Nelson-Denny Reading Test

The Nelson-Denny Reading
Test is a two-part test given to incoming high school and college students to screen
their reading ability, address any problems a student may have, and to assess a
student’s progress. The test is also used to accurately place a student in an
English class suitable to their reading level.

How do I register for the test?

The test is given by the school you will be attending. You will most likely need to speak to your academic advisor to register for the Nelson-Denny Reading Test. They should be able to give you all the information you need regarding the test.

What is the format of the test? Is it more than one day?

The test is only one day, and it’s broken up into two parts: vocabulary and comprehension.


The comprehension section of the test is about 20-minutes. This section consists of 5-8 short written works. The student will be responsible for answering 36 to 38 multiple-choice questions based on the text that they read. Each multiple-choice question has five possible answers.


The vocabulary section of the test is about 15-minutes and consists of 80 to 100 multiple-choice questions with five possible answers.

How is the Nelson-Denny Reading Test scored?

Your score for the exam is made up of the total number of vocabulary questions you answered correctly and the amount of comprehension questions you answered correctly. The score you get on the comprehension section of the exam is worth double what the vocabulary section is worth. The two scores are added up and converted into a grade-level equivalent.

Potential test scores may look like the following: 9.8, 11.2, 12.8. If a test-taker receives a score of 9.8 it means that their reading ability falls between a 9th and 10th grade level.

Your score helps your school determine how difficult a course will be for you. It also helps in determining what needs to be done in order to raise your skill level.

What score do I need to get in order to pass the test?

There is no passing score. The test is a diagnostic test. It helps to assess a test taker’s reading ability. Your score is used to place you in the appropriate English class.

When will I receive my results?

The time it takes to receive your results varies depending on your school. You should check with your advisor about test results.

What will exam day be like? Is it different for every school?

Yes. This more than likely varies depending on your school. However, you will want to get a substantial amount of rest the night before your test. You also want to arrive to the exam at least thirty minutes early. Be sure to have with you whatever your school tells you to bring, whether it’s pencils or a photo ID.

Do not wait until the last minute to start studying for the exam. You should start preparing for the exam at least a week before, maybe even earlier.

What if I fail the test? Can I retake it?

Unfortunately, no. Whatever score you get on your initial attempt is the score you will have to stick with.

How Can I Prepare for the Nelson-Denny Reading Test?

That’s a great question.  We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.

  1. Do yourself a favor and study.  Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try.  Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
  2. Take care of yourself.  Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping.  All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance.  If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
  3. Get a study guide or set of flashcards.  Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them.  We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam.  Below you’ll see links to both!

Study Guide



Last Updated: November 9, 2023