The City University of New York's Assessment Test in Reading measures a student's reading-comprehension abilities. The university uses the test to determine the proper placement for students into English classes. CUNY's reading test is an un-timed, computer-based test that requires the student to receive a score of 70 or higher to pass. For the test, the student reads several passages and answers questions involving the main idea, main purpose, vocabulary in context, facts and inference.

Main Idea

Girl reading book in library

To study for main idea category of the CUNY reading test, practice finding the major point of various texts. For example, you might read a passage about ladybugs. After reading the text, one of the questions might ask: "What is the main idea of the last paragraph?" When returning to this paragraph of the text, you would discover that the most important point is that ladybugs can be a variety of colors. This point, then, would be the main idea.

Main Purpose

Woman reading book

The CUNY reading test assesses your ability to determine the author's main purpose for writing a text. These questions ask you about how the information in the text supports the author's main point. After reading a text about the history of air conditioners, for example, a question might ask: "What is the main purpose of the text?" You would then be required to select from the answer choices regarding the author's main purpose for writing the text about air conditioners. In this case, the answer would be that the author's main purpose is to give information about how air conditioners have progressed since their invention.

Vocabulary in Context

Books and globe

This exam also tests your ability to determine the definition of vocabulary words as they are used in a text. The exam will ask you to read a passage with highlighted vocabulary words. Questions for this section will ask you to determine the definition of a word based on its context. You would have to search the sentence for clues such as a definition, a synonym -- a word that has the same or nearly the same meaning -- or an antonym -- a word opposite in meaning to another word. For example, you might be given the sentence from a passage that reads: "The architect was always well remunerated for his work in large amounts of money." The sample question you are to answer might read: "As it is used in the passage, what does the highlighted word 'remunerated' most nearly mean?" In the context of the sentence, this vocabulary word means "paid."


Teenager (16-17) using computer at home

You will encounter questions about facts on this test. These questions will ask you to return to a passage that you have read to find specific information in the passage. To study for this portion of the test, practice your skills of reading and finding facts in the text you have read. Remember that facts can be found in the text and do not include information that cannot be proved. A technique to help you prepare for finding facts in the passages of this test would be to underline the information that best supports the answer in the text. Then review the answer choices and select the one that is closest to the facts you have found. For example, a question following a passage about airplanes might ask: "When does an airplane need to dump fuel?" Scanning the passage would help you find that airplanes dump their fuel in emergency situations.


Magnifying glass

The CUNY reading test also assesses how well you are able to make an inference. An inference is a conclusion that is made based on evidence and facts in a text. To study for this category of the test, become familiar with how to make an inference. The quickest and easiest steps for making an inference are: gather facts or evidence from the story; use your personal knowledge and experience; and combine the facts you have gathered with your personal knowledge to make an inference. For example, a test question might ask you: "What can you assume about the weather from the character who came into the house with wet hair?" You would infer that it was raining outside.