Reading Study Guide for the TEAS

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With the advent of the ATI TEAS 7, the reading section adjusts its focus a bit. It still tests your knowledge and skills in the following sub-areas, but the percentage of questions used for each one is different. Here is a list of the assessed skill areas and the number of questions that deal with each one:

  • Key Ideas and Details: 15
  • Craft and Structure: 9
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 15

You will also see six “pre-test” questions (not identified on the test) that are not scored. They could be in any of the above areas.

In the TEAS 7, there is less emphasis on the areas of craft, structure, key ideas, and details of reading passages and more focus given to actually integrating the knowledge and ideas you find in the passages. So, you will be required to look for a “bigger picture” when you read, instead of just remembering small things. There will still be “detail” questions, there just won’t be as many, and more of them will be about the parts (details) as they relate to the whole (paragraph or passage).

The Reading section of the TEAS 7 also contains fewer questions, but has a shorter time limit, as well. There are now 45 questions that need to be answered in 55 minutes.

Types of Questions

The online version of the TEAS 7 introduces several differently formatted questions. In other words, a few questions in each section are not the typical multiple-choice/four-choice questions. Instead, they require you to answer in a different way. You can preview these new question types in our explanation of question types under the second heading of the linked page.

Key Ideas and Details

Key ideas and details are all of the small things that make up a text when they are combined. Each one has an important part when you are studying a passage as a whole. You’ll need to be able to find and identify the following components.

Summarizing a Passage

When you summarize a passage of text, you are looking to capture the general idea of what it is about without including the detailed minutiae and specific examples. Think of it as explaining the big idea of the passage (what it is about) to someone who hadn’t read it in 30 seconds or less. Summaries are shorter than the original text and do not include quotations from the text. A summary is a general, condensed explanation expressed in your own words.

The Topic and Main Idea

Passages, whether fiction or nonfiction, will have a topic and a main idea. While they are often used interchangeably, these two terms mean different and distinct things. Writing needs to be about something (the topic) and the writer needs to have something to say about it (the main idea).


The topic of a passage is the subject, or what it is about. Topics can cover just about anything—from the most popular ice cream flavor to the latest stem cell research to what causes supply chain issues. The topic can be stated in a word or short phrase.

Main Idea

While the topic of a passage is also known as the subject, the main idea of a passage is what the writer wants to say about that subject. Argumentative or persuasive passages will have the writer speaking more strongly about a subject than they might in an explanatory or informative passage where they are just giving information about a topic. The main idea should be expressed as a complete sentence that provides the whole idea, identifying both the subject and the writer’s position with regard to that subject. For example, the topic of a passage may be “breakfast,” but the main idea the writer wants to convey is “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” The main idea is usually stated in the introduction paragraph as part of the thesis statement, or in a body paragraph, usually as a topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph.

Key Points

To summarize a passage, you need to be able to identify its key points. Key points are the reasons and evidence the writer gives to support the main idea. Using the example from above, it’s not enough to simply make the claim that breakfast is the most important meal of the day; if the writer is going to prove that position to be true, they’re going to have to include key points that will convince the reader. Arguments will need to be made to support or explain why breakfast is the most important meal of the day.


As the writer lays out their key points, they use details to support them. Details are specific pieces of information included by the writer to help the reader understand the subject or agree with the writer’s main idea. When you summarize a passage, you do not include the details—those are included just to help you understand the passage itself.

What Details Do

Details, sometimes called supporting details, answer questions of who, what, when, where, how, and why. They give more information about the main idea and help support, define, or explain the topic.

All Details Are Not Created Equal

Details can further be categorized as major and minor. A major detail describes, supports, or explains the main idea of the passage. A minor detail provides more information about a major detail.

Paraphrasing Key Points

Sometimes you may be asked to restate the key points in your own words. This is called paraphrasing. Unlike a summary, which is shorter than the original text, paraphrasing does not condense or shorten content, but it “translates” it into your own words. When you paraphrase key points, you retell them in your own words as you understand them. In paraphrasing the key points, you are summarizing the text, again leaving out the specific details.

Steps in Summarizing a Longer Text

Short texts or passages don’t usually need to be summarized, but longer texts with multiple paragraphs are often summarized to share understanding and help others who haven’t read the text get a general sense of what it is about. To summarize a longer text, look for the same elements we just discussed, but know they may be spread across multiple paragraphs and multiple pages. When you are reading a long text, it can help to summarize sections or chunks as you go. Especially if you are using a passage as a study tool or will need to reference it later, writing short summaries in the margins or at the end of a chapter can help you remember what a section was about. Apply the following steps when you are summarizing a longer text, understanding that you can stop and summarize at any point.

  1. Find the topic. What is this text, or section of text, about? What is the writer writing about? Determining the subject, the topic everything refers back to, will help you determine the main idea and be able to summarize the text.

  2. Find the main idea. Once you know what the writer is writing about, what is their position on it? How does the writer feel about the topic? How do they want you to feel about it? In longer passages, look for the main idea in the thesis statement. Every body paragraph in the passage should somehow link back to the main idea expressed in the thesis statement. The main idea for each paragraph, which, again, should connect directly back to the main idea of the passage, should be found in the topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph.

  3. Find the key points. Each body paragraph of the passage will include at least one key point. This reason or piece of evidence should help to support or explain the writer’s main idea and will help you summarize the passage.

  4. Find the supporting details for each key point. Key points should not just be stuck in a paragraph without details or explanation to support them or they become ineffective as key points. Look for information or examples the writer uses to support each key point.

Drawing Conclusions

Drawing conclusions in English requires paying close attention to the text, putting clues together, and reaching a conclusion. In a narrative where a character is described as rubbing his eyes, yawning, and expressing himself irritably, the conclusion may be reached that the character is tired. A conclusion goes beyond what is actually stated by the author.

Explicit Evidence

To come to a conclusion after reading a passage or studying a graph or other written material, you must be able to find details that lead you to that conclusion or support it. For example, it is not correct to conclude that all college students skip class unless there are statistics in a passage or graph that prove that fact. An author’s statement to that effect is not enough, you need proof.

Implicit Evidence and Inference

When you make an inference, you use the text to glean information that is not explicitly stated. Instead, it is implied or implicitly stated. To make an accurate inference, look at the text surrounding your concept and use the context clues to determine what the author might be saying. For instance, in a paragraph discussing the importance of washing your hands before eating and after engaging in any unsavory activity, it is safe to infer that failing to wash your hands can result in sickness or, at the very least, an unfavorable outcome. Always look for more than one piece of evidence to support an inference or a prediction.

Drawing Logical Conclusions

People can jump to some pretty creative conclusions at times. However, writers want the audience to believe or be convinced by what they are being told, so they want readers to draw logical conclusions. A logical conclusion means determining an assumption based on reasonable, rational thinking. Logically, the evidence makes sense to determine a particular outcome. If it doesn’t make sense, or the pieces don’t add up, the reader may not draw the conclusion the writer wants them to, so logical conclusions generally come as the result of clear, convincing, rational facts, evidence, or reasoning.

Comprehension of Written Directions

One type of reading prompt on this test is a set of directions. Watch for key words in these, such as after and while, because the order of directions is very important. Sometimes, you will be asked to actually follow a set of directions to answer a question. Here, missing a step or doing the steps out of order can cause you to choose an incorrect answer.

Wording that Gives Order and Relationship in Directions

Test writers often give multi-step directions or ask questions that require things be considered in a particular order. For example, if the test directs you to annotate a text while you read or to identify the cause that becomes before the effect, then you are given directions as to where or in what order to do things. To help you navigate through the exam and know what parts go with what, the directions may tell you that the next question refers to the following graphic, indicating their relationship, or that the next three questions are based on this passage. Words like sort, infer, and compare tell you what to do with the information in the passage or posed in the question.

Priorities Given in Directions

Similar to the order and relationship wording, priorities may also be present in the directions. For example, you may be directed to start with the image above, then apply steps of a process to alter its appearance. Doing these steps out of order will result in an incorrect answer, so it is important to not only look for those words that indicate priority or order, but to follow them in the order specified. In the nursing world, not following directions regarding patient care can result in negative outcomes and consequences, so being able to identify the priority actions of what should be done first and what can wait is critical to patient care.

Fallacies in Directions

While it is important to follow directions, it is also important to critically analyze them and make sure they are accurate and appropriate in a given situation. While this does not mean that you should question or challenge directions, do read them critically and discern whether anything seems “off.” Also, be sure that you are looking for language hints included in the directions or the questions themselves—words like except, most, least, or preferred can indicate how to approach thinking about the question and how to effectively apply the directions.

Missing Information

It may seem like directions are missing or that a step is skipped. When you encounter directions like this, apply common sense, prior knowledge, and rational thinking as you consider what missing information you might insert to make the directions more clear to achieve the desired outcome.


Like missing information, sometimes directions can seem contradictory to each other. This can lead to confusion and uncertainty. Again, apply logic, reasoning, and common sense to determine what makes the most sense to do to achieve the desired result.

Suggestions to Revise Directions

Some of the test questions may ask you to revise a set of directions to eliminate the problems outlined above. When revising, consider the order and relationship of the words used in giving the directions, which actions should have priority and how you can indicate that through your word choice or syntax, whether there is missing information or if directions are thorough and complete, and whether any contradictory directions are included. If information is missing, unclear, or contradictory, work to clarify in the revision.

Finding Specific Information in a Text

There can be tricky parts in questions about details. First, the written passage or other prompt may include a lot of information that is irrelevant to the questions you are asked. You need to be able to filter this out and find the details you seek.

Second, the question may not be worded to include exactly what is stated in the prompt. It may use different words, with essentially the same meaning. You will need to figure out if the detail in the prompt actually matches what the question asks. To do this, you need to read carefully, without interjecting any of your own thoughts or previous knowledge—just go by what the author actually says.

Ask Questions

As you are reading, it can be helpful to ask yourself questions about the text as you go and then be on the lookout for the answers. This helps you to ascertain what you are looking for and to find information within the text. A helpful question to ask is, “How does this relate to the topic or the main idea?” If you struggle to answer that question or see a clear connection, it may be irrelevant information that you can ignore.

Use Text Features

You may be asked to find some specific information in a long text. One option is to read the whole text. But that can be time consuming, and on a timed test may result in unnecessary stress and pressure. Instead, use the features of the text to help you find the information more quickly than reading every word.


Some texts, especially informational ones like textbooks, include a glossary, usually found at the end of the book. Glossaries are like built-in dictionaries that provide subject-specific terminology and vocabulary that the average reader may not be familiar with. For example, in a medical text, there may be a glossary of medical terms at the back so that as a reader comes across a word like pulmonary used in the text, they can flip to the glossary to have it defined as something related to the lungs or respiratory system.


Long texts can be difficult to navigate, but an index helps make it easier by acting as a roadmap to the content of the text. Organized alphabetically, the index is usually found at the end of a text and has the major subjects covered. For example, in a grammar book, you might flip to the index to find which page covers punctuation, then, more specifically, comma usage. The index will tell you which page or pages that information might be found on. And, if it’s a subject covered multiple times throughout a text, it will give you all pages that reference that topic.

Table of Contents

The table of contents is a text’s “menu” that shows the reader what it has to offer. Usually found at the beginning of a text, the table of contents is listed chronologically, with the subjects covered at the beginning of the text coming first and the chapters or sections of the text listed in order. Using the table of contents allows a reader to go directly to a specific topic covered within a text without flipping or scrolling through many pages.

Headings and Subheadings

A longer piece often needs to be broken up and simplified by the use of headings and subheadings. A heading identifies a section of text, while a subheading either identifies a more specific aspect of that section or goes into greater detail on the subject.

Sometimes, in addition to the text on the page, there are additional graphics or short paragraphs of complementary information that goes along with the subject being discussed. These additional pieces of information are called sidebars and are not included within the text on the page, but are located along the side of the text, often in a call-out box or some other visually distinct format.

Differentiated Print

Bold text, italics, and underlining are used to draw attention to a word. Bold text makes the word stand out and is typically used to highlight key words. Italics are not usually used to make a word stand out, but are used to emphasize a word to give it greater power or importance. Underlining is not used as often, but may be used for either purpose.


Have you ever read a text that had a definition, citation, or other information about a specific part of the text at the bottom of the page, usually in smaller or italicized font? These references, often identified by a superscript number or symbol within the text, are footnotes, and they provide the reader with supplementary information about the topic.


The legend of a map or graphic explains the symbols used to identify specific features within the image. For example, the legend might explain that the red arrows in an image indicate the path of oxygenated blood through the body, while the blue arrows show oxygen-depleted blood returning to the heart and lungs. Legends identify symbols and other graphic contents to help the reader understand and “read” the graphic correctly.

Tools of Navigation in Media

As our world becomes more digital and less reliant on paper and hardcopy texts, navigational tools for finding information have moved online. Tools of navigation in media include things like search engines, where you type in a topic and a resulting list of potentially relevant websites is displayed. While reading a text, you may come across an embedded hyperlink that, when clicked, will navigate you to another page in the document or to a different website entirely. You can also view the document using the navigation pane feature that serves as a kind of table of contents, generally along the left-hand side of the screen. From there you can navigate through a text more efficiently, without having to scroll through pages and pages of text.

Interactive content and a variety of media platforms open the world of information to those who know how to search for it. Narrowing your search by using the tabs in the search bar, using quotes if you are searching for something specific that must include a particular keyword, or using a hyphen to exclude words in your search can help save you time in online searches and lessen the likelihood that you’ll be taken to unrelated or unhelpful sites. Focusing on important, descriptive keywords can also help streamline your media search.

Using Visual Components

Although words are powerful, graphic representations of information can beautifully supplement the written word and more effectively illustrate facts, figures, and statistics. When considering graphic features, you may be looking at graphs, scales, maps (with legends and keys), and charts. Graphs and charts are usually used to display facts and figures, while maps are used to illustrate location. Be sure to read all captions, headings, and other information included with the graphic feature carefully. The graph or chart included may support the text given or it may present the opposite point of view on the subject.


Charts can come in a variety of formats and to access the information they provide, you need to know how to “read” each kind. Pie charts, for example, show the individual sections of a whole. A pie chart of a hospital’s annual operating budget would indicate what percentage of money went to things like operating costs, administrative salary, insurance, etc. Bar charts use bars of color or pattern to compare data in multiple categories. Charts that are set up as tables of information may have categories listed across the top and then you must look at the vertical columns to find specific information. Use the features of the chart, including its title, headings, and legends, to help you read the information it provides.



While most people think of geographical maps when they see the word “map,” a map is a visual representation or depiction of the characteristics or relationship of elements to one another. For example, you could look at a map of Africa to see where the Nile flows; you could also look at a map of the musculo-skeletal system to see how muscles affect movement. Maps of disease within a particular community merge the geographical with the medical. When reading a map, look at its title—what does it claim to be a map of? Then find the key or legend to understand the map’s orientation, determine what the symbols or colors mean, and check the scale. A map of the vascular system may not include all the tiny capillaries, for example.


A diagram is a pictorial representation of information. Like charts, there are many different kinds of diagrams and they each have their benefit and use. For example, Venn diagrams and their overlapping circles indicate the similarities and differences between subjects. The parts of the circles that overlap show what the subjects have in common, and the parts that do not overlap indicate what is unique about each. A pyramid chart, like the old food pyramid, can indicate importance or hierarchy among topics. Tree charts, or dendrograms, can be used to create family trees that can trace back disease within a family. Again, there are many different styles and types of diagrams, but no matter the structure, look at the title of the diagram, consider any descriptors, headings, or captions included, and consider what kind of information it contains.

Finding Discrepancies in Visuals

Visuals are often used in conjunction with text to help the reader better understand the subject. However, human error and sometimes intentional manipulation can cause discrepancies in a visual. Despite its title and its claims, it is important to consider whether the information presented really says what the author claims it says. Does it really show what it claims to show? Is there information that is missing that might skew your understanding or conclusion? The scale may be off, or the data may be incomplete, so always be aware of potential discrepancies that may be evident in any visuals that accompany a text.

Visuals Can Support Arguments in a Text

Despite the potential for discrepancies, visuals can be a powerful and persuasive way to support arguments in a text. By providing particular data presented in a particular way, a writer can manipulate the reader’s understanding of a subject. Visuals often serve as “logical” arguments, full of data and factual information that the reader wants to rely on to form an opinion or to interpret an idea in a certain way. This is why it’s important to consider visuals with a critical eye and, as mentioned earlier, confirm that they say what they claim to say.

Using Sequence Presented in a Text

When you are looking for specific information within a text, use its sequence to help you find it more easily. Texts are structured and sequenced in a variety of ways, often dictated by purpose and audience, but they have a sense of order: a beginning, middle, and end. Once you determine how a text is sequenced, you know better where to look for specific information.

Words and Phrases that Signal Sequence

Similar to transition words, sequence signals help the reader know which piece of the puzzle they are looking at. For example, when you are looking at a text outlining the steps of a procedure, the order may be indicated by keywords like first or to begin. As the steps continue, the shift may be noted by next, then, second, or later. As the steps to the procedure draw to a close, you might see finally or lastly. Sometimes steps of the process may take place simultaneously, so meanwhile or as might be used to indicate actions happening at the same time.

Transitions between Events in a Text

Transition words help move the reader from one idea to the next. These might be on the sentence level or from one paragraph to the next. The list of transition words and phrases is a long one, but here are some common ones that help move readers from one event in a text to another:

  • first

  • second/third/fourth/etc.

  • then

  • to begin

  • to start

  • soon

  • meanwhile

  • next

  • before

  • after

  • subsequently

  • as a result

  • finally

  • lastly

  • eventually

  • currently

  • now

Using Verb Tense

Verb tense can also help determine the time, order, and sequence of events in a text. For events that already took place, past tense is used. Those events taking place now or continuing to take place are in present tense, and anticipated future events use future tense verbs. Here are examples of those verb tenses:

Past: The doctor called for lab work to be performed.
Present: The technician is drawing the patient’s blood.
Future: The lab will call the doctor with results when the tests have been completed.

Finding Gaps in a Sequence

Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with the action or events that are laid out in a text. This often happens when there is a gap in the sequence, when it seems like a step is missing or as though something happened that wasn’t announced or included in the account. Using logic, reasoning, and prior knowledge and experience, consider what the gaps are and how you might fill them in to make the meaning more clear.


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