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TOEFL iBT Reading Skills

Reading is the first section of the TOEFL iBT. It includes 3 to 5 reading passages (about 700 words long) and 12-14 questions following each passage. You are given 60 -100 minutes to answer all the questions in the entire section.

Do not be frightened if the subject of the TOEFL iBT Reading passage is unfamiliar to you. All of the information you need to choose the right answer is given. In addition, you will find the definition to some of the technical terms in the glossary that is available during the test.

Skim through the passage to get the main idea and organization of ideas in the passage. Since you can reread the text while answering the questions, it's not necessary to read the passage in depth. This technique will enable you to devote more time to the question and answer choices. Nevertheless, if you're running out of time, guess at an answer, as it can only increase your score. On the TOEFL, there is no penalty for incorrect answers.

There are 10-12 different types of multiple choice TOEFL iBT reading questions. The way to get a high score is to become familiar with all types of questions. This will help you to narrow down the options and select the right answer.

TOEFL iBT reading questions fall into three categories: basic information, inferencing skills and reading to learn skills. These questions can be of different kinds:

  • understanding facts and details
  • identifying negative facts
  • locating referrents
  • understanding vocabulary in context
  • making inferences
  • determining purpose
  • paraphrasing
  • understanding coherence
  • identifying main ideas
  • following logic
  • summarizing important points

Each of the major TOEFL iBT guidebooks, such as ETS, Delta, Barron's, Longman, Kaplan, and Cambridge, provide you with lots of guidelines and practice in answering each of these questions. While completing their practice exercises and tests, it's helpful to keep track of the type of questions you tend to get wrong, so you can identify what you need to work on.

Learning and practicing certain reading and academic strategies can help you succeed on the TOEFL and after the TOEFL. While preparing for the test, read on a variety of topics to expand your vocabulary. You can read from textbooks, newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals and websites. Guess at the meaning of unfamiliar words and try to grasp the main idea even when you don't know the meaning of each word.

Other skills worth developing include: pre-viewing, reading faster, using context, making inferences, skimming, scanning, making connections, summarizing, taking notes, and synthesizing.

Improving each of these sub-skills will enable you to get a higher overall score in the reading section.