How do I Score Well on TOEFL&Reg; Reading?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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Scoring well on the reading section of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL®) requires learning how to quickly skim and summarize passages of text in English in order to respond to questions about them. People getting ready for this test should read widely in English to develop reading skills and vocabulary, which will also be helpful for other sections of the test. In addition, it helps to develop strategies for managing test questions effectively.

On the TOEFL® reading section, test-takers will have several passages taken from textbooks, with 36 to 70 questions about those passages. Between 60 and 100 minutes are allotted for this section and there is no guessing penalty. Test-takers can skip questions they can't immediately answer, a good test-taking strategy, but they should remember to fill them in later, even if they pick answers at random.

TOEFL® reading preparation should involve reading English text from lots of sources. It helps to start summarizing texts by writing out a descriptive sentence for each paragraph to develop a concise, clear summary. Skimming skills, allowing readers to quickly find the important information in a passage, are also helpful. People should look for connecting phrases that link concepts in addition to searching for exclusive words indicating that concepts are not linked, like “furthermore” and “with the exception of.”


Test questions tend to follow familiar formats and people should look for key words like “is not” and “best.” A TOEFL® reading test question might say “According to the text, which are the best foods to feed horses?” The test-taker knows to look for the keyword “best” and work backward from there to see what the question is asking. It is also critically important to pay attention to how test questions use “is” and “is not,” as the answers would be opposites.

Practice tests can help people refine TOEFL® reading test skills. Many sample passages and questions are available along with answer keys so people can try answering questions in simulated conditions and identify where the weak points in their testing lie. For example, if people skim too quickly, they may not pull the most important information out of the passage and could answer questions incorrectly. Conversely, taking too long to read the passage may result in not having enough time to read the questions properly.

Disability accommodations are available to TOEFL® test-takers. People who cannot complete the test within the time allotted or need materials in a different format should file a request ahead of time. This can be critical for sections like the TOEFL® reading, where extra time for test-takers with conditions like dyslexia may be very important.


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Post 3

@pastanaga - It does depend on what level you are on and what you're hoping to do with it. I would definitely agree that anyone over a high level of proficiency in English, who is hoping to go to university or maybe work in a business capacity with their language need to be very picky about who they learn from.

But the average person who just wants an additional skill for their resume and doesn't need to test for very high proficiency could probably just make do with a tutor out of the newspaper for TOEFL practice.

Post 2

@bythewell - Just make sure you do get someone who is good at English and not just an English speaker. I have known English speakers who would not score as well on a TOEFL test as someone learning English as a second language, simply because they have never had to think critically about words.

I went through a course a few years ago to learn how to teach English so that I could help new immigrants to my area and it's amazing how much we take for granted about a language we learned as children.

So choose your tutors wisely and make sure they aren't going to harm your education more than help it.

Post 1

Make sure you read everything twice so that you know for sure that you're going to get the answers right. I find that if I read the text, then the answers and then the text again, it helps to cement it in my mind, even if it doesn't seem like it would be very fast.

If you can do some practice tests and get someone who is very good at English to explain what you got wrong, that's the best preparation you can make.

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