Mastering the TOEFL Reading Section
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TOEFL Reading Introduction
The Reading Structure
The reading section is the first section of the TOEFL iBT test. It tests your ability to read and answer questions at an academic level. It contain 3-4 passages with each passage containing 12-14 questions for a total of 36-56 questions. Each passage is generally 600 to 700 words long. You'll have 60-80 minutes in which to finish this section.
When you are taking the reading test, you can skip answers and come back to them later. You can come back and change your answers at any time during the reading testing period.
Reading Difficulty Level
The TOEFL reading difficulty level is equivalent to an introductory undergraduate university textbook. Most of the passages' context is North American, but you may also see some international contexts from United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The passages cover a wide range of topics such as
- Social science including anthropology, economics, psychology, urban studies, and sociology
- Science and technology including astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology, physics, engineering
- History, government, biography, geography, and culture
- Art including literature, painting, sculpture, drama, and architecture
Even though the reading passages can be difficult to understand, you don't necessarily have to understand it all. By learning the strategies to answer each reading question type, you can get a high TOEFL score without fully understanding the reading passage. The first thing you need to learn are the different types of TOEFL reading question types.
The 10 TOEFL Reading Question TypesThe TOEFL reading questions can be broken down into 10 different reading question types:
- Negative Factual Information
- Essential Information
- Sentence Insertion
- Complete the Summary
- Complete the Table
Our comprehensive lessons will tackle each of these question types in detail. To view them, create a free account and start your 7 day free trial.Create free account
How to Prepare for the TOEFL Reading TestMost students fail on the TOEFL Reading test because of either of the following two reasons
- Slow reading speed
- Poor reading strategies
Improving your reading speed
For you to improve your reading speed, you need to improve your vocabulary and practice dissecting sentences. One strategy to dissect a sentence is to look for the subject and verb of the sentence. Finding the subject and verb will help you better understand the main idea of said sentence. Keep in mind, a common feature of a TOEFL reading passage is to join strings of ideas to form long compound sentences. This produces large chunks that students have a hard time absorbing. Do not get overwhelmed by its length, just look for the subject and verb, the rest of the ideas will flow. (Want to learn more ways to dissect a sentence? check out our article on dissecting sentences.)
Another disadvantage to having a slow reading speed is it makes skimming or scanning a reading passage more difficult. The process of quickly skimming through a reading passage for specific keywords or main ideas is a requirement for you to employ successful reading strategies to improve your TOEFL reading score. In other words, skimming is a critical skill to ensure you complete all questions in the allotted time frame.
Implementing successful TOEFL reading strategies
Once you can read and comprehend a passage with a rate of, at least, 220 words per minute, you'll be ready to start implementing our strategies. All too often, students spend too much time reading the passages and not enough time answering the questions.Let's do the math on the following scenario:
- 3 passages
- 42 questions
- 60 minutes
Let's say it takes you around 10 minutes to read each passage meaning you've spent 30 minutes of your 60 minute allotted time frame reading. So now you only have 30 minutes to answer 42 questions.
Now if you do the math that only leaves you with an average 42 seconds to answer each question. (Let's see...42s x 42q = about 1764secs Now divide that be 60secs and we get about 30 minutes. Yep that math adds up. )
So the only way to increase the overall average time to answer each question, is to reduce the amount of time you spend reading each passage...or maybe you don't read the entire passage at all...maybe you just skim the passage in less than 3 minutes to get the gist of it. By doing that you would leave yourself with double the average time per question around 1 minute and 20 seconds.
That's right! We are suggesting you DON'T read the entire passage, at least not at first. Let's have a look at the step by step guide to this strategy.
- Skim through the entire reading passage and get a rough idea of what the reading passage is about.
- Read the question and start scanning the paragraph for related words or keywords from the question. (Most questions will tell you which paragraph the question is referring too.)
- Quickly read the sentence with the related keywords and the sentences surrounding it to find the answer.
- Can't find the answer? (Certain questions are harder than others. BestMyTest TOEFL Tutor teaches all reading strategies for all reading question types. Sing up free and check it out.) Skip this question and come back later...way later. There are at least 3 reading passages each with 14 questions. Complete all the questions that do not require you to thoroughly read the passages. Once done, go back to each skipped question and now read the passage carefully keeping note how much time and questions you have left.(Want to test this strategy out now? Take a free reading mock test.)
Our TOEFL Reading Practice Questions
Our TOEFL reading practice questions were designed to look and feel identical to the official TOEFL test. We made sure everything was the same including difficulty, formatting, and even how the test functions. If you're curious about the amount of TOEFL reading practices we have, then open the reading question menu and see for yourself. Please note we offer 4 simulated TOEFL tests with never before seen questions. This means that in addition to our mock reading practices there are an additional 12 waiting for you in the form of a simulated TOEFL test. You just have to go to our TOEFL Practice Test section. However, you'll need a premium account to access those tests.
The TOEFL Reading section is the easiest section to prepare for. We believe that once you can master the reading strategies mentioned earlier in this article and complete all available TOEFL reading practices before your TOEFL exam, you will get a high score on the TOEFL reading section.If you need help with vocabulary to improve your reading speed, you can use our vocabulary system which includes:
- TOEFL Vocabulary Lists (There is a mini-lesson for each vocabulary that teaches you how to use the word correctly.)
- TOEFL Vocabulary Flashcards (Keep track of which words you know and which you don't)
- TOEFL Vocabulary Exercises (Interactive exercises that speeds up learning)
What's nextSign up for a 7 day free trial to access the following basic TOEFL reading lessons and start your TOEFL preparation.
- TOEFL Reading Introduction
- TOEFL Reading Strategies for Success
- Vocabulary Question
- Reference Question
- Inference Question
- Essential Information Question
- Sentence Insertion Question
- Purpose Question
- Detail Question
- Negative Factual Information Question
- Complete The Summary Question
- Complete The Table Question