Levels of Comprehension

The three levels of comprehension, or sophistication of thinking, are presented in the following hierarchy from the least to the most sophisticated level of reading.

  • Least = surface, simple reading

  • Most = in-depth, complex reading

Level One

LITERAL - what is actually stated.

  • Facts and details

  • Rote learning and memorization

  • Surface understanding only

Tests in this category are objective tests dealing with true / false, multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions.

Common questions used to illicit this type of thinking are who, what, when, and where questions.

Level Two

INTERPRETIVE - what is implied or meant, rather than what is actually stated.

  • Drawing inferences

  • Tapping into prior knowledge / experience

  • Attaching new learning to old information

  • Making logical leaps and educated guesses

  • Reading between the lines to determine what is meant by what is stated.

Tests in this category are subjective, and the types of questions asked are open-ended, thought-provoking questions like why, what if, and how.

Level Three

APPLIED - taking what was said (literal) and what was meant by what was said (interpretive) and then extend (apply) the concepts or ideas beyond the situation.

  • Analyzing

  • Synthesizing

  • Applying

In this level we are analyzing or synthesizing information and applying it to other information.