Reading Comprehension Worksheet: Five of the World’s Deserts

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Mojave desert road bounded by fields of wildflower blooms

When we think of deserts, we think of a huge, hot, lonely space. We even use the word “deserted” to describe a hopeless feeling. It might surprise you to learn that not all deserts are hot, and some of them are very small! We are going to learn about five of the world’s deserts in this article.


Let’s start with the most surprising fact. The biggest desert on earth has no sand. It’s also the coldest place in the world, reaching temperatures as low as minus 89 degrees Celsius, or minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the vast, icy expanse of Antarctica, the South Pole. Amazingly, this harsh place boasts a wide range of wildlife, including whales, seals and a variety of birds. Scientists have even discovered microscopic life deep below the surface of Antarctica’s dark, frozen lakes.

The Sahara Desert

This one is closer to what we think of when we hear the word “desert”. The Sahara takes up a huge chunk of North Africa. Its name means “desert” in the Arabic language. This is a region of massive sand dunes dotted by oases. An oasis is a spot in a desert where underground water breaks through to the surface. This makes it possible for plants to grow. Of course, it also helps lonely travels and their camels refresh themselves on a long, hot journey!

The Kalahari Desert

Far to the south, we have the great Kalahari. In the Tswana language, its name means “big thirst”. However, this is technically a semi-desert. The prefix “semi” means “half”. This is because the Kalahari isn’t as dry as a true desert, like its neighbor, the Namib desert, which is almost completely barren. The Kalahari is the ancestral homeland of the San people. It also boasts a wide range of animals including the beautiful oryx and the mischievous meerkat.

The Mojave Desert

North America’s driest spot is the Mojave, located in the south western region of the continent. This desert contains places with names like “Death Valley” and “Furnace Creek”, so you can imagine what the weather is like. Scientists have recorded temperatures as high as 56 degrees Celsius, or 134 degrees Fahrenheit. If you visit, take your camera for the breathtaking skies and rocky ridges. But also take your sunscreen.

The Judean Desert

This is a thin, sandy strip on the western side of the Jordan Valley. It’s full of white, sun-baked hills and deep, dry ravines. Nowadays, most tourists pass right through it to get to the more popular Dead Sea. But this desert is famous in its own right; it’s the place where Jesus went in order to fast for 40 days.

The Sahara Desert
Meerkats of the Kalahari Desert


  1. Is there any life in Antarctica?
  2. What is another name for Antarctica?
  3. Find two adjectives in the superlative form in paragraph 2.
  4. Find a synonym for “cold” in paragraph 2.
  5. If something is “microscopic” is it very big or very small? (Par. 2)
  6. From which language do we get the name “Sahara”?
  7. In your own words, what is an oasis?
  8. In paragraph 3 there are two synonyms for “big”. What are they?
  9. What does “Kalahari” mean?
  10. Is the Kalahari a true desert?
  11. Which group of people has lived here for a long time?
  12. What is the meaning of the prefix “semi”? (Par. 4)
  13. The writer describes the meerkat as “mischievous”. What does this mean? (Par. 4)
  14. Whereabouts is the Mojave?
  15. Give the name of one of the locations in the Mojave.
  16. Find an adjective in paragraph 5 that means “spectacular”.
  17. What is a furnace?
  18. Is this statement true or false: The Judean Desert is a very large desert.
  19. Name a popular tourist destination nearby the Judean Desert.
  20. Find an adjective in paragraph 6 that tells us the hills are dry.
  21. The word “fast” is a homograph, which means it has two very different meanings that are written and pronounced the same way. Give two of its meanings.


  1. Yes, there are whales, seals, birds and microscopic life forms.
  2. The South Pole
  3. Any two of the following: most surprising, biggest, coldest.
  4. Icy
  5. Very small.
  6. Arabic
  7. A place in a desert that has water.
  8. Huge and massive.
  9. Big thirst.
  10. No, it is a semi-desert.
  11. The San people.
  12. It means “half”.
  13. It means that they are intelligent and naughty.
  14. In the southwest of North America.
  15. One of the following: Death Valley or Furnace Creek.
  16. Breathtaking
  17. An oven.
  18. False
  19. The Dead Sea.
  20. Sun-baked
  21. Fast” as an adverb means “quickly”. “Fast” as a verb means to not eat for a period of time.


Comprehension worksheet – passage only
Comprehension worksheet – questions and answers only
Comprehension worksheet with questions and answers per paragraph

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