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How to Prepare for TOEFL Reading Section?

How to Prepare for TOEFL Reading Section?

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Learn how to prepare for TOEFL reading section with our prep guide. Get tips to boost reading ability, practice questions, tricks for the D-Day, and a lot more!

Madhuwrita Nandi
Updated on:  12 Mar 2024  | Reviewed By: 
| 6.74K | 7  min read

TOEFL reading section is designed to test your ability to comprehend academic reading material, including passages you are likely to find in a college textbook. All the fields of study ranging from chemistry to literature to psychology may be the subjects of the passages.

The reading section is likely to be more complicated than most other exams you've taken, because not only is the grammar complex, but the texts often deal with very specific topics that are likely to be new to you.

The question ‘how to improve your reading skills’ has a simple answer - reading in English as much as possible. The internet is one of the best resources for reading material, but it is also helpful to read books, magazines, or journals of any kind. It is better to include more academic type of content, the kind that would be used in university courses.


What is the TOEFL Exam Pattern?

The pattern of the TOEFL was revised on August 1, 2019. As per the revised pattern, the exam is for a duration of 3 hours. The TOEFL reading section will have 10 questions for each of the 3-4 passages instead of 12-14 questions. The section will be for 54-72 minutes instead of 60-80 minutes. 

Revised TOEFL Test Pattern 

  • list items Number of Passages: 3 - 4 
  • list items Number of Questions: 10 questions each
  • list items Time: 54 - 72 minutes

These passages cover a variety of topics. You don't have to be familiar with the passage topic. The passage itself will contain all the information you need to answer the questions. The passages will often present multiple perspectives about its main subject. This is something you should note when reading because you will be usually asked at least one question that allows you to demonstrate that you have understood the general organization of the passage.

Read more about TOEFL Examination in more detail, click here.


What are the Reading Question Formats?

There are 3 question formats in the Reading Section:

  • list items Questions having 4 choices and one answer in the traditional multiple-choice format.
  • list items Questions having 4 choices and a single answer asking you to "insert a sentence" where it fits best in the passage.
  • list items Questions on “Reading to Learn”  with more than four choices and more than 1 correct answer. 

Each passage is accompanied by a question about ‘Reading to Learn." Such questions test your ability to recognize how the passage is structured and grasp the connections between facts and ideas. You are asked to sort out information for these questions and place them in a category chart or description. The summary questions are worth up to 2 points each. The chart questions are for up to 3 points if the number of options is 5 and 4 if the number of options is 7. 

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How is the TOEFL Reading Section Scored?

  • list items Skills - Reading
  • list items Score Range - 0 - 30
  • list items Level - Advanced (24 - 30) High-Intermediate (18 - 23) Low-Intermediate (4 - 17) Below Low-Intermediate (0 - 3)  
  • list items Advanced (24 - 30)
  • list items High-Intermediate (18 - 23)
  • list items Low-Intermediate (4 - 17)
  • list items Below Low-Intermediate (0 - 3)  

The section is first scored in raw points (i.e., the total of the number of points you receive per question). The raw score is then converted to a scaled score of 30. A good reading score varies depending on where you are applying, but something above 22 (the 50th percentile) is generally considered good.


What are Some Tips for TOEFL Reading Section?

  • list items Increase your vocabulary by creating a journal of new words: organize word lists by academic subject areas such as biology, psychology, and geology and build flashcards to periodically revisit the terms.
  • list items Understand the meanings of common roots of words, suffixes, and prefixes.
  • list items Look for the main ideas and pay attention to their relationship. Notice how one sentence's end is related to the start of the next sentence.
  • list items Note the important points in a passage and write a summary depicting the trends present in the passage, for example, a comparison or argument between two opinions. 
  • list items Read any academic text. Think about each paragraph's main idea and then write for each paragraph a short "headline" to capture the paragraph's main idea. Then write a description of the whole passage from 5-to6-sentence.
  • list items TOEFL reading practice can be best done by pacing yourself when you read to increase your reading speed. Read a short text (article or short passage from a newspaper or text) once and record the time you need to read it. Then read it again and try to improve the pace of your reading.
  • list items Learn how to read to find information. Scan for the key facts (dates, numbers, and terms) and information to find and highlight passages.
  • list items Pick up words from a passage with similar meanings and notice how the words have been used by the writer in the passage.  
  • list items Practice skimming a paragraph quickly to get a general impression of the main idea rather than reading each word and sentence carefully. Develop the ability to quickly scan and recognize key points. 
  • list items For general vocabulary, try solving different puzzles or crosswords.
  • list items Pick up unfamiliar words from the passage, and try to guess their meanings from the context. 
  • list items Identify the type of the passage while reading (description, narration, cause/effect, classification, compare/ contrast problem/solution).

What are Good Books and Websites for TOEFL Reading Preparation?

ETS Resources (Free Resources)

  • list items TOEFL Practice Sets
  • list items Full-Length Official TOEFL Practice Test
  • list items TOEFL Go!® Official App
  • list items TOEFL Planner
  • list items The Official TOEFL online course from EdX
  • list items TOEFL Talks
  • list items TOEFL TV

Good Books for TOEFL Preparation

  • list items Kaplan’s TOEFL iBT Premier
  • list items Princeton Review Cracking the TOEFL iBT
  • list items Cambridge Preparation for TOEFL
  • list items Barron’s TOEFL iBT

Sample Questions for TOEFL Reading Section Practice - Given below are links that contain sample questions for the TOEFL reading section given by the official body of ETS.

  • list items TOEFL Reading Section Practice Questions 
  • list items TOEFL Reading Section Practice Questions - Test Planner


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What are General Tips for TOEFL Preparation?

  • list items Start off with the preparations in advance. It is advised that you start preparing for the TOEFL around the time you start looking for universities. 
  • list items Make a time-table and study according to it. Create your time-table in such a way that you are able to devote more time to your weaker areas or sections which are tough. 
  • list items Practice daily using TOEFL practice questions and exercise. Always review your mistakes and clarify your doubts to extract the maximum benefit out of your practice. 
  • list items Focus on conceptual clarity. Strengthen your basics in such a way that you are able to solve any question, irrespective of the difficulty level. 
  • list items Make your own time-management strategies to finish the syllabus on time. Decide how much time you need to spend on each section on the basis of your level of preparation and aptitude. Make similar strategies for the exam day also, so that you are able to attempt the test in a systematic and orderly fashion. 
  • list items Practice tons of mock tests to form a stronger grip on the exam pattern and difficulty level. Also, do a SWOT analysis of your performance in all the mock tests and find out the areas where you need to work on more. 

What are Tips for TOEFL Reading Section for One Week before the Exam?

  • list items Network with students who took the exam to learn from their success and mistakes.
  • list items Join online chat rooms, forums, or websites for social networking.
  • list items Spend more time on strengthening your weak areas in the section.
  • list items Take as many mock tests as you can. For the reading section, in particular, you can practice section tests. But it is advised that you practice a full-length test so that you learn how to ace the specific section along with other sections as well. 
  • list items Ask a mentor/teacher to give you feedback on your performance. 
  • list items Keep all your documents ready well in advance. 


What are the Tips to Keep in Mind on the Day of the Exam?

General TOEFL Exam Day Tips

  • list items Know the routes to your exam center and also keep a track of your online account on ETS to be updated with any changes in the dates or timings. 
  • list items Carry all the required documents to the exam center. 
  • list items Reach the exam center on time. 
  • list items Stay calm and don’t panic.
  • list items Cheating leads to disqualification, so refrain from indulging in such activities. 

Exam Day Tips for TOEFL Reading Section

  • list items Read each question carefully and understand what it really asks. Some questions need more than one answer. 
  • list items Concentrate on the present question instead of focusing on the questions you could not answer or questions you are yet to answer. 
  • list items Keep a track of the time. Be particular about the amount of time you should be devoting to each question. If you are not able to solve a question, instead of lingering on it, move on to the next question. 
  • list items You can go back and review/change the answers in the Reading section. However, it is recommended to go back to the section only when you are done with the test. 
  • list items There is a toolbar that shows how many questions are done and how many are left to be answered. You could use this toolbar to determine if you should quicken your speed or maintain the existing speed to finish the test on time. 

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The TOEFL Reading Section is indeed complicated, however, good preparation and rigorous practice can help you achieve your target scores in the section. Additionally, if you need further assistance, you can contact GyanDhan and we will connect you with the best TOEFL preparation institutes for free. 

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