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What is TOEFL Reading?

 The reading section of the TOEFL exam is made up of various passages, each approximately 700 words long.  These texts will deal with a variety of topics and should look like they came out of an introductory level university textbook. Each passage will be presented with 10 accompanying questions. The standard TOEFL Reading section includes 3 texts, taking 54 minutes. However, you might get a text with an additional ‘experimental’ text, in which case you will have 40 questions and 72 minutes to complete it. All in all, you should expect to spend on average 1 minute and 50 seconds or less on each question.

What does TOEFL Reading look like?

In the reading section of the TOEFL, you will encounter various question types. There are ten different types of questions, falling into three categories:

Basic Comprehension Question Types
> Factual Information
> Negative Factual Information
> Vocabulary>Reference
>Sentence Simplification

Inferencing Question Types
> Inference
>Rhetorical Purpose
>Insert Text

Reading to Learn Question Types
> Prose Summary
>Fill in a Table

For examples of these question types, check: (Link to TOEFL Reading Question types overview blog? – not sure if this is published yet…though I remember writing it!)

What method should I use in TOEFL Reading?

General rule: scan first

As a general rule, you should scan the text for basic comprehension before you start to read each question in detail.


Take one minute or less to quickly read the passage. Do not read each word and do not try to understand the grammar. Just try to get a general sense of the text. Pay special attention to the introduction and conclusion of each paragraph, as this is usually where key information is usually located, and keep an eye out for repeated words. Once you’ve got the main idea you can move your attention to the first question which is on your screen.

Check the question for keywords

Read the question carefully and identify any important words that you might have to look for in the text. Remember that TOEFL reading questions often use synonyms for the words used in the passage.

Check the text. Start small. 

Once you’ve identified the keywords/key ideas from the question, try to locate those words or their synonyms in the text. If you did a good scan of the text before, you might have a memory of their location. Locate the paragraph or paragraph section which contains the idea you need and read just the sentence around the keyword. If this still doesn’t give you the right idea, expand out and read the previous and/or following statements. Avoid reading too much of the text in detail if you don’t need to!

Check the full methods!

As I mentioned, the TOEFL reading section has various different question types.  You may be asked a basic comprehension question or you may have to identify the best meaning of a particular vocabulary item, or fill in a table with the main ideas from the passage. Therefore, your method will vary slightly depending on which question type you are faced with. To see the methods for each reading task type, sign up for a free E2Language account and look through our TOEFL Course.

How will I be scored in TOEFL Reading? 

Similar to the Speaking, Listening, and Writing sections of the TOEFL test, the TOEFL Reading is scored out of 30, resulting in a maximum total score of 120.

Each question in the TOEFL Reading section is worth 1-3 points, so the raw score for the section is slightly scaled to arrive at your score out of 30.  However, when you are practicing on your own in preparation for your test, you can calculate a simple average of how many correct answers divided by how many questions you attempted and multiply that by thirty to get a decent approximation of your score.

Where to from here?

Having trouble with TOEFL Reading? Check out our TOEFL packages on E2Language.com. Here you can access reading practice questions, view live classes and even discuss test methods and tips 1:1 with an expert TOEFL tutor.

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