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Three Types of Questions to Build Comprehension

Literal, inferential, and evaluative questions help learners read and think in different ways.

To help students monitor their comprehension, it helps to ask questions while you read. The three levels of questions are:

  • Literal. The answers to literal questions can be found in the text. They are directly stated. We sometimes say this information is on the surface.
Examples: What is the main character's name? What happened in the story on that page?
  • Inferential. The answers to inferential questions can be found in the text too, but they are implied, not directly stated. We often say the information is in between the lines or under the surface.
Examples: Why did the main character laugh? What do you think will happen next?
  • Evaluative. The answers to evaluative questions require information outside of the text. We sometimes say the information is in the head or somewhere else.
Examples: How are you similar to the main character? Why did the author write this book?

Rather than simply tell students they are right or wrong, it is better to ask students to support their answers. For literal questions, students can go back to the text and show you were they found the information. For inferential questions, students can explain their reasoning and show the part of the story that supports their idea. For evaluative questions, students can explain their ideas and identify the other sources of information.


In a few days, I will post strategies for asking questions to groups of students.


Happy Questioning!