TOEFL Reading Section Overview

TOEFL Reading Section Format

Outline Details
Length of Passage: Approximately 700 words
Number of Passages: 2 passages
Questions: 10 questions per passage
Total Time: 35 minutes
Avg. Time per Question: 1.75 min
When Questions will appear: After test takers finish read through or scroll to the end of the passage
Screen/Test Details: (a) Test takers can view the entire passage while answering; (b) They can also review all the previous reading questions and answers and even fill out the missed answers; (c) They can now click on some special purpose words and phrases in the reading passages to view a definition or explanation

The TOEFL Reading Section Will Test Your Ability To:

  • Locate information with speed and accuracy, such as skimming text for key facts and important information
  • Obtain basic comprehension, such as understanding the main idea, key points, passage structure, passage purpose, important facts and details, vocabulary in context, and pronoun references
  • Learn from reading, such as understanding various relationships between ideas (e.g., compare-and-contrast, cause-and-effect, agree-disagree, or steps in a process) and tracing the development of ideas throughout the passage
  • Make inferences about an author’s opinion and what is implied in a passage

TOEFL Reading Section Details

The TOEFL iBT Reading section assesses how well you can read and understand materials used in an academic environment.

It includes 2 reading passages, each approximately 700 words long, with 10 questions per passage. It should take about 35 minutes to complete the Reading section.

Reading passages are excerpts from university-level textbooks that would be used in introductions to a topic. The passages cover a variety of subjects. Don't worry if you're not familiar with the topic of a passage. All the information you need to answer the questions will be included in the passage. There is a glossary feature available to define words not commonly used, if you need it.

TOEFL Reading Question Types by Format

  • Questions with four choices and a single answer in traditional multiple-choice format
  • Questions with four choices and a single answer that ask test takers to “insert a sentence” where it fits best in a passage
  • “Reading to learn” chart or summary questions with more than four choices and more than one answer

TOEFL Reading Question Main Types by Content

  • Exposition - Explains a topic
  • Argumentation – Argues a point of view about a topic with evidence
  • Historical biographical/event narrative – Records a past event or a person’s life

TOEFL Reading Question Detailed Types by Content

The TOEFL reading section is broken down into 10 different reading question types. Many TOEFL test-takers find it easier to complete a reading section on time if they are aware of the reading questions they will encounter, and then be able to identify them. Here is a quick rundown of each question type you will encounter:

Facts/Details: These questions want to know specific information found in the passage. The easiest thing about this question type? It’s always possible to find the answer, since it’s found directly in the passage!

Negative Facts/Details: These questions sometimes confuse students because they ask for the wrong answer, not the right answer. These questions are easily identified because they contain the words “NOT” or “EXCEPT.”

Referent: Another word for “referent” is “pronoun.” These questions require a sharp eye and a solid knowledge of singular/plural, masculine/plural pronouns.

Vocabulary: Vocabulary questions ask for definitions of specific words that are closest in meaning out of all four possible answers.

Inference: Inference questions can be difficult because they are asking you to infer or imply something about the passage, meaning it’s not stated outright, like in a fact/detail question.

Purpose: This question type asks the reason, or purpose behind a reading passage or portion of a reading passage. Often times, the word “purpose” is actually found in this type of question.

Paraphrase: Paraphrasing means saying the same thing in similar words. On the TOEFL, paraphrase questions will ask you to choose a sentence that is most like a specific highlighted sentence within the passage.

Coherence: Another phrase for coherence questions is “sentence insertion.” For these questions, you are required to take a sentence in bold and replace it within the most appropriate place within the passage. Coherence questions require an eye for where a sentence is specifically placed within a sentence.

Summarizing: Summarizing questions ask you to form a summary based off of six possible sentences. You are often asked to choose three out of six that most closely resemble a topic sentence given to you – all of which are related to the reading passage.

Categorizing Information: When approaching categorizing information questions, you are asked to place specific bits of information into categories related to the passage. Often, categorizing questions are found at the end of a 20-minute reading section.

Overall, recognizing TOEFL question types can expedite your process when working through a reading section. Along with each question type comes specific strategies – all of which a very knowledgeable TOEFL preparation instructor at Manhattan Elite Prep can assist you with!