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TOEFL® Reading Question Types

The TOEFL reading section is broken down into 9 different reading question types and 4 formats. The way to get a high score is to become familiar with all types of questions. This will help you to narrow down the options and select the right answer. Here is a quick run-down of each question type you will encounter:


Multiple Choice Format

  1. Vocabulary

In a reading "Vocabulary question", you are asked what a word or phrase is closest in meaning to and are given 4 answer options. You need to be able to understand the meaning of the word as it is used in the passage.


  1. Negative Factual Information

You can recognize a negative factual information question by either the word “NOT” or “EXCEPT” in the question. The question can appear like the following: According to the passage, which of the following is NOT true of X?

Negative Factual Information  

  1. Essential Information

In an “Essential Information question”, you will see the question you see an entire sentence highlighted in the reading passage. The question will ask you to choose which of the 4 answer option sentences is equal to the highlighted sentence. The correct sentence will be paragraphed so it is different than the highlighted one, but still convey all the important information. Incorrect sentences will represent a detail or concept inaccurately, leave out an important detail, change the original meaning of the sentence.

Essential Information

  1. Reference

In a "Reference" question, you are asked what the highlighted word refers to. If it's a pronoun then you need to identify what word the pronoun is replacing.


  1. Inference

In an "Inference" question, you will see the question phrased something like the following:  In paragraph 5, what does the author imply about ….? or What can be inferred from paragraph 5?

In this type of question, the answer is not directly stated in the reading passage. It requires you to draw conclusions based on information that is given in the passage. You need to find out the correct conclusion from the choices.


  1. Rhetorical Purpose

This type of question requires you to understand why the author has included pieces of information. The answer is not directly stated in the reading passage. To solve this type of question, you need to understand the main point of the paragraph and how the referenced information is related to the main point of the paragraph. You will see the question phrased something like the following: Why does the author mention XXX in paragraph 2?

Rhetorical Purpose

Insert a Sentence Format

  1. Insert a Sentence

In an "Insert a Sentence" question, you will be asked to decide where a new sentence best fits into the reading passage. This question type tests your understanding of the logic in the passage. It also tests your ability to understand the grammatical connections from one sentence to another.

Insert a sentence

Complete the Summary Format

  1. Complete the Summary

In a ‘Complete the Summary’ question, you are given a summary statement of the reading passage and 6 answer options. You need to drag and drop 3 answers that represent major ideas or contain important information from the passage. You need to drag and drop them from the bottom area of your computer screen into a blank area above with 3 positions marked off . The 3 correct options will NOT have the exact wording of any sentence in the passage. The other 3 will have errors in detail, or state an unimportant concept.

This question always has a value of 2 points. You will get 1 point if you get 2 out of 3 correct.

Complete the Table Format

  1. Complete the Table

In a “Complete a table” question,  you will see 2 or 3 categories in an empty table. From the options provided, you must select which ones correctly belong to each category. There will also be 2 options that won't be used. There will either be 5 or 7 correct options depending on the question.

This question has a value of 3 or 4 points. Questions with 5 correct options are worth 3 points, and ones with 7 are worth 4 points. You get 1 point if you get 3/5 or 4/7 correct. You get 2 points if get 4/5 or 5/7 correct. You get 3 points if you get 5/5 or 6/7 correct

This question tests your ability to organize major ideas of the reading passage and important information. It also tests your understandings of  cause-effect relationships and  compare and contrast relationships.

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