An introduction to the toefl reading section of the ibt TOEFL Test 1.

1. An introduction to the toefl reading section of the ibt ( Internet-based Test )TOEFL Test.

Since its introduction in  2005, the TOEFL Internet-based Test (iBT) format has progressively replaced the computer-based tests (CBT) and paper-based tests (PBT), although paper-based testing is still used in ceratain areas.

Lesson 3 Dialogue

The toefl reading section tests your Academic Reading Skills.

The Reading section measures your ability to understand and interpret under graduate-level academic texts and passages.  In order to study in an English speaking country or in a study program that is taught in English you are expected to read and understand information from textbooks and other academic materials that are written in English.

The three main purposes for academic reading:

Basic Comprehension.

  • An understanding the general topic or main idea, major points, important facts and details, vocabulary in context, and pronoun usage
  • Making inferences about what is implied in a passage

Reading to Find Information

  • Effectively scanning text for key facts and important information
  • Increasing reading fluency and rate

Reading to Learn.

  • Recognizing the organization and purpose of a passage.
  • Understanding relationships between ideas.
  • Organizing information into a category chart or a summary in order to recall major points and important details.
  • Inferring how ideas connect throughout the passage.

Reading Section Description.

The toefl  iBT Reading section includes three to five reading passages.

There are 12 to 14 questions per passage.

You have 60 to 100 minutes to answer all the questions in the section.

TOEFL  Reading passages are excerpts from college textbooks that would be used in introductions to a discipline or topic.

The excerpts are changed as little as possible because the goal of the TOEFL iBT test is to assess how well you can read the kind of writing that is used in an academic environment.

The passages will cover a variety of different subjects.

You don’t need to be familiar with the topic of a passage. All the information you need to answer the questions will be in the passage itself.

Often passages present information about the topic from more than one perspective or point of view. This is something you should note as you read because you’ll usually be asked at least one question that allows you to show that you have understood the general organization of the passage. You must read through or scroll to the end of each passage before receiving questions on that passage.

Once the questions come up on the screen, the passage appears on the right side of the computer screen. The questions are on the left.

Reading Question Formats.

There are three question formats in the Reading section:

  • Questions with four choices but a single answer in traditional multiple-choice format.
  • Questions with four choices and a single answer that ask you to “insert a sentence” where it fits best in a passage.
  • “Reading to learn” questions with more than four choices and more than one possible correct answer.

Each passage is accompanied by a “reading to learn” question.

These questions test your ability to recognize how the passage is organized and to understand the relationships among facts and ideas in different parts of the passage. For these questions, you’re asked to sort information and place the text options provided into a category chart or summary.

The summary questions are worth up to two points each. The chart questions are worth up to three points if there are five options presented, and up to four points if there are seven options presented.

Reading Skills Practice.

You can improve your reading skills in English by reading regularly, especially university textbooks or other materials that cover a variety of subject areas—such as sciences, social sciences, arts, business— and are written in an academic style.

The Internet is one of the best resources for reading material, but books, magazines or journals of any kind are very helpful as well. It’s best to include material that is more academic in style, the kind that would be found in university courses. Reading as much as possible in English is an essential part of building your reading skills. Reading and listening at the same time will make the experience much more beneficial.

General Reading Activities.

Try these general activities to hone your reading skills:

  • Increase your vocabulary by keeping a journal of new words:

Watch our TOEFL Vocabulary videos,which contain word lists and flash-cards to review the words frequently. – Learn to recognize the meanings of prefixes, suffixes and common roots of words.

  • Study the organization of academic texts:

Look for the main ideas and the relevant details and note the relationship between them. Notice how the end of one sentence is related to the beginning of the next sentence.

Make a list of the important points of the passage and then write a summary of them. If the text is a comparison, be sure your summary shows that.

If the text puts forward two points of view, make sure both are reflected in your summary.

Find a companion or do an online class with us to help improve your reading skills. You read an article out loud from a journal or magazine ask them to correct you.

Basic information questions (who, what, where, when, how and why) are very helpful.

Read a Reading passage out loud from The Official Guide to the TOEFL® Test or from any academic text. Think about the main idea of each paragraph and then write a “heading” for each paragraph. The “heading” should be short (five to eight words) and it should convey the main idea of the paragraph. Then write a five- to six sentence summary of each passage.

Do not forget that the toefl reading section is worth 30 points out of a possible 120. Cut up a newspaper or a photocopy of  an academic text into paragraphs and then try to put the text back together in the original order. Look out for words that give you clues about the ordering of the paragraphs to help you put the text back together again .


Work on increasing your reading speed. This can be done by timing yourself as you read. Practice makes perfect, look at our many videos and improve your listening at the same time.

Read a short text (article or short reading from a text) once and record the time it takes you to read it. Then read it again and try to improve your reading speed.

  • Join a book club and discuss books in each meeting.
  • Write a synopsis  of teach texts or book you read. Summarizing skills will not help you with the TOEFL iBT Reading section but learning to summarize reading passages will help you on the Speaking and Writing sections.

Use  Activities that are designed to help you with,  “Reading to Find Information”

Practice  Scanning passages to find and highlight key facts, such as: dates, numbers, definitions and information.

Look for capital letters, numbers and symbols, and special formatting (such as italics) as you are scanning.

Look out for words in a passage that have the same meaning. Highlight each one with a marker pen. Then look at how the writer used these words with similar meanings.

Targeted Activities Reading for Basic Comprehension.

Try these activities to practice for “Reading for Basic Comprehension” questions:

Practice skimming a passage quickly to get a general impression of the main idea instead of carefully reading each word and each sentence. Practice reading the introductory paragraph, the first sentences of paragraphs and the concluding paragraph to get the gist of a passage.

Develop the ability to skim quickly and identify major points. After skimming a passage, read it again more carefully and write down the main idea, major points and important facts.

Choose some unfamiliar words in a passage and guess the meaning from the context (surrounding sentences). Then look the words up to confirm their meaning.

  • Underline all pronouns (for example: he, him, they, them, etc.) and identify the nouns to which they refer in the passage.
  • Paraphrase individual sentences in a passage. Then paraphrase entire paragraphs. Adapted Activities Reading to Learn.

Whenever you read, identify the passage type (cause/effect, compare/contrast, classification, problem/solution, description, narration).

Organize the information in the passage:

Make a list of the major points of the passage and the minor points that support them. – If the passage categorizes information, create a chart and place the information in appropriate categories. Create an oral or written summary of the passage using the charts, lists and outlines.

You won’t be asked to create charts on the test. Instead, a chart with possible answer choices will be provided and you’ll be asked to fill in the chart with the correct choices. By creating practice charts, however, you can practice categorizing information,

Toefl Reading Section Directions:

These sample questions in the Reading section measure your ability to understand academic passages in English. You will read one passage and answer questions about it. In a real test, you would have 20 minutes to read the passage and answer the questions. Candidates with disabilities may request a time extension.

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An intronduction to the TOEFL Reading section with exercises.