The Nelson-Denny test assesses reading comprehension and vocabulary. Appropriate for high school-age teenagers and adults, the exam takes 35 minutes and consists of between 116 and 138 multiple choice questions. Many colleges and educational programs -- particularly nursing programs -- use the Nelson-Denny to help predict student success.

Test Specifics

The Nelson-Denny measures both reading comprehension and vocabulary in test-takers, each in a separate section. The vocabulary section offers students five options in multiple-choice format, asking for the most appropriate definition of a word. The comprehension section provides reading passages and asks about the author's purpose, the basic meaning of the text and the main point of the material.

Required scores vary by program. For instance, applicants to Molloy College's nursing program in Rockville Centre, New York, must score a 12, while those looking to enter Chicago State University's nursing program need at least a 13.

The score equates to a grade level. For example, a score of 11.2 means the tester reads at just over an 11th-grade level, and a score of 9 means the tester performs at barely a 9th-grade level. Some programs require high Nelson-Denny scores to ensure students will be able to understand the textbooks. Student may potentially score a 16+ on the exam, but specific requirements vary by program.

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