You finally signed up for the TOEFL exam and started studying the reading section.

But you can't seem to figure out where to start!

A confused-looking woman saying,

Adopting these strategies can help you ace the TOEFL reading section with speed and accuracy.

1. Get to know the TOEFL reading section

The reading section tests your ability to read and understand materials in an academic setting.

A woman flipping a page while reading a book

The reading section:

  • consists of 3-4 reading passages 700-word excerpts from university-level textbooks on introductions to a topic, each with multiple paragraphs

  • includes 30-40 questions, with 10 questions per passage

  • must be completed within 54 to 72 minutes

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Although only 30 questions count toward your final score, an extra non-graded dummy passage with 10 questions is sometimes given by ETS to test out new material.


Tim is taking the TOEFL reading section and was given 40 questions to answer, meaning he has encountered a dummy passage. How does he know which is the dummy passage?

2. Decide what reading style works best for you

A student taking a test on paper

Different people have different approaches to the TOEFL reading passages. Here are some of them:

  • Read the question first to pick up the keywords and scan the passage for the answer.

  • Read the question first and read the whole passage before answering the question.

  • Read the passage before reading and answering the question.

Depending on your comfort level, you may try out the methods above and choose the strategy that works best for you!

3. Familiarize yourself with the question types

By getting to know the question types, you'll know what to expect.

These are the 10 question types:

Table showing the TOEFL reading section question types. Left column: 10 question types; Right column: Corresponding examples

To listen to the contents of the image above, play the audio below:

Familiarizing yourself with the question types will help you formulate your own strategies to better answer them.

For example:

  • Since you know that Prose Summary questions ask you to select choices containing the main idea, you can eliminate choices containing specific details or examples.

4. Follow these useful tips

Here are some more strategies that can help you practice answering the reading section.

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Pace yourself to manage your time wisely.

  • Practice reading with a timer to ensure you don't go over the time limit.

  • Make sure you don’t spend too much time on a single question.

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Reflect on your mistakes from practice tests to prevent making them again.

  • Keep note of your mistakes and try answering them again after some time.

  • Track what type of questions you usually get wrong and focus on them.

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Practice reading academic texts to expose yourself to passages about different topics.

  • Check out university-level academic texts.

  • Read up on a variety of subjects, especially those that you have difficulty understanding.

  • Consistently read at least a few pages every day.

⚡ Check your knowledge

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Meet Bobby. Bobby is taking a timed TOEFL practice test. While skimming through a passage in the reading section, he comes across a word he's unfamiliar with.

What should he do?

A. Ignore it because it probably won’t come up again later.

B. Look up the meaning in the middle of the test.

C. Mark the word and go back to it later.

D. Keep trying to find its meaning even if it takes too long.


What should Bobby do?

Take Action

The TOEFL reading section is challenging but your effort will pay off. Practice these strategies to nail your exam!

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