Reading section of TOEFL

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The TOEFL Reading section is designed to assess how well you can read and understand the kind of materials used in an academic environment. It contains 3 or 4 reading passages, each approximately having 700 words. You have 54 to 72 minutes to answer all the 30-40 questions asked in the section. The TOEFL reading module will probably be a bit more difficult compared to most other tests, so here we have discussed the questions and also some useful tips for preparing for the reading section of TOEFL.

Duration of the reading section 54 - 72 minutes
Number of Questions 30 - 40 questions
Number of passage 3 - 4 passage


Types of the question in the TOEFL Reading section​​​​​​

1. Vocabulary: In Context

Here you will be given a short passage with a word selected. You must find the option from the given 4 options, the one which is closest in meaning.

Tip: Try to understand the context (the situation) and figure out the meaning of the selected word. Then pick the most probable answer from the options.

2. Vocabulary: Reference

Here in these Reference questions, you need to focus on a word generally a pronoun within a short passage of text. You need to choose the answer from the given four options what the word is referring to. For example, there might be a pronoun “it” or “them” or “this” to replace a noun or a noun phrase. This evaluates your ability to follow an idea with the help of a short passage.

Tip: Look at the grammar of the word such as is it singular or plural? If it’s singular you should look for a single person or a concept, if it’s the plural the original idea must also be plural. Check for the sentences around. Point to be remembered is that a single concept might be contained within a lengthy noun phrase

3.  Factual Information

In this question type, you are asked to identify explicitly stated specific information in a short passage. This question type will not ask about general themes but instead on the facts which contain in the passage. You have to select one option from the given possible answers.

Tip: Recognise keywords in the question to enable you to locate the correct part of the text to find the answer.

4. Detail - “Not”/”Except”

This question type the word “except” or “not” is included in the stem. Your task is to select the option which is not mentioned in the text from the given 4 options.

Tip: While reading the answer options, which one do you not recall reading information on.

5. Author’s Meaning - Paraphrasing

If you come across this question type, you will see that an entire sentence is highlighted in the given short passage of text. You must choose from the given 4 answer options,  the one which is closest in meaning to the highlighted sentence.

Tip: The wider the range of your vocabulary, the better you will be able to answer this question type.

6. Author’s Meaning - Function

In this kind of question, you are asked to identify the purpose of the author in including a detail, concept or argument in a text. You have to choose 1 option in front and he is given 4 options.

Tip: Try to eliminate options which you are sure are incorrect, then try to guess the correct answer from the remaining options.

7. Inference

“Inference” means a conclusion which is based on reasoning and evidence. This kind of question does not ask you to locate particular information, instead you are asked to deduce what the writer is suggesting in a short passage of text. Inference questions will always have the verb “suggest”, “infer” or “imply” in the question stem. Identify the topic of the question from the options given.

Tip: Locate information in the passage based on that topic. Eliminate those options which you find are incorrect only select an answer if you find evidence.

8. Coherence

In this kind of question, you will be given a short text and one additional sentence. Within the text, there will be 4 possible insertion points for the given additional sentence. You must choose the place where it would fit best. This tests your ability to understand the coherence and cohesion and also your skill to structure a paragraph.

Tip: Identify the most logical place for the sentence to fit in. Try to figure out if it is an example or a definition? Does it give the result of something that was mentioned earlier? Eliminate options that you know are incorrect, and then choose the most probable answer.

9. Main Idea (Prose summary)

For this question type, you will be shown a sentence summarising a reading passage. You will be given six answer options from which you need to choose three. The task is to identify which three options paraphrase key ideas in the given passage. This question tests your ability to identify similar ideas through knowledge of synonyms and paraphrases and to identify the main idea in a passage.

Tip: Read the initial sentences carefully as well as the answer options. Go through the given passage for similar ideas. Eliminate any answer options that are inaccurate or are minor details. And select the answer from the remaining option.

10. Table Completion

In this question type, you have to complete the blanks in the detailed summary of a reading passage. You will see an empty table with two or three-section headings. You must drag and drop appropriate options from the given answer choices into their relevant place in the given table.

Tip: Read the headings carefully. Scan in the given text for paraphrases or synonyms of each section heading. Reject the options which are not retable. Choose the correct answers based on the key points you find in the text. Remember the language used may not be the same but it may present the same meaning.

Useful tips for the Reading section of TOEFL

Candidates looking to score high in their TOEFL exams can use the following tips and strategies for a positive result. Candidates are advised to read anything in the English language as much as possible. The basic idea behind this exercise is to keep your mind continuously engaged with the English language which will help you in your TOEFL exam. Here we will be discussing some important strategies you need to follow while preparing for the reading section as well as during the reading test. 

1. You Need to Read as much as possible

The best way of preparing for the TOEFL reading exam is to read. It might sound obvious, but the best way to practice for the TOEFL reading test is to read as much as possible beforehand on as wide a variety of topics as possible. It may be of Current affairs, health, sports, politics, economics etc. Also, you can cover all the media in your reading materials like books, online texts, and magazines. If you think you might take the TOEFL exam someday in your future, start reading in English a little bit every day from today itself.

2. Maintain a Vocabulary Notebook

As you read during TOEFL preparation, keep a notebook and a dictionary with you always. Every time you discover a new word, write it in your notebook to study later. The Oxford English Dictionary, flashcards that teach new words are tools that could be used for discovering new words. Newspapers, periodicals and articles in English are a great source for coming in contact with new words and understanding the written language. This will help you develop a strong vocabulary that should be a great help to you when you sit the TOEFL's reading test.

3. Practice with previous Tests

TOEFL is one of the standardized tests, which means it always follows the same test pattern. So take benefit of it and practice with the past test paper of TOEFL to help you prepare better. You will be much more comfortable on the official test day as you will know the structure and pattern which will boost your confidence level.

 4. Practice completing the task on time

When you take practice tests, use a timer and set the timings so that you can experience the real test environment and prepare yourself to complete the task within the time. Remember that in TOEFL, the exam will stop automatically as soon as the time limit is over so it is very important for you to learn to complete the task within the time limit. Good timing and the ability to pace yourself will be the key factors to maximise your TOEFL score. The first few times, you may not be able to do this, but with practice, it should become easy.

5. Learn to Skim

In English, skimming means reading a passage quickly and understanding a text by taking out the important details at a glance. This is an essential skill for the TOEFL reading test. Practice doing this with passages as you get closer to the official exam date.

6. Practice Summarizing

Never assume too quickly that you know the meaning of a text while you are reading it. Always have a pause on your reading at the end of each paragraph and try to summarize what you have just read. Not just adding new words to your vocabulary, candidates should also work hard to do exercise of the new words in their day-to-day lives to remember them and make it a part of their English language practice.

7. Highlight (if you need to)

Highlighting important words or sentences like dates, keywords, vocabulary, and places might help you structure your thoughts as well as make it easy for you to find the answers. Go ahead and do this while you are reading.

8. Learn To Guess Unfamiliar Words

When you come across with a new word what do you do? Panic or Consult a dictionary? Both of these ways won’t help you in your exam. Learn to guess the meaning of that unknown word from the context of a passage or the words and paragraphs which surround it. Reading will help you to guess the meaning.

9. Learn to identify the Pronouns

Even if you know only basic English still you know that there is a big difference between the pronouns he, she and it. Practice being attentive to the pronouns in a given text so you know what or whom it is referring to, mainly if there are multiple characters or objects in the text.

10. Move on

There will be passages in the text about which you will feel more confident than others and some questions will be easier than others, but the best advice is to maintain your speed and leave the question which is needing too much time and come back later when you finish other questions.

So, now you are totally informed about the reading section of the TOEFL and also we have mentioned all the tips and tricks you can take advantage of and crack the reading module well and score high.

All the best..!!