toefl guide

Pacing Tips for the TOEFL Reading

Madison Oster October 12th, 2021

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. In this post, we will show you strategies to answer TOEFL reading questions correctly and fast.

Remember the reading test consists of 3 - 4 passages and 36 - 56 questions. The time allotted for the reading test depends on how many questions you must answer. 80 minutes is the max amount of time given. Let's do the math on the following max case scenario:

4 passages56 questions80 minutes

Let's say it takes you around 8 minutes to read each passage and there are 4 passages. That means 4*8 = 32 minutes. 80 - 32 = 48 minutes left, so you will have 48 minutes to answer 56 questions. Now let's determine how much time you can spend on each question:48 minutes / 56 questions = 51 seconds per question. So based on these assumptions, you have around 51 seconds to answer each question. So you might ask do I have to answer each question within 51 seconds?  The answer is yes and no. Most questions can be answered in less than 50 seconds, but some questions, however, will require at least 2-3 minutes or more to complete. But don't worry, we have a strategy that will help you answer questions efficiently. Before discussing the strategy, here is something important to keep in mind while taking the reading test: Your goal is to correctly answer as many questions as you can, before the timer runs out. Seems obvious, but the truth is, unprepared test takers usually spend several minutes on a 1 point question instead of skipping it, moving on to the next question, and coming back to it later.

TOEFL Reading Strategy to Answer Questions Correctly and Fast

Here is the strategy that will help you answer as many questions as you can, correctly. 

Read the first sentence of every paragraph

First, read the first sentence of every paragraph, so you get a basic idea of what the whole reading passage is about. You don't want to read the whole passage before you start answering the questions. That will be inefficient. Many students make this mistake and find themselves running out of time. 

The questions first approach

Start reading question 1. Remember to only read the question and not the answer choices; Reading the answer choices is a waste of your time and energy. It will not help you. Once you understand the question, start reading the corresponding passage from the beginning in search of the answer. Once you answer question 1, go onto question 2 repeating the steps you took to answer question 1. Do this for every single question. The TOEFL questions proceed in chronological order, so the answer to question 1 is in the beginning of the passage and the answer to question 12 is towards the end. 

Don't get stuck!

We've discussed this before, but it's so important, we will discuss it again. If you find yourself spending too much time on a question, you must skip it and move on to the next question. Finish all the questions you know, then go back and finish the tougher questions. The absolute worst thing you can do is get stuck for several minutes on a question worth only 1 point. Follow this strategy carefully and you WILL maximize your TOEFL reading score.

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