About the NAEP Reading Assessment

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education and is the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what our nation's students know and can do in select subjects. The NAEP reading assessment uses literary and informational texts to measure students' reading comprehension skills. Students read grade-appropriate passages and answer questions based on what they have read. Results at grades 4 and 8 are reported for the nation overall, for states and jurisdictions, and for districts participating in the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA); results for grade 12 are reported for the nation only.

The 2022 NAEP reading assessments at grades 4 and 8 were administered as digitally based assessments. Read more about the NAEP Digitally Based Reading Assessment.

The NAEP Reading Assessment Framework

The National Assessment Governing Board oversees the development of NAEP frameworks that describe the specific knowledge and skills to be assessed in each subject and how the assessment questions should be designed and scored. The development of the NAEP reading framework was guided by scientifically based reading research. The framework defines reading as a dynamic cognitive process that involves understanding written text, developing and interpreting meaning, and using meaning as appropriate to the type of text. The framework also guides the types of texts included in the assessment and specifies cognitive targets for assessment questions. The same framework that has guided assessment development since 2009 was used to guide development of the 2017, 2019, and 2022 digitally based assessments.

Types of Texts

Research on the nature of texts suggests that readers attend to different aspects of texts as they read different text types; that is, the nature of texts affects reading comprehension. The reading framework includes two types of texts to be used in the assessment: literary and informational. Literary and informational texts for the NAEP reading assessment are distinct categories for two reasons: (1) the structural differences that mark the texts, and (2) the purposes for which students read different texts. Each text type includes various genres.

Literary texts include fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry.

Informational texts include exposition, argumentation and persuasive texts, and procedural texts and documents.

Reading Cognitive Targets

The term cognitive target refers to the mental processes or kinds of thinking that underlie reading comprehension. The framework specifies that assessment questions for both literary and informational texts measure one of the three cognitive targets.

Locate and Recall. When locating or recalling information from what they have read, students may identify explicitly stated information or may focus on specific elements of a story.

Integrate and Interpret. When integrating and interpreting what they have read, students make complex inferences within and across texts; they may explain character motivation, infer the main idea of an article, or infer and explain the theme of a story.

Critique and Evaluate. When critiquing or evaluating what they have read, students consider the text critically by viewing it from numerous perspectives; they may evaluate overall text quality or the effectiveness of particular aspects of the text.

The proportion of the assessment questions devoted to each of the three cognitive targets varies by grade to reflect grade level differences.

Figure Percentage distribution of questions in NAEP reading assessment by cognitive target: 2022
GradeLocate and recallIntegrate and interpretCritique and evaluateTotal number of questions
Number of questionsPercentage of total number of questionsNumber of questionsPercentage of total number of questionsNumber of questionsPercentage of total number of questions
Grade 42321%6762%1817%108
Grade 82518%8561%2921%139
NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.