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TOEFL Reading Section Guide- Key Points to Remember

Updated on 27 June, 2023

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

The TOEFL reading section analyzes your reading abilities and ability to understand the academic text. The total TOEFL reading section time is 54-72 minutes. You will have to answer all the TOEFL reading questions assigned to you. There are usually 3-4 TOEFL reading passages, with about ten questions each. Excerpts taken from academic textbooks are used as passages, usually sections that serve as an introductory portion of any topic/subject. The passages may cover varied themes or ideas.

TOEFL Overview

The reading section of TOEFL is only one examination part. The English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test is acceptable across 11,500+ global institutions and universities in 160+ countries. These include the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. There are three testing options: the iBT (internet-based test) Home Edition, conventional iBT at the TOEFL testing center, and the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition. The test aims at measuring the fundamental English abilities applicable to classrooms. 

Parts of TOEFL

The TOEFL examination has four parts which are the following: 

  1. TOEFL Listening
  2. TOEFL Reading
  3. TOEFL Writing
  4. TOEFL Speaking

These parts test the English language skills of candidates, assessing their abilities to listen, speak, respond to questions, and write answers. The test requires approximately three hours, although you should allot an additional half an hour per recommendations.

TOEFL Reading Test in Detail

You already know the TOEFL reading section format, i.e. 3-4 passages with about 10 questions for each passage. The total reading section in TOEFL requires 54-72 minutes in all. The TOEFL reading test sectional scoring is reported as between 0 and 30.

Type of QuestionSub-Types
Basic Information & Inferencing
  1. Factual Information (3-6 per passage)
  2. Vocabulary (3-5 per passage)
  3. Inference (1-3 per passage)
  4. Rhetorical Purpose (1-2 per passage)
  5. Insert Text (1 question per passage)
  6. Negative factual information (0-2 questions per passage)
  7. Reference questions (0-2 per passage)
  8. Sentence Simplification questions (0-1 per passage)
Reading to Learn 
  1. Prose Summary
  2. Fill in a Table 

The TOEFL reading section question types may vary. Here are some key points to keep in mind about the TOEFL reading comprehension section: 

  • Reading passages are excerpts that are taken from several college/university books. 
  • They are mostly modified to be meaningful to everyone on their own. Editing is however minimal in this regard. 
  • Every passage is roughly 700 words long though individual portions may be smaller or bigger. 
  • ETS has already classified the passages in the section as expository (explaining any specific topic/subject) or argumentative (text advocating any specific opinion with supporting material) or even historical (based on the events of the past). 
  • The passages may have elements like problem/solution, cause/effect, contrast/compare, or classification as their intrinsic organizational elements. 
  • There are eight question types in the Basic Information and Inferencing section.  Factual information questions are included in reading passages (three to six for each) and vocabulary-based questions (three to five for each passage). The former requires the identification of facts, and the latter requires choosing the right word/phrase definitions in a suitable context.
  • All passages will come with one to three inference and one to two rhetorical purpose questions while there will also be one text-based question each. 
  • Inference questions talk about ideas/arguments which are implicit, while rhetorical purpose questions ask about the usage of facts, quotations, or any other organization. 
  • Insert text questions necessitate choosing the right placements within the passage. Some passages have negative factual information-based questions (0-2) while containing reference questions as well (0-2). 
  • There are sometimes simplification questions (0-1 in every passage) asked. Students should choose the answer that is not true in case of negative factual information queries. Reference queries will be about relationships between words in grammatical contexts. Sentence simplification questions will require choosing the answer which helps in revising and simplifying the sentence. 
  • Reading to Learn questions are of two types: fill in the table and prose summary. Only one question in this segment is expected for every passage. It can be any one of the two types mentioned. 
  • Prose summary queries are about highlighting key ideas and prioritizing them on the basis of their relevance/importance. Fill-in-the-table queries are about contextualizing and organizing ideas from various reading passage portions. 

These are some pointers you must remember before appearing for the reading test in TOEFL.

Recommended Reads:

TOEFL Eligibility CriteriaTOEFL SyllabusTOEFL Exam Dates
TOEFL Exam PatternTOEFL Exam FeeHow to Register for TOEFL

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Guides for TOEFL reading section

Here are some TOEFL reading section tips that will help you score well in this section: 

  1. Enhance vocabulary by creating your own repository of words; organize these lists based on subjects/topics and make flashcards for convenient revision. 
  2. Understand common word relationships, roots, prefixes, suffixes, etc. 
  3. Always watch out for the core ideas in passages and how sentences are related. See how the conclusion of a sentence is linked to the beginning of the next one. 
  4. Note important passage points and write the summary showing the trends indicated, i.e., argument or comparison, if required. 
  5. Write a short headline for every paragraph showcasing its core idea. Then write a description comprising five to six sentences.
  6. You should practice improving your reading speed beforehand. Read texts while recording the time taken for the same. Try to improve and shorten this duration. 
  7. Practice searching for main facts, numbers, terminologies, words, and facts in passages. 
  8. Try to pick up similar-meaning words from passages and see how their authors in sentences have used them. 
  9. Practice quickly getting the core idea of any passage instead of carefully and slowly reading each and every word. 
  10. Try solving crosswords and other puzzles to enhance your vocabulary.  

These tips will help you crack the TOEFL reading section successfully.

Types of TOEFL Reading Passage

The type of questions in TOEFL Reading Section is prepared to evaluate the reading and information abilities of the candidate. The test takers must understand all the question types to solve them effectively.

So, let's understand the different types of questions covered under TOEFL Reading:  

1. Factual Information                 

To answer this question, you must analyze the given information and recognize the details explicitly or stated facts in the passage. These facts could be in the form of ideas, supporting details, or Definitions. Candidates are given four answer choices to choose from. Out of these, they are usually required to pick one answer or sometimes even two. 

2. Negative Factual Information

In negative factual information, you must determine which answer option is 'FALSE.' Four answer options are available: three are true, and one is false.

3. Reading Vocabulary

 In reading Vocabulary, you are given the word or phrase from the passage for which you must select a similar word from the given options. There will be four answer options, of which you must pick the word closest in meaning to the word or phrase in the question.

Know More:

Documents Required for TOEFLHow to Prepare for TOEFLTOEFL Exam Preparation Tips


Frequently Asked Questions

How TOEFL reading is scored?

The TOEFL reading section has 30-40 questions, i.e. around 10 for every passage. You will have 3-4 passages in all. The score is usually between 1-30 points and is shown on the report. This is the scaled reading score.

How to improve the reading section in TOEFL?

  1. You should improve your vocabulary by studying more academic words and carefully reviewing the glossary list. 
  2. Use your skills to scan for the passage's core idea and quickly pick up key numbers, facts, and figures. 
  3. Balance your reading and question-answering in the section while maintaining a good time.

How to answer TOEFL reading questions?

  1. You have to quickly pick up the type of question and find the core idea and keywords in the passage. 
  2. You will have to eliminate the choices not linked to the main topic sentence. 
  3. Eliminate choices that are like non-relevant details and keep scanning the main topic sentences while answering.

How to get a high score in TOEFL reading?

  1. You have to read as much as you can for at least 20-30 minutes each day. 
  2. You should read newspapers, books, and periodicals along with magazines. 
  3. You should also engage in what is known as passive reading, where you read English texts only for your own purpose without any objectives of learning at that moment. 
  4. Improve and build your vocabulary. You should also enhance your reading speed with proper practice.

How many reading passages in TOEFL iBT?

The TOEFL iBT reading section contains 3-4 passages in all. They will have about 10 questions each. You can answer them in 54-72 minutes and they are roughly 700 words each as well.

How long is the TOEFL reading section?

It will take you roughly 54-72 minutes for answering all the reading section questions. There are 30-40 questions asked in the section.

How many questions are in the TOEFL reading section?

There are 30-40 questions (Around 10 questions for every passage) in the TOEFL reading test. You will have to answer three to four passages in all.

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Important IELTS Exam Resources

IELTS Exam Overview

IELTS is required to be taken by international students and workers who wish to study or work in a country where English is the primary language of communication. Know the complete details.

IELTS Online Test

IELTS Exam Syllabus

With the right knowledge of the IELTS exam syllabus and pattern, cracking the popular English test won’t be difficult.

IELTS Syllabus

IELTS Exam Pattern

The IELTS exam pattern encompasses four major sections, i.e. listening, speaking, writing, and reading.

IELTS Exam Pattern

Important Resources For GRE/GMAT Exams

GRE Exam Registration

raduate Record Examination (GRE) is one of the biggest and most popular global tests held by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It is a standardized examination for entry into courses like MBA, MS, and others at universities worldwide.

GRE Registration

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Booking GRE exam dates 2023 is a simple procedure. You can register by paying US$213 (approx. INR 15,700) and providing your valid passport copy or relevant ID.

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GRE Exam Fees

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Important Resources For PTE/SAT/ACT Exam

PTE Examination Eligibility Criteria

There are no specific PTE exam eligibility criteria set by Pearson VUE – the organizers of the test.

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PTE Academic Syllabus

PTE syllabus includes various sections such as Speaking and Writing, Reading, and Listening.

PTE Syllabus

PTE Exam Pattern

The PTE exam pattern is designed to test whether candidates can study at international institutions that have English as the main language for instructions.

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