David Recine

Introduction to the Praxis Core Reading Test

The Praxis Core Reading Test is one of three tests that make up the Praxis Core exam. The three tests, Math, Writing, and Reading, can be taken together or separately.

The Reading test has four types of reading prompts: short statements, single passages, dual passages, and charts. These readings cover a variety of academic subjects, but are simple enough that you won’t need a great deal of prior knowledge of the subject to understand the readings.

The questions are based directly on the readings. There are two basic categories of questions: content questions that require you to understand the information presented in the readings, and analysis questions that ask you to analyze the readings for deeper understanding. All questions are what the test calls “selected response” questions, which means you choose the answer from given information. The vast majority are ordinary five-choice multiple choice, although one or two might be some more exotic format, such as multiple answer questions.


Reading Passage Types

  • Short statements

Short statements are single paragraphs, generally ranging between 50 and 90 words in length. Such statements are always followed by just one question. These passages account for the majority of passages, but because each has only one question, these don’t account for the majority of the questions.

  • Single passages

There are short and long single passages. The short ones are about 90 to 120 words in length. Longer passages are usually run between 180 and 240 words. To guide test takers, Praxis Core Reading numbers the lines in the passages, and highlights keywords or sentences that are referenced in the questions. The number of shorter and longer passages are roughly equal in Core Reading. Shorter passages are always followed by three questions, while longer passages have 4 to 6 questions.

  • Dual reading passages

At some point on the exam, you’ll see two passages that cover the same topic in different ways. The combined pairs of passages are about as long as a single long passage, and come with 5 to 6 questions. These questions will nearly always ask the test-taker to make connections between the two passages, although occasionally a question will just concern one of the two passages. Each Core Reading test has just one dual passage task.

  • Graphs and charts

Like the dual passage task, this task appears once on the exam. Core Reading graphs and charts on test a specific type of literacy: visual literacy. Exam visuals can index many kinds of information: business trends, changes in the weather, survey results, daily timetables, monthly calendars, and so on. Each visual prompt is followed by three questions.


Reading Question Types

  • Content questions

    Content questions ask you to take the information in the reading at face value—you simply need to understand the information and how it’s arranged. Between 60% and 65% of the questions you see on Core Reading will focus on content. There are four types of content questions.

    • Detail questions: These are the most common questions on the test. Detail questions ask you to correctly understand specific pieces of information in the reading prompt. These questions usually include phrases like according to the passage/author, the passage/author/sentence suggests, and which of the following.
    • Main idea questions: Here, you need to identify the main idea of a statement, passage, or pair of passages. Common phrases in this question type include the passage is primary concerned with, the primary purpose is, and which of the following best states the main idea. Not every passage has a main idea question, and you’ll never see more than one of these questions after a passage. Still, main idea questions aren’t uncommon—expect to come across about ten of these on test day.
    • Definition and reference questions: This kind of question asks you about the meaning of an important word or phrase from the reading, on context-specific word meanings. You might be asked to identify what a pronoun is referencing in the passage. At other times, you’ll define academic vocabulary in context. Often, the meaning of a vocabulary word won’t be its most common dictionary meaning, so be careful—again, context is key here! Spot these questions by looking for wording such as the author uses this word to mean, this word means, and this word refers to.
    • Organization Questions: These questions require you to understand how different pieces of information are arranged together. Organization questions are the least common type of content question—you won’t see more than four or five of these on a test. In most cases, organization questions will directly mention the organization of the passage. Organization questions may also ask about the relationship between two ideas, sentences or paragraphs.

  • Analysis questions

    Analysis questions take up the remaining 35 to 40 percent of the exam. With analysis questions, you’ll need to look at the deeper meaning of what you’re reading—stuff not directly stated in the content. There are three kinds of analysis questions in Core Reading.

    • Inference questions: As you’d expect, these questions ask you to infer things, recognizing ideas that are not explicitly stated, but are strongly suggested by the author. Key phrases that mark inference questions include it can be inferred that, the passage probably suggests, and the author likely thinks. Inference questions are the most common type of analysis prompt on the Core Reading exam. You’ll see around ten of them on test day.
    • Attitude questions: With these questions, you need to understand the author’s personal opinion or emotional mood. Attitude questions usually reference the author’s attitude, how the author feels, or whether the author would likely agree. The exam has 4 to 6 of these kinds of questions.
    • Argument analysis questions:These questions are some of the hardest ones on the test. Fortunately, they’re also the rarest—don’t expect more than one or two of these. When you do get a question like this, you’ll need to carefully think about the structure of the author’s claims. Then, you need to identify a new piece of information that—if true—would either weaken or strengthen the argument in the passage. You’ll know you’re dealing with an argument question if you see something like: which of the following, if true, would most strengthen the argument OR which of the following, if true, suggests an alternative hypothesis.



This exam covers all the basic reading skills you’ll help your students with, including reading to comprehend and reading to learn. A fluency in these skills will help you lead your students as they take on passages and visuals in their textbooks.


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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