The TOEFL iBT Reading Section

The TOEFL iBT Reading Section measures the test-takers ability to read, understand and answer questions on a typical University level academic reading passage.  The test-taker will be tested on his or her comprehension of the main ideas of the passage, important details and information within the passage, various vocabulary terms within the passage (multiple choice questions using contextual information), and the relationships between different ideas and pieces of information within the passages.

There Will *Normally Be 3 Reading Passages In The Exam

Each Passage Has:

  • A 20-Minute Time-Limit
    (This allows for approximately 3 minutes to read the passage; 1 minute to spend on each question; and a few minutes to review.)
  • 600 – 700 Words Per Passage
  • 12 – 14 Questions
    (of various question types)

*There are situations where a test-taker may be randomly selected to do an extended version of the exam.  In these cases, the test-taker will receive 4 or 5 passages.  The test-taker will only be graded on 3 of the passages but will NOT know which passages will be graded.  If a test-taker is given the extended version, the timer will be adjusted to allow for more time (80-100 minutes total)

The Test-Taker Will Be Required To:

  • Identify The Main Idea And The Supporting Details Of Each Passage
  • Identify True And False Information Within Each Passage
    (or what information is not specifically stated)
  • Identify The Proper Definition Of Specific Words And Phrases Within Each Passage
    (according to multiple choice answers given)
  • Identify Implied Meanings And Inferences Within Each Passage
  • Identify The Author’s Purpose For Each Passage
    (Why is the author giving the information?)
  • Identify The Connection Between Different Ideas Contained Within The Sentences, Paragraphs, Or The Entire Passage
  • Summarize And Organize Important Information Within Each Passage
    (according to multiple choice answers given)

What Are The Passages About?

The passages in the TOEFL iBT Reading Section are based upon the types of subjects that a student attending a typical American university might expect to read within the first or second year courses.  The information within the exam are samples of true information taken from actual textbooks, and are on a range of topics.  The topics may include:

  • The Natural Sciences
  • The Social Sciences
  • Business
  • History
  • The Arts

The language used in the passages is always formal and academic.  The rhetorical purpose of the passages could range from a number of the following:

  • Argumentative
  • Biographical
  • Expository
  • Historical

All of the questions given for each passage are based solely on information from each passage.  The test-taker is **not required or expected to have prior knowledge of the subject.

**(The questions about vocabulary terms are always multiple choice questions based on contextual information so that if a test-taker does not know the specific word prior to the test, then that test-taker is given a chance to make an educated guess based on the surrounding information…  Most other vocabulary terms are defined within each passage.)




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