The reading section is the first section of the TOEFL iBT test. The reading section is meant to test your ability to read and answer questions at an academic level. It contains 3-4 passages with 10 questions each (so 30-40 questions in total). Each passage is generally 600 to 700 words long. You will be given 54–72 minutes to complete this section.
In the Reading section at the exam, you will be able to skip the questions and come back to them later. You can come back and change your answers at any time during the reading section, before continuing to the listening section. This is particularly important because this will allow you to answer all the questions you’re sure about first, and then come back to those that will appear the most difficult for you.
With this strategy you will have a better chance to complete a maximum number of questions.
Most of the passages’ context is North American, but you may also see some international contexts from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The passages cover a wide range of topics such as:
Even though the reading passages can be difficult to understand, you don’t necessarily have to understand them 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 passage will be on the screen all the time so the trick is in knowing types of questions you may encounter and use an effective strategy that will save you time.
Strategies in Responding to the New TOEFL Reading Tasks
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.
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.
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.
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?
Detail questions ask you about information that’s specifically stated in a small part of the passage. They generally focus on the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why” as explained by the author.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.