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Academic reading is aimed at three things: finding information, basic comprehension and learning. The only sure way to improve one’s reading skills is to read voraciously and regularly, more so university textbooks or other materials on a variety of subjects such as science, art and business that are written in an academic style. Today there is the advantage of the internet which is the richest source in which to fish for reading material.

To practice your reading skills, it would be useful to increase your vocabulary by keeping a journal of new words. For efficiency, group word lists by subject and come up with flash cards o frequently review the words. Be keen on the organization of academic texts, looking out for main ideas and supporting words and their relationship. You should also note the key points and create a summary of the passage that is representative of its structure.

Where possible it would be helpful involving a friend in your practice. You could read an article from a journal while your friend reads a different one. Each of you then makes up five basic information questions, after which you then swap articles, read them and answer each other’s questions. This will be useful as you can then brainstorm on what is not clear to either of you and learn more.


Pick an academic text or the reading passage in The Official Guide to the TOEFL® Test and read it. Consider what each paragraph’s main idea is and then come up with a short (five to eight words) “headline” for it, capturing each paragraph’s main idea. Summarize the entire passage in five to six sentences. Once you can do that perfectly, focus on increasing the speed which you can do it and you are a step closer to being ready to pass the reading section of the TOEFL® test.
When you are reading in search of information, it is important that you scan the passage first to find and highlight key facts such dates, numbers and terms. Look out for outstanding text such as numbers, capital letters, symbols and special formatting such as emboldened words in your scanning. Look for synonyms and highlight them all in the same color marker then study how they have been used in the passage.

For “Reading for Basic Comprehension” questions, practice skimming a passage fast to get a general feel of its main idea. Read the introductory paragraph, the first sentence of each paragraph and the concluding paragraph for a gist of the passage and practice that skill. After the skimming, read the passage more keenly while writing down the main idea, major points and important facts.

To fully comprehend a passage, choose unfamiliar words in a passage and make out the meaning from their context in the passage confirm the meaning from the dictionary thereafter. To ensure you follow the text, underline all pronouns and identify what nouns they refer to in the passage. Test whether you are able to paraphrase individual sentences and ultimately entire paragraphs from your understanding.

Whenever you are reading to learn, first endeavor to identify what type the passage is, i.e. whether it is a cause/effect, compare/contrast, classification, problem/solution, description or narration passage. Once you have that settled, organize the information in the passage; making a list of major points therein and the minor supporting points. Categorize the information in a chart if there is any such categorization in the passage. From the resultant charts, lists or outlines, create a summary of the passage, written or oral.

Before sitting the TOEFL® test, the only target for any candidate should be to get better. You can only get a feel of how well you are doing if there is some level of evaluation involved.  That evaluation and subsequent extra practice is available right here on our website. Be sure to register and become a member to easily access the simulated tests on the homepage as well as the numerous practice questions we have for practice.