The Three Level Guide*

* Adapted from the Reading Forum NZ: Official Journal of the New Zealand Reading Association (Inc.) No.3 December 2000.

The Three-Level Guide is a reading strategy used to develop comprehension skills. The guide is a series of statements about a text, some true and some false. These statements are divided into three levels:

  • Level One:         Literal Statements (at the surface level of the text)
  • Level Two:        Inferential / Interpretive Statements (at a “between-the-lines” level)
  • Level Three:      Applied Statements (at a “beyond-the-text” level)

Students / readers are asked to agree or disagree with these statements and justify their responses.

At Level One, the statements involve literal comprehension, where students simply search for the information within the text.

At Level Two, the statements involve inferential comprehension, where students use the literal information and combine it with other information, either from the text or from their previous knowledge and experience, to find whether a statement is true or false.

At Level Three, the statements involve applied understanding, where students use the literal and inferential information and combine it with other information from their previous knowledge and experience in making generalisations, hypothesising, being creative and discussing points of view. Information from the text is extended beyond the limits of the text.

Responses to statements at Levels Two and Three can be subjective. Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether the statement is true or false because the text does not provide enough information. In these instances the student must justify their opinions by giving reasons. This makes Levels Two and Three more challenging. The decision (true or false) will be open to debate as the correct response cannot always be reached by simply finding information from the text.

Discussion follows after completion of the exercise. In a group learning session, students may discuss and debate their responses with each other. In a one-to-one learning session, the student discusses his / her responses with the tutor.


  • The discussion provides the opportunity for students to learn how to search for information within a text.
  • For students that are not understanding what they read, the discussion time is valuable for it is here that they hear how others justify their choices and debate the issues, introducing new ways of thinking about text, and broadening their own approach to the text.


These links provide more information and examples of activities using the Three-Level Guide, including detail on how to create a Three-Level Guide for a text.



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