Pacing Tips for the TOEFL® Reading
If there is something tricky about the reading section, it is the timing. The reading section asks you many questions while providing you a few passages to read. Instead of dividing the time out for you, the TOEFL gives you a full 60 to 80-minute block of time. It is up to you and your management skill to use this time effectively to read all the passages and answer all questions.
Decide your tactics
In order to decide your tactic, it is very helpful to do some TOEFL practice tests on your own.
There are typically two ways to tackle reading the passages and answering the questions.
- You can either take your time to read slowly and thoroughly so that later you can answer the questions very quickly.
- You can scan the passage the first time you read and then take your time answering the questions. You probably need to reread parts of the passage when answering the questions.
If you know which tactic best suits you, then you can decide how much time to allot for each task. Remember you also need an extra 2 minute to double check your answers in the end.
Dividing the time
You can adjust the time for each task in the reading depending on which tactics above you would like to follow. However, I’m going to suggest a standard scheme for you to try out: 10 minutes to read each passage, 8 minutes to answers all the questions and the last 2 minutes to review.
As you do a few more TOEFL reading practices, you will know how to adjust your time accordingly by spending a bit more time in tasks you need more time with and cut off those other tasks you know you are good at. Make sure to always limit yourself to 20 minutes in total per passage so you will have enough time to finish the whole reading section within the 60 to 80 minutes time limit.
Get familiar with the instructions
The instructions are almost always the same with every reading section and passages. You can save yourself much time by reading the instructions thoroughly and memorizing the gist of them on TOEFL practice tests. If you do that, you can save yourself time reading the instructions on the day of the real test.
When you’re stuck at a question that you cannot find an answer to, keep moving on. Don’t spend too much time on one question. A cue that you should move on is If you have been thinking about the same question for more than a minute. Just take your best guess and mark it for review so you can double check it later.
Because all the questions are worth the same point most of the time, remember to answer all of the easier questions. If you have to choose between a long and complicated paraphrase question and a short one point vocabulary question while you do not have much time left on your clock, take your guess with the long one and mark for it for review.
As mentioned a few times earlier, sometimes, you should take your best guess. Please note when I say guess, I actually mean educated guess. Don’t just take a random guess, try to take a little time to actually read the question and narrow down the answer choices the best you can.
If you don't have time, skim through all the answer choices. Still, make an educated guess. In this situation, sometimes it helps if you can decide with your gut, so you can move on with other questions in the little time you have left.