Nelson-Denny Test FAQ


What is the Nelson-Denny reading test?
The Nelson-Denny reading test is a standardized reading test that measures the reading ability of high school and college students. The Nelson-Denny includes two parts: Vocabulary and comprehension. The first part of the test, vocabulary, is made up of 80-100 multiple-choice items, each with five response options. The time allowed for this part of the exam is 15 minutes. The second part, comprehension, requires students to read 5-8 passages and to respond to 36-38 multiple-choice questions based on the content of those passages. The time allowed for this part of the exam is 20 minutes.

How is the test scored?
The final score on the Nelson-Denny is made up of the total vocabulary questions answered correctly and double the amount of comprehension questions answered correctly.  This means that the comprehension part of the exam is worth twice more than the Vocabulary part.  After the two scores are added together, the score is then converted into a grade-level equivalent.  Sample test scores might look like: 9.8, 11.2, 12.8, etc.

What do the test results mean?
If a student receives a final score of 9.8 this means that the student's reading ability is between the 9th and 10th grade reading level. The nine refers to 9th grade and the eight refers to 8th month of that year.   Since many Nursing textbooks are written at the 16th grade reading level, students with Nelson-Denny reading scores below the 12th grade reading level might find the textbook too difficult to comprehend.

How do I obtain my test results?
The English Department, located in Siena Hall room 103, will have your results 48-72 hours after you have taken the exam. Call Trisha O'Neill at ext. 6272 to get your test results.

What happens if I do not pass the Nelson-Denny Reading Test?
If you do not pass the exam, you must register for either ENG 090 or ENG 101. Your advisor will inform you as to which class you will have to take.

Can I retake the test if I don't pass?
No, you cannot retake the exam. Therefore, it is important that you are well rested and prepared on the date of the exam. If you do not feel well on the day of the test, take the exam on another day.  Check the schedule for the upcoming test dates on our website.

How do I prepare for the Nelson-Denny reading test?
For Nelson-Denny test sample questions, click here.

How does the Division of Nursing use the Nelson-Denny results?
The Division of Nursing uses the N-D results for guidance in placement in both science and nursing courses. Students must have minimum of a 12th grade N-D to take certain science courses and all nursing courses. In order to be admitted to the nursing dual degree program, students must have a minimum of a 14th grade N-D. Please refer to the Molloy College catalog for specific criteria to a particular course or program.

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