What is Comprehension?- Comprehension is the process of understanding what is being read or heard. It involves decoding the text or audio and making sense of it. Comprehension can be difficult but can be improved on with practice. Reading Comprehension marks as an important section in many competitive exams including CAT as well.

Generally speaking, there are three main levels of comprehension as follows:

  1. Literal comprehension
  2. Inference comprehension
  3. Evaluative/Applied comprehension

When we talk about comprehension, it goes beyond the concept of reading; it also includes listening to an audio, video, or being present in an event and comprehending the situation in that particular event. However, in this article, we will focus more on reading comprehension.

Comprehension is an essential skill that students and working professionals need to understand events or reading materials, etc. When a student or professional comprehends a text or a situation intricately, they can understand, identify the main points and provide answers to questions from a textbook or events.

The levels of comprehension vary from person-to-person depending on their level of education, experience, and the complexity of the subject. Comprehending any subject requires an in-depth study of a topic or event.

In this blog we will discuss the three major levels of comprehension, including some other sublevels not highlighted above.

Level One: Literal Comprehension

Literal comprehension means understanding a text, including facts, ideas, vocabulary, events, and stated information. It involves getting specific answers to questions or information gathering for questions that start with “what, where, when, who,” etc.

For example:

Literal comprehension requires direct and explicit answers to questions extracted from a text. Literal comprehension is an essential ability because it serves as a building block to the more advanced levels of comprehension. The literal level of comprehension requires some abilities that are necessary for comprehending any text or statement in general, and they include:

To develop the above-highlighted abilities and extract answers from any document seamlessly, as a student or working professional, you will need to develop literal comprehension skills such as keywording, skim reading, and scanning. These skills will enable you to locate and use information more quickly.

At the literal level, you can recall the information explicitly stated in the material.

The ability to quickly skim and scan a large volume of materials and extract or recall essential information from the document is a vital productivity skill that literal comprehension offers.

Level Two: Inference Comprehension

Inferential comprehension is the ability to make valid inferences from the facts and information received or found in a text. At this level, you must read between the lines to understand the texts in the reading material. It involves understanding the facts even if not explicitly stated in the reading material.

It explores answers to questions that begin with “Why and How” because such questions have to get their implied meaning answered or comprehended.

There are several different types of inferences, categorized as generalizations, comparisons, conclusions, assumptions, predictions, inferences of cause and effect, etc.

For example:

The answer to the first question highlighted above requires inferences based on assumptions on why Sneha wants to be the most creative worker of the year. Now such inferences or conclusions may be based on facts or opinions.

The second question requires comparing how Sneha acted when she thought she would be the year’s most creative worker and how she reacted when she lost the recognition to Raghav.

Level Three: Evaluative/Applied Comprehension

Evaluative comprehension requires a deeper understanding of the topic or event. It involves analyzing and weighing an event or an author’s intent, opinion, language, and style of presentation.

It also includes evaluating the appropriateness of the author’s devices in achieving his aim and then making inferences based on the fact or idea implied in the event or reading material.

For example:

Evaluative comprehension can be applied to one’s performance at work or school, including others, in case you hold a supervisory role. It involves making extrapolations or conclusions on material or events. The evaluation can be positive, negative, or neutral.  Evaluative comprehension also involves understanding the implications of the evaluation. For example, Raghav was evaluated as the most creative worker of the year, so he might understand that the assessment is positive and take pride in it.

However, if Raghav had been evaluated as unproductive, he might have realized that the review was negative and felt embarrassed.

Sub-Level Four: Reorganization Comprehension

Reorganization comprehension is based on a literal understanding of reading material or event and then using information gained from various parts of the material or event and rearranging them into new patterns that integrate them into your idea for further understanding.

Reorganization comprehension requires some creativity and curiosity. It also requires an ability to analyze, digest, evaluate and come up with a unique view of a situation or event.

For example:

Sub-Level Five: Appreciative  Comprehension

Comprehension goes beyond merely decoding the text or audio and making sense of it. It also involves giving reactions and thoughts about material or events based on a deeper understanding of the situation or text. The appreciative level of comprehension fits here as it requires reading beyond the lines and involves recognizing the author’s philosophy and purpose of reading material.

The philosophies are not stated explicitly but are implied in the text and involve having an emotional response and reflections on the material. To get to the appreciative level of comprehension means that a reader fully understands the literal meaning of the reading material, has carefully evaluated the situation and can use the ideas gathered and apply them to real-life events or similar conditions.

For example:

You can see that from the questions asked; the answers will require an appreciative level of comprehension as the answers are not found in the text or event but from the reader or observer.


As you can see from the levels of comprehensions discussed above, comprehending a text or events, as the case may be, is a crucial skill a student or any working-class professional should have. Also it is an important ability to comprehend information fast. Comprehension can be challenging, especially for people with learning disabilities. So they find it tasking to build up skills that take them beyond reading the text to reading between and beyond the text, which is a more advanced level of comprehension.

As mentioned earlier, comprehension is an essential skill that both students and professionals should have if they want to be productive.  Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to improve your comprehension ability, one of them being to learn how to read fast. Learning comprehension skills or improving on them is not limited to people who have difficulty comprehending. Any proactive student or professional should always look for opportunities to enhance their comprehension levels.