vivid mental pictures.

Additionally, “irony” signifies a contrast between expected and actual outcomes.

Understanding these terms is important for comprehending the layers of meaning in literary writing. The main theme of the literary article is to highlight the importance of recognizing these terms to fully grasp the richness and complexity of literary works. By becoming familiar with these terms, readers can enhance their comprehension and appreciate the artistry of the writers.

Evaluative Comprehension

Evaluative comprehension is important for understanding different types of content.

For example, when reading a book review, it’s essential to analyze the reviewer’s assessment and form your own opinion. Similarly, when reading an advertisement, recognizing persuasive techniques like emotional appeal is crucial.

Additionally, when reading a news article, being able to identify the author’s bias and main argument is important. These examples show the significance of being able to assess content to form well-informed opinions.

Example: Reading a book review and evaluating the reviewer’s claims.

It’s important to carefully evaluate book reviews. Understand the arguments made by the reviewer. Consider the main argument the author is conveying. Compare it with the reviewer’s assessment. Analyze persuasive techniques used by the reviewer.

For example, in the context of “Types of Reading Comprehension,” ask if the main argument is accurately captured and if the evidence and examples provided are convincing. Consider if persuasive language, like strong adjectives or emotional appeals, is used. By doing this, the reader can identify potential biases in the review and make an informed evaluation.

E-Book Reading Habits – English Syllabus Guru

E-Book Reading Habits
English Syllabus Guru

US Adults Reading E-Books (2023)

US adults reading e-books: 74% (Pew Research Center, 2023)

Applied Comprehension

Applied Comprehension involves using different reading techniques to understand and process information. Some tools needed for this include summarizing, annotating, visualizing, and making connections between the text and one’s own experiences.

For example, when summarizing, readers can outline the main points of a text to better understand its message.

Advertisers often use persuasive language and imagery to convince their audience. This can involve appealing to emotions or making logical arguments.

By recognizing these techniques, readers can understand the underlying message and purpose of the advertisement.

Example: Reading instructions for assembling furniture and following the steps correctly.

To put together furniture, start by getting the necessary tools like a screwdriver, hammer, and measuring tape. Then, read the instructions carefully and understand the steps involved. It’s important to correctly identify the different parts and hardware and visualize the assembly process before starting.

For instance, when putting together a bookshelf, knowing the types of screws and where they go is important.

It’s also crucial to be patient, take time to understand the instructions, and follow the steps correctly. Lastly, being able to troubleshoot and problem-solve if something doesn’t fit or work out as expected is key to successfully assembling furniture.

What tools will you need to complete this assembly?

To complete this assembly, you will need a set of basic tools. These include screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, and hammers. Additionally, specific assembly tools like a torque wrench or an Allen key may be required, depending on the assembly’s complexity.

You may also need safety equipment such as goggles and gloves for protection. While there may be specialized or uncommon tools needed for certain assemblies, alternative tools can sometimes be used if the recommended ones are not available.

For example, using a flat screwdriver instead of a specific type of screwdriver, or using a regular wrench instead of a torque wrench. However, it’s important to ensure that the alternative tools are suitable and safe for use.

Variations in US Literacy – English Syllabus Guru

Variations in US Literacy

Literacy Levels Among 8th Graders (2019)

Proficiency in reading among 8th graders: 35% (2019)

Significant gaps observed between racial and socioeconomic groups.

Structural Comprehension

Understanding the structure of a text helps readers comprehend its content and message. When readers know how a text is organized, they can follow the information better and understand how different parts relate. This lets readers identify the ain points and supporting details.

Students with strong reading comprehension skills tend to perform better in other academic subjects and have higher overall academic achievement. 

(Source: Institute of Education Sciences)

Example: Reading a textbook chapter and identifying the main points and supporting details.

Identifying the main points in a textbook chapter is important for understanding. Understanding the main idea and key details helps readers retain information and apply it. Look for topic sentences to find main points, as they summarize paragraphs. Supporting details, like examples and evidence, provide context and clarity. For instance, in a chapter about the solar system, the ain points might be the planets and their characteristics.

Supporting details could include specific details about each planet, such as size, orbit, and atmosphere. By understanding these main points and supporting details, readers can comprehend the material and make connections between concepts.

Critical Comprehension

One way to check the credibility of a text is by looking at the author’s expertise. If the author is an expert in the field, the text is more likely to be credible. Another way is to check the sources used by the author. They should be from reputable organizations or individuals. When looking for bias, be aware of political, commercial, and cultural bias. Look for biased language, stereotypes, or selective evidence.

To evaluate the point of view, consider the author’s background and potential conflicts of interest. Also, seek out other perspectives to have a well-rounded understanding.

Example: Reading an advertisement and identifying its persuasive techniques.

The advertiser may use specific techniques to convince the reader to take action. Examples include emotional appeal, testimonials, or creating a sense of urgency.

For instance, they might use emotional language to evoke feelings of desire or fear. They could also include endorsements from satisfied customers to build trust.

These persuasive techniques can be effective in influencing the reader’s behavior by tapping into their emotions and creating a sense of need or desire for the product or service being advertised.

This can lead to increased sales or engagement with the ad. The persuasive techniques used must align with the overall message or goal of the ad.

They should work together to convey a clear and consistent message to the reader. For instance, if the ad aims to promote a product as a solution to a problem, the persuasive techniques should emphasize the product’s benefits and effectiveness in solving that problem.

What techniques is the advertiser using to try to convince you?

The advertiser is using descriptive language and captivating images to grab the audience’s attention and establish a strong emotional connection with the product or service being advertised.

By carefully choosing their words and using powerful visuals, they create a compelling picture that resonates with the viewers, making them more likely to consider the product or service.

Additionally, the advertiser is using emotional and psychological tactics such as creating a sense of urgency or scarcity, appealing to the audience’s desire for social acceptance or belonging, and addressing their fears or insecurities. This can lead the audience to feel more motivated or emotionally involved in the product or service.

Moreover, the advertiser is appealing to the audience’s values, desires, or fears by highlighting the potential benefits and positive outcomes of choosing the product or service, as well as addressing any concerns or obstacles that may be holding them back from making a decision.

Global Literacy Rates – English Syllabus Guru

Global Literacy Rates

Literacy Rates by Region

Global literacy rate for people aged 15 and above: 86.3%

By doing so, the advertiser convinces the audience that their product or service is the perfect solution to their needs or desires.

Key takeaways

Reading comprehension can be categorized into four main types. These are:

  1. Literal comprehension involves understanding the explicit information presented in the text.
  2. Inferential comprehension requires readers to make connections and draw conclusions based on the information given.
  3. Evaluative comprehension involves forming judgments and opinions about the text.
  4. Appreciative comprehension is about enjoying and being moved by the text’s style and content.

Examples of each type are provided to illustrate the different levels of understanding.


What are the main types of reading comprehension?

The main types of reading comprehension are literal comprehension, inferential comprehension, and evaluative comprehension. Literal comprehension involves understanding the facts and details stated directly in the text. Inferential comprehension involves drawing conclusions or making predictions based on the text. Evaluative comprehension involves analyzing and critiquing the text’s meaning and purpose.

How can I improve my literal comprehension skills?

To improve literal comprehension skills, practice active reading by summarizing passages, making predictions, and asking questions. Engage in conversations about what you’ve read to ensure understanding. Use techniques like underlining key points and writing brief reflections.

What are some examples of inferential comprehension?

Some examples of inferential comprehension include making educated guesses based on contextual clues and concluding implicit information in the text. For example, inferring a character’s feelings based on their actions or predicting the outcome of a story based on foreshadowing.

What is the purpose of evaluative comprehension?

The purpose of evaluative comprehension is to assess and analyze the information gathered to make informed decisions, judgments, or interpretations. For example, evaluating the credibility of a source before using it in a research paper allows for better decision-making.

Can you provide examples of critical comprehension?

Examples of critical comprehension include identifying the main idea, distinguishing between fact and opinion, evaluating the author’s purpose, and analyzing the tone and mood of a text. Another example is comparing and contrasting different perspectives within a piece of writing.

By Waqas Sharif

Mr. Waqas Sharif is an English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional, Trainer, and Course Instructor at a Public Sector Institute. He has more than ten years of Eng Language Teaching experience at the Graduate and Postgraduate level. His main interest is found in facilitating his students globally He wishes them to develop academic skills like Reading, Writing, and Communication mastery along with Basics of Functional Grammar, English Language, and Linguistics.

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