Reading comprehension skills hinge on a student's ability to pull information from a text. That information can be presented explicitly or implicitly. Understanding explicit facts is one of the primary reading comprehension goals for students in kindergarten through fourth grade; after that, students are expected to have mastered this skill, and the focus shifts to recognizing implicit facts.


The word "explicit" means clear and fully expressed. If something is explicit, there is no question as to what it means, no hidden connotations and no room for misunderstanding. If a fact is explicit in a reading comprehension passage, it is stated outright. For example, if the first sentence of a story is "It was a dark and stormy night," that is an explicit fact. There is no room for debate; the reader cannot be confused and think that the story is set on a sunny morning.


If something is implicit, it is not expressly stated, but the reader understands it anyway through other clues in the text. For example, if a story begins with "The trees were swaying wildly outside Anne's window as she prepared for bed, and the gutters were overflowing," the reader can infer that it is probably dark, stormy and at night even though these facts are not explicitly stated. Implicit facts in reading comprehension also often involve the motivations of the characters.

Comprehension Questions

Explicit facts are easier to spot than implicit facts and are therefore easier to test. Common comprehension questions for explicit facts include the basic who, what, when and where of the story, and often the how and sometimes the why. Questions about why things happen in stories, though, are often implicit comprehension questions, especially in more adult reading -- authors are less likely to explicitly state why characters are doing things and more likely to allow readers to figure that out based on other information in the book. Any question that asks students to draw conclusions is testing implicit comprehension.

Scripturally Implicit

A third type of reading comprehension fact is the scripturally implicit fact. Scripturally implicit facts are things that the reader needs to know to understand the text but aren't included in the text at all; rather, the reader is expected to apply prior knowledge of the subject to understand the material. For example, if the first sentence of a story reads "It was a dark and stormy night, and Anne Boleyn was getting ready for bed," the author assumes that the reader knows roughly when and where the story is taking place. These are scripturally implicit facts, neither explicitly stated nor hiding in the text but relying on the reader's independent knowledge.