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Homepage Home > Testing > PSAT/NMSQT® > Helping Students Prepare > Test by Section Area > Critical Reading

Critical Reading

Understanding PSAT/NMSQT test sections

Critical reading questions focus on a student's ability to read critically—to think logically, analyze, and evaluate.

Sentence completions

Sentence completion questions require students to follow the logic of an idea expressed in a fairly complex sentence. Sentences are given with one or two words omitted. The correct answer is the word or set of words that, when placed in the blank(s), best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole. 

These questions:

  • Test a student's ability to recognize logical relationships among elements of a sentence
  • Measure vocabulary in the context of the sentence

Learn more about the sentence completion questions in the student section of this website.

Passage-based reading

Passage-based reading questions measure students' ability to read, understand, and interpret reading passages. These passages are:

  • Drawn from a variety of fields, including the humanities, social studies, and natural sciences. They may also be excerpted from works of fiction.
  • Varied in style and may include narrative, argumentative, and expository elements
  • About 100 to 850 words and will often include an introduction and/or footnotes

Questions may ask students to:

  • Understand significant information in the passage
  • Figure out the meaning of a word from its context
  • Analyze and evaluate ideas, opinions, and arguments
  • Make inferences and recognize implications
  • Understand the tone of what is being said
  • Understand the use of examples
  • Recognize the purpose of various writing strategies
  • Relate one part of a passage to another part
  • Determine an author's purpose or perspective
  • Distinguish conflicting viewpoints
  • Make connections between different parts of a passage
  • Compare or contrast ideas in a passage or in a pair of related passages

Learn more about the passage-based reading questions in the student section of this website.

Customized Entry Pages

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