Study Each Step With Care back to top
This is a general message to repeat something very important: how we should study to get the most out of our system and rocket our score up as quickly as possible. First, make sure to study with colored pens to engage all parts of your brain and force you to categorize and organize your notes better. Second, always take things one step at a time. Don't jump ahead and review consistently in the way described on the introduction page to ensure mastery. Third, be patient with your progress. It takes time to improve. With this program and your focus, trust that you are improving as quickly as possible and if you feel that you're not, let us know and we'll do our best to help you. Fourth, don't study when frustrated. It just builds negative habits and limits the power of your time. When you feel frustrated, visit our "motivation" page, take a break, and return when you're energized and ready. Improving on the TOEFL takes a great degree of focus and studying while frustrated is not likely to help much. Fifth, take regular breaks. Your brain remembers the beginning and endings of your study sessions most, so make as many of them as you can: take a 5 to 15 minute break every 45 to 55 minutes. Sixth, good luck! You will do it and we'll be here to help you every step of the way until you do.
TOEFL Reading Overview back to top
When you sit down and take your seat after you’re finished registering and the examiner allows you to start the exam, you’re going to see the instructions for the reading section. They’re going to be read out loud to you. That’s going to give you some time to psychologically prepare yourself and become comfortable with what’s going to come next: the all-powerful reading section.
After the instructions are finished, your first reading will appear. It will consist of 700 words and it will take up the whole screen of your monitor, so you’re not going to see any questions. You will need to scroll down through the reading and then click next before you start to see the questions. The reason is to give you a chance to look at the reading. It doesn't mean that you should read the whole essay though. (We’ll learn more about what to do here later.)
The TOEFL Readings back to top
Remember (from the TOEFL overview section) that you'll receive either 3 or 4 readings on your TOEFL. Each reading will contain approximately 700 words and require you to answer 14 questions within 20 minutes. You’ll see a timer on the upper-right hand corner of your exam. It’s there to help make sure that you don’t spend too much time on any one question and it’s going to count from 60 or 80 minutes down to 0 (depending on if you get that extra experimental reading or not; explained in our TOEFL overview section). Once it hits 0, your answers will be recorded and you will move on to the listening section never to return to the reading again. Consequently, to succeed, look at that timer and monitor your time as you answer the questions to answer all of them (or at least guess on them) before time runs out.
Answering on the TOEFL Reading back to top
As you answer, you will always be able to jump to different questions. For example, let’s say you’re answering questions 1, 2, 3, 4, and then 5. Then, you think to yourself,
“Wait a second, I think I understand 3 better. Let me go back and change the answer.”
You will be able to do that. When you finish the last question (number 42 or 56), you’re going to see a chart that shows you the questions that you answered and didn’t answer. You’ll be able to double-click on a question to jump directly to it in the reading. You'll also be able to jump around a bit for the questions in the reading you're succeeding at during the exam. I’m explaining this to let you know that you can bounce around once you finish the reading to double check your answers. But, of course, we’ll learn to be focused and exact as we answer so that we won’t need to do this.
When you finish the first reading, you’re going to move on to another reading and so on and so on until you complete your set: either 3 or 4.
Attacking the TOEFL Reading back to top
First, you don’t want to read the whole passage before you start answering the questions; if you do, it will be a very inefficient and time-wasting way to read. Instead, acquire a basic idea of the reading and prepare your mind for what you’re going to read about by first reading the title. Then, read the first sentence (which is the all important topic sentence) of every paragraph. Do this to get a quick introduction to the reading before you read it in detail. Below is a picture to get a visual idea of this; it's that important that we created an image to make it absolutely clear. The black boxes represent the title and paragraphs and the red lines represent what you will read.
Only spend 1 minute doing this. Anymore than that and it will be too much time; spend all of the time that you can answering the questions since that’s where your score comes from. To finish within 1 minute, you might have to read only pieces of the first sentences (subject, verb, object only) since they can be quite big.
After you read the first sentence, read question number 1, not the answers but the question. Establish an idea of what it’s asking about. Then, start reading the passage from the very beginning in search of the answer to that question. In this way, you will concentrate only on what’s important and what will earn you a higher score. We read the first sentences in the first minute to picture the idea of what the passage is about as we work to answer the question; it helps. This challenges students when they aren’t used to it. However, everyone who’s tried it sticks with this method of attack because it works.
Once you answer question number 1, go onto question number 2 in the same way. The TOEFL questions proceed in chronological order, so the answer to number 1 is in the beginning of the passage and the answer to number 12 is towards the end.
As we discussed earlier, timing is important and it’s very easy for students to run out of time. Follow this guideline carefully and you will NEVER have that trouble again. That's right: you will never have trouble again.
80 min - 79 min : read the first sentences
79 min - 72:40 min : answer questions 1 - 5
72:40 min - 66:20 min : answer questions 6 - 10
66:20 min - 60 min : answer questions 11 - 14
60 min - 59 min : read the first sentences
59 min - 52:40 min : answer questions 1 - 5
52:40 min - 46:20 min : answer questions 6 - 10
46:20 min - 40 min : answer questions 11 - 14
40 min - 39 min : read the first sentences
39 min - 32:40 min : answer questions 1 - 5
32:40 min - 26:20 min : answer questions 6 - 10
26:20 min - 20:00 min : answer questions 11 - 14
20 min - 19 min : read the first sentences
19 min - 12:40 min : answer questions 15 - 19
12:40 min - 6:20 min : answer questions 20 - 24
6:20 min - 0 min : answer questions 25 - 28
You should be able to tell that through this timing guideline, you have more time to answer the final questions of the reading than the first questions. The final questions demand the most time and concentration, so don’t change this.
Also, this timing structure is set up for when you do have an extra experimental reading. If you don't, simply start from 60 minutes and follow the timing precisely.
TOEFL Reading Question Types and Strategies back to top
Below is a lecture that I recorded to explain the basics of the question types that you'll find on the TOEFL readings and the strategies to answer them. This is a very important part of your preparation because these strategies will help you to answer faster, easier, and more accurately. Consequently, pay careful attention, listen more than once, and take great notes. Audio step 1-Practice
Practice TOEFL Reading back to top
1. Set your online stopwatch to 20 min.
(click here to open an online stopwatch)
2. Start the stopwatch and start the reading.
3. When the timer stops, stop your work
4. Mark your notes at the point where you stopped.
1. According to paragraph 1, what do scientists use to determine whether or not an area is labeled a desert? a. The amount of annual rainfall
b. The lack of groundwater resources
c. Topographical characteristics
d. The absence of flats and depressions in the landscape
2. The word “depressions” in the passage is closest in meaning to a. rifts
With the advent of modern technology, however, this flooding is largely managed by human hands, which has required more governmental cooperation among nations in crafting treaties and agreements regulating the use of these river basins.
3. Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information. a. Government involvement in the creation of treaties and agreements enhances flood-controlling modern technology of river basins. b. Technology has allowed for better human management of floods, making river basin regulation agreements largely unnecessary. c. Humans have been able to use technology to control flooding, which has made international cooperation on the use of river basins more necessary. d. More modern technology will lead to better flood management because intergovernmental treaties regarding river basins allow for cooperation.
4. The word “arid” in the passage is closest in meaning to a. moist
5. In paragraph 3, the author mentions all of the following about the flow of exogenous rivers EXCEPT: a. The impact of the flow is often felt in the driest seasons. b. The flow can be an aid in the cultivation of crops. c. The effects of the flow are not felt immediately.
d. The flow is unaffected by the season of the year.
6. According to paragraph 4, what distinguishes an endogenous river from an exogenous river? a. An endogenous river flows into a limestone massif.
b. The source of an endogenous river is within the desert region. c. The endogenous river does not reach the sea.
d. Endogenous rivers have a higher saline content than exogenous rivers.
7. The word “stores” in the passage is closest in meaning to a. locations
8. According to paragraph 5, what are some international organizations now doing in desert areas? a. They are creating new methods for drawing these resources to river basins. b. They are paying for efforts to survey existing groundwater resources. c. They are giving monetary grants to individual inhabitants of arid lands. d. They are trying to equalize the uneven distribution of groundwater.
9. Why does the passage mention in paragraph 5 the fact that the exact extent of groundwater resources is still unknown? a. To highlight the lack of scientific research being done in desert areas. b. To illustrate the importance of freshwater to the inhabitants of deserts. c. To explain why the recent actions of the United Nations and others are needed. d. To show how groundwater can affect the flow of exogenous rivers.
10. The word “replenished” in the passage is closest in meaning to a. Refilled
11. According to paragraph 6, why are limestone and sandstone aquifers not being refilled? a. Because the water within them has been present for so long b. Because of disputes among intergovernmental agencies c. Because they were filled to capacity in the distant past d. Because they are deeper and larger than other aquifers
12. What can be inferred in paragraph 7 about shallow aquifers? a. They tend to have less mineral content than deeper ones. b. They can quickly be replenished because they were saturated as limestone aquifers once were. c. The water from shallow aquifers is unusable because of its proximity to gravel. d. They are more extensive than limestone aquifers.
13. Look at the four squares (❒) that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage.
In fact, these water deposits have recently become the focus of increased attention as a source of freshwater for the inhabitants of desert areas.
Where would the sentence best fit?
14. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage.
Water resources in desert areas can be found in a number of different places.
a. In general, a desert area’s rainfall is below the threshold of four inches of annual precipitation. b. Exogenous rivers that flow through arid lands are among the largest river systems in the world and are vital to the inhabitants of these regions. c. Endogenous rivers begin and end within a desert region, but a large amount of this water is lost to evaporation or ...