time managemnt

An introduction to TOEFL Reading section questions with tips and tricks

TOEFL Reading section – Overview

The Reading section on TOEFL iBT is usually the first and sometimes the most exhaustive session. It is important to go with a strategy to tackle the reading section in TOEFL. While Chirag has already covered a good strategy for getting a dream TOEFL score with his toefl tips and tricks in his earlier post on TOEFL guide, I would like to concentrate specifically on the TOEFL reading section tips and give you an idea how to score well.


How to score well on TOEFL reading section?

The key to a good TOEFL reading score is timing and strategy. Usually, the TOEFL reading section lasts 60-80 minutes depending on whether you get that extra set of questions or not. Also, some of the questions will require thinking while some will purely be based on your knowledge and range of vocabulary. So it is important that you know which type of questions you will be spending most of your time on. This may sound simple, but it is by far the most efficient trick to crack TOEFL.

TOEFL Reading – The basics

The most important thing required to score well in reading is “paraphrasing”. You should be able to find out the gist of the content after skimming through the passage quickly, mentally make a summary or paraphrase it so that you can know what the passage is all about. You need to understand the overall scheme as well as the agenda that each paragraph is trying to add to the passage.

One quick tip to improve speed is to paraphrase the first and last sentences of the first paragraph and the first sentences of the rest of the paragraphs, this will give you a basic idea of the direction in which the passage is trying to convey its message. This tip comes in very handy when you are trying to tackle the last 2 pointed question.


Type of questions on the TOEFL reading questions.

While TOEFL reading is not much different than the reading comprehension questions of other standardized tests, there are a few question types that you can expect to be more frequent on TOEFL. Here are the tips to question each TOEFL question.

1. Primary objective questions : A question type you can expect on toefl is the usually, “The passage primarily discusses the ……” : This is a type of question that asks the test taker to identify the purpose of the passage. The trick here is to paraphrase and not go too deep. I have seen many students who read the third, second-last and last paragraphs so carefully, noting down some detailed facts that they forget the actual purpose of the passage. If something is discussed at length in a particular paragraph, it doesn’t mean that the purpose of the passage is lying there. Don’t be misguided by irrelevant data and minor details.

2. The word “XYZ”  refers to / is closest in meaning to: These type of questions test the candidate’s knowledge in vocabulary as well as appropriate word usage sense. You need to understand the absolute as well as relative meaning of words to understand what particular message they are trying to convey in that line. Usually, you will find two synonyms or closely related words in the options, but only one of them is the correct answer. The tip here is to practice, practice and practice!

3. The phrase “XYZ ABC BLAH BLAH BLAH” refers to / conveys that: Again pretty similar to question type 2, but here the test is usage of a combination of words to imply something.

4. Normal Multiple choice questions : If it’s your day, you might come up with a normal MCQ which is related to word meaning, synonym or something like “Which of the following is/is not conveyed in XYZ paragraph”. This is the easiest of TOEFL reading question types.

5. Insert a sentence questions : One of the popular TOEFL reading questions, a question type which many find difficult to crack in toefl is the “Insert a sentence question”. While many simply follow the trial and error method (which is not at all harmful), the trick is to look for the stop words and keywords in the adjacent sentences. This would give you a fair idea of the relevance of the paragraph with or without the missing sentences. Combine trial and error with this approach, and voila! you have got the key to success!

6. Organize the content question: Coming back to the skill of paraphrasing, this is the question where it counts the most, usually a 2 point question which would ask you to put together 3-4 single sentences in order to provide a summary of the passage. Here order and accuracy both are important so the early work that you did mentally during paraphrasing needs to be materialized. Save the most of your time for this type of question as they may seem simple but are sometimes tricky!


Pro Tip : Use Grammarly tools to improve your TOEFL score. Not only does it do wonders in improving your writing, the overall improvement seen due to practice with Grammarly also helps in comprehending different writing styles more quickly. Try the free package in the link at the top right corner and subscribe if you find it useful.


If you liked this post, please share it. Click on “subscribe” to follow HEB and get notified when we post more cool stuff!

One thought on “An introduction to TOEFL Reading section questions with tips and tricks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>