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Details & Essential Information

Important and specific details regarding TOEFL IBT

On the TOEFL IBT exam, there will be some questions testing your ability to pick out details and essential information from long texts. Therefore, is important to know what is a detail and what is information that contributes to the overall meaning of the text.

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The Detail questions on the TOEFL IBT usually ask you to pick out a specific detail from the text. The best way to do this is to scan the text keeping a few key words in mind to help you find what you are looking for.


For example, the screenshot below shows us a question asking for a specific detail from the reading.

As with any multiple choice question, first we are going to read the question and all four choices. Next, we refer back to Paragraph 2, as it states in the question.

The question asks us, According to Paragraph 2, which of the following is true of wool and linen?  This leads us to circle back to reread Paragraph 2. We could even “scan” the paragraph keeping the words linen and wool in mind.

We see that the fourth sentence begins with the words linen and wool, so that may be a good place to start. The fourth sentence says, Linen and wool were used to make the linsey-woolsey worn by all but the richest people in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Finally, we go back to our four answer choices and read each one individually.

As we do that, we can conclude that choice (A) seems like the best option. The sentence we read above says the linsey-woolsey was worn by all but the richest people in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Another way of saying by all but is by all except. This makes choice (A) seem like the most reasonable answer choice based on the text.


  • As you scan the text for certain information, remember to keep the key words in mind!
  • Remember, you are looking for the best answer. Even if other answers make sense, your duty is to choose the one that makes the most sense.
  • A Detail question will usually refer back to a specific paragraph.

Essential Information

The Essential Information questions in the TOEFL IBT consist of a sentence highlighted in the original text and a question asking you to choose the sentence best expressing the essential information in the highlighted sentence. These questions test your ability to understand the overall meaning of a specific sentence from the passage.


The screenshot below gives us an example of what the Essential Information questions will look like. Typically, you do not need to go back to the passage in order to answer this question.

In this case, another way of saying “essential information” is “summary.” This question is essentially asking you to find the answer that is equal to, or that is a summary of, the highlighted question. All you need to do is read all of the answer choices and find which one has the same meaning as the highlighted sentence. In this case, the correct answer is (D) because it is the only one that summarizes the highlighted sentence.


  • Always read all of the answer choices first.
  • Remember, you are looking for the general idea – not an exact rewording.

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