Structure of the TOEFL Reading Section

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  • 0:01 TOEFL Reading
  • 1:06 Passages & Timing
  • 1:56 Questions
  • 3:43 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Here's a preview of what you'll see on the Reading Section of the TOEFL, including passages, question types, and timing. The TOEFL is different from the reading tests you probably take in class, so it's best to be prepared!

TOEFL Reading

When you're doing something hard, starting off strong can make all the difference. And on the TOEFL Reading Test, that's exactly what you should do: the Reading is the first section of the whole test, so getting ahead here will give you confidence to go into the rest without fear. Ready to dive in?

The TOEFL Reading Test is a test of how well you can understand passages that you read in English. That might sound like the tests you take in school, but most students actually find that the TOEFL is significantly different from school tests. For one thing, the questions are different. For reading tests in school, you probably had to read books and discuss what happened in them, but on the TOEFL, you have to read passages and understand facts about them.

Each question has only one right answer, and there's no discussion at all. Some of the questions also have a pretty strange layout that you've probably never seen before. These things could potentially affect your score, but there's a simple way to deal with them: practice! In this lesson, you'll learn about the test format so you're prepared to handle all the weird stuff without a hitch.

Passages & Timing

On the TOEFL Reading Test, you'll spend the whole time reading passages and answering questions about them. The test lasts between 60 and 80 minutes, depending on the number of passages. You'll read three or four passages, with 12-14 questions each. In total, you'll answer between 36 and 56 questions. In all, that's roughly 20 minutes per passage and one to two minutes per question.

The passages on the test are designed to imitate the writing you'll find in English-language textbooks. They won't require any special knowledge, though: You'll be able to read every passage without studying the subject beforehand. You don't need to study anything for the TOEFL but English; if your English is good enough to read the passage, you'll be all set for the questions.


Now, let's talk about those questions. All the questions are based completely on the passage. You'll never have to remember anything from any other classes. The TOEFL Reading Test is 100% about how well you understand the words on the page, not about how much you remember from other books or reading material. Each TOEFL question will be asking you to do one of three things:

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