Reading is the first section of the TOEFL iBT test. Designed to determine an individual’s ability to understand and interpret university-level reading material, the reading section is comprised of  3 or 4 academic passages.

You will be given 60–80 minutes to complete the section. After reading 3 or 4 passages, you will have to answer several questions (36–56 questions). Of course, the questions will be related to the passages.

The majority of the questions in the reading section are in multiple choice format.

Kind of Reading Subjects to Expect

Although the reading subjects may vary, you can expect to see topics related to literature, history, science, psychology and several other topics. The most important thing you need to remember is that the reading section only covers academic English passages.

Length of Reading Passages

On average, the passages are about 700 words each. It is important that you manage your time well because of the lengthy passages. Once you’ve read them, you will have to attempt the accompanying questions. Each passage is generally followed by 12 to 14 questions.

Therefore, do not spend too much on one question. Ideally, you should spend 20 minutes (per passage and accompanying questions) or less. Keep in mind, all questions have the same score.


Try to read every passage quickly. Each question will be on one side of your computer screen, while the reading passage will be  on the other side.

Several questions will be based on a specific paragraph. You can even read that paragraph again.  Also, you do not have to answer questions in any particular order.

If you prefer attempting easier questions first, you can browse through all the questions of a passage. Do the harder questions in the end. Also, make sure to review all the questions. Use the review button on your screen for this purpose.

Score Range

The score range for the reading section is:

22 to 30 – High

15 to 21 – Intermediate

0 to 14 – Low

Type of Reading Questions

Reading questions are developed to evaluate a test taker’s comprehension or critical thinking skills. Generally speaking, you can expect the following types of questions:

Factual: This type of question asks to confirm information, facts or details found in the reading passage.

Negative factual: This type of question requires a test taker to determine what was not mentioned in a given passage. You will have to choose the right multiple choice answer. Most negative factual questions have the terms ‘except’ or ‘not.’

Inference: Inference questions have an argument that is not directly mentioned in the reading passage. You will have to understand the correct meaning from the passage yourself.

Vocabulary: Vocabulary questions check an individual’s grasp of specific words and phrases stated in the passage. You will be asked to identify the correct meaning of certain words and phrases (in the passage). Focus on how the word or phrase is used in context rather than its literal meaning.

Rhetorical purpose: In order to attempt a rhetorical question, you will have to answer why the passage’s author presented the given information and ideas in a specific manner.

Sentence simplification: This question asks for selecting a sentence with the same basic meaning as a highlighted sentence (in the reading passage).

Insert sentences: You will be asked to insert a new sentence in the reading passage. You will be given four spots to insert the sentence in the passage.

Whichever option you choose, the inserted sentence should make sense. Consider the context of the passage and its grammatical connections when attempting this type of questions.

Summary information: You will be asked to select options that best represent the main ideas in a certain passage.

Reference: A reference question asks for understanding and identifying relationships between words in the given passage.

Fill in table: You will have to fill in a partially-completed table. The table should be filled with key information presented in the passage. This type of question determines a test taker’s ability to categorise between essential and irrelevant information.

Essential Preparation Tips

Read as much as you can: Develop a habit of reading. Read academic texts on various topics every day.

After reading a few paragraphs, pause and reflect on what the author is saying. Critically analyse the main ideas, thoughts and information and then summarise them. Keep an eye on new words and find out their meaning.

Expand your vocabulary: Work on your vocabulary because it is a very important part of the TOEFL exam. Knowing new words will help you not just in the reading section, but also the writing section.

Practice taking notes: You may want to take down notes while reading the passages so that you remember important information. Before your test, practice taking brief notes as much as you can.

Essential Tips for Answering Questions

Read every answer choice: The answer choices are a bit tricky. Some choices may seem like the right answer, but they are not.

It is, therefore, imperative that you read every choice carefully before choosing one.

Skim through the reading passage: Do not spend a lot of time reading every passage. Browse through them and look for main points. Summarise main points on a paper as you read along.

Similarly, if you do not know the answer of a certain question, move on to the next question. Do no waste too much time on a question.


Remember, you have the option to read the passage as well as review your answer again.

If you are looking for preparation materials for the TOEFL iBT reading section, uMasterExam offers the best books, prep courses and practice tests online for free.

uMasterExam is also the most reliable place to find a qualified, experienced TOEFL tutor. A tutor can help you get accustomed to the test format and provide guidance and support to ace the English language exam.

Accepted in over 10,000 colleges, universities and organisations in the US, Australia and many other countries, TOEFL iBT can be quite difficult for non-native English speakers. uMasterExam’s online TOEFL preparation guide  can help them prepare for the test and achieve their academic and professional goals.

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