What is special about the Reading Section in TOEFL iBT?

What is special about the Reading Section in TOEFL iBT?

There are many international exams in English, and most of them, if not all, include Reading as a tested skill. Multiple choice, True/False/Not Given, Matching (e.g. headings to paragraphs, or people to their opinions) – those are typical types of questions a candidate may expect. However, TOEFL iBT may surprise even an experienced test-taker.

You never know how many questions there will be

The test will contain 3 or 4 passages from academic texts, and you will have to answer 36-56 questions and spend around 20 min on one passage, thus total 60-80 min for the whole Reading section. Normally, there are 12-14 questions for every passage. Good news – you see how many questions there are for the given passage once you start working on it, and how much time – 60 or 80 min – you have to complete the Reading section, so you can manage your time accordingly. The reason why the number of passages and, therefore, the number of questions are a mystery is that one passage is actually being tested against all the test validity criteria for its future use. The problem is, you’ll never know which one ☺

Some words will be explained

If you see a word or phrase in the TOEFL iBT text underlined in blue – go ahead and click on it. A dictionary definition will appear on the page for your reference. Usually, those are technical words and field-specific terminology. Nice, isn’t it? Too bad there are very few of such clickable words.

Almost all questions in the Reading section are Multiple Choice questions

Although the nature of the choice may be very different, you practically always have to choose from four options – A, B, С and D, which in turn means that you always have a chance just to guess.

The Reading section is where Vocabulary is tested too

Almost every passage will be accompanied with questions asking you to choose a synonym for a word in the passage. Make sure you read the context even if you know the word – you are expected to choose what it means specifically in the context of the passage.

Grammar and Discourse are there too

Another popular type of questions is Reference questions, where you are asked to choose what a certain pronoun (it, they, both, another, etc) refers to. Again, practically all you need is the context and your knowledge of grammar and discourse.

You need that knowledge again in Insert type of questions, where you need to choose the best place in the text (out of four options) to insert a given sentence. What really helps here is technology – you literally сlick on the place in the text and the sentence in question appears there. Very convenient to read the context before and after the sentence!

Ability to paraphrase is tested quite directly

Obviously, the subskill of paraphrasing is useful in all sections of the test, but here in Reading it is tested as it is: you have to choose a sentence which is closest in meaning to the one in the passage.


Summary completion is worth 2 points rather than 1

You can find exercises to practise different types of question in the book “ Longman Preparation Course”.

All in all, make sure you prepared for the Reading section of TOEFL iBT carefully and that you are familiar with the format and types of questions, otherwise there might be a few unexpected things, and this is not what you want on the day of the test.

What TOEFL Section do you find the most challenging?



Анна Николаева

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