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Jan 24 2017

Passing the TOEFL Reading Test



Are you getting ready to take the TOEFL test?

As you know, there are four parts to the TOEFL test and one of those parts is a reading test.  In this lesson, I will give you some hints to help you do very well on the Reading portion of the test so that your score on this test will improve.

 Here are some facts you need to know:


Practice before the test!








  • The Reading section is Part 1 of the TOEFL test.
  • On the TOEFL IBT or PBT Reading Test, you will be able to skip some questions and come back and answer them later.
  • There are 3-5 reading passages, but usually 3.
  • You have 60-100 minutes for this test, but usually 60.
  • There are about 39-56 questions, but usually 39.
  • Most questions are worth 1 point and some questions are worth more than 1 point.
  • The questions test your ability to understand main idea, details, inference, sequence and vocabulary.
  • You do not need to know about the topics in the reading section before you take the test.
  • The reading test is challenging!

Study new vocabulary!

Here are some ways you can prepare:

  • Read academic material as much as possible. Choose topics that you are not familiar with.  Read passages that are about 700 words.  Science, psychology, medicine and behavioral sciences are good topics to choose from.
  • Practice reading faster to increase your reading speed. Use a timer and choose passages that are about 700 words.
  • Learn and practice “skimming”. Read the first line of each paragraph carefully.  Then quickly “skim” through the rest of the paragraph to pick up a few details and the main idea.  You don’t have to understand everything and you don’t have to understand every word.  When you answer the questions, you will go back to these paragraphs and read more carefully to find the answer.
  • Increase your advanced vocabulary. You may not see vocabulary words you have studied on the test, but knowing more vocabulary will help you to figure out the prefixes and suffixes of words and this will help you answer the vocabulary questions.

For example, if you know that anti- is a prefix that means “against something or not something” and you see the word “antisocial”, you will understand that this probably means not social, or someone who does not enjoy going out with friends or to parties.

  • Take as many TOEFL Practice Reading tests as you can. For the first two or three, just take your time.  And then use a timer to learn how to finish the entire test in the time given.  Keep practicing until you can finish in the amount of time given.
  • Increase your reading speed!

Here are some strategies to improve your TOEFL Reading test scores:

  • If you have 60 minutes to read three passages, divide your time into 16-18 minutes for each passage. That comes to about 38-54 minutes.  That will leave you 6-12 minutes to go back and look at your answers again and answer any questions that you skipped.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have time to read the passage carefully before answering the questions. Most students don’t have time to do this.  As I wrote before, learning how to “skim” through the material is very important so that you will have time to answer the questions.
  • Don’t spend too much time on one question. Skip it and come back to it at the end of the test.
  • To answer questions about main idea, pay close attention to the first and last paragraph to answer this question.
  • To answer questions about details, read the numbered lines carefully that are given in the question. Then read the sentences before that and the sentences that come after that.  This will give you a better understanding of what the details are and will not take very much time.
  • To answer questions about phrases and vocabulary, again, ready the numbered lines but read before and after so that you will understand the context. Look at the prefix and the suffix of the word, if there is one.  Decide which answers are incorrect and then decide which one makes the most sense if this word or phrase is new to you.
  • Remember, “the easiest answer is usually the correct one”. Don’t overthink it!  In other words, don’t think too much about the answer – it usually causes you to get it wrong!
  • I have found that the first answer that students choose is usually the correct one.

If you are in Houston, Texas please call us for private English lessons to prepare for the TOEFL test.  For more information, visit http://www.englishlessons-houston.com or write to julie@englishlessons-houston.com

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