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Nelson-Denny Reading Test – Everything You Need To Know

The Nelson-Denny Reading Test originated in 1929 and is one of the most widely-adopted measures of reading comprehension. The exam is commonly used to identify students who face difficulty with reading.

It gauges your level of progress after remediation and predicts your potential for future academic success. The NDRT can be prepared for like any other test. We hope this Nelson-Denny study guide will help you develop your skills and score high for the exam.

Take the Nelson-Denny Reading Practice Test to improve your score.

What is the Nelson-Denny test?

The Nelson-Denny reading test is a comprehension and vocabulary test that measures a student’s reading skills.

These tests identify students that might require additional reading instruction by quizzing them on a high school and college level. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to easily prepare, and make sure you earn a high test score.

The NDRT test measures the student’s reading rate per minute. It also measures their knowledge with vocabulary, and skills with attending to comprehension passages.

The Nelson-Denny reading test is short, taking between 35 to 45 minutes to answer. You can expect to spend 15 minutes on the vocabulary portion and 20 minutes for the reading comprehension part. Keep in mind that you only have one chance to take the test.

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What questions can you expect in the exam?

The Nelson-Denny reading test is split between two examinations: one section on vocabulary and one on reading comprehension.


The vocabulary test consists of 80 multiple choice questions each with five response options. The questions are drawn from high school and college textbooks with varying difficulty between them.


The reading comprehension test includes various short reading passages. These short passages are drawn from high school and college textbooks as well.

Each passage is followed by a set of questions that require you to identify factual content from it. Students will also need to deduce some answers based on what has been provided. The total number of multiple choice questions on the reading comprehension test is 38.

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Preparing for the Nelson-Denny reading test

The Nelson-Denny reading test is a simple diagnostic exam but, there are no retakes allowed. So, it is important that you are prepared ahead of time. We recommend that you should spend at least two weeks refreshing your knowledge and practicing your skills. There is a host of unofficial test preparation products you should make use of such as flash cards and study guides.

Some guides are up for purchase as well and includes tips, strategies, and practice questions all designed to strengthen your comprehension skills and develop your vocabulary regardless of what school level you are working on. These guides can be expensive though and a single purchase can go as far as $500 USD.

Flashcards include essential vocabulary words to help you reinforce your memory. Although you are not likely to memorise every word, it will definitely boost your vocabulary up to a high school and college level.

We recommend you work hard and prepare with multiple practice tests from JobTestPrep before the exam day. You will not receive the same comprehension test in each exam nor the same words for each vocabulary exam. Memorizing the answers for one test will not be suitable practice. There are, however, strategies for answering questions faster included in some study guides.

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How Is the Nelson Denny Reading Test Scored?

There is no minimum score needed to pass. These results are in stead used to determine whether or not you are capable of completing the coursework you have been assigned. Your mark will determine how challenging a given text or course will be. It can also be used to help create a plan for raising your skill level to where it needs to be.

The number of questions you answered correctly in the test is converted into a number that represents the grade level of your reading skills. For example, a score of 9.8 indicates a reading skill level of the eighth month of the ninth grade in high school, while a score of 13.2 would indicate the reading level of a college freshman in their second month.

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What should you expect on test day?

The NDRT is no different from any other formal testing environment. What is most important is that you show up to the venue relaxed and on time.

When you complete the practice questions, make sure to use a timer so that you can replicate the test day conditions as closely as possible. This should help you acclimate to the stressful environment of test writing.

Final tips

The NDRT about as stressful as any other test and its results will only reveal the best places for you to improve going forward in your studies. You do however only have one shot at the test, so be sure to study ahead. And always start your day with a good breakfast!

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