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In order to be accepted to many institutions around the world, you will need to get a great score on the TOEFL test, including your TOEFL Reading test. To master it, you not only need to learn how to read English perfectly, but also understand the structure of all the sections of the TOEFL test, including writing, speaking, and listening.

In this article, we will focus on the TOEFL Reading section and learn about:

  • What does the TOEFL Reading test consist of?
  • All the types of TOEFL Reading exercises.
  • All the tips you need to ace the TOEFL Reading test;
  • What resources to use when practicing reading;
  • How can GlobalExam help you?

Let’s get right into it.

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TOEFL Reading Section: Structure, Format and Overview

The first test you will be facing during your TOEFL exam is Reading. This section comes in three passages with 30 questions and is 54 minutes long. Otherwise, you will be getting additional experimental exercises.

You need to know the passages are relatively long with 700 words per each. You will be met with an introduction to the topic, which could be an academic topic like history, science, arts, etc.

Let’s break the TOEFL Reading test down for better understanding:

Standard Reading

DurationTasksScoringCommon Topics
54 minutes long30 questions (10 questions per passage)Out of 30Academic topics and university subjects: Education, Science, Arts, History, Social Sciences, etc

Experimental Reading

DurationTasksScoringCommon Topics
72 minutes long40 questions (one extra reading passage and questions set)Out of 30Academic topics and university subjects: Education, Science, Arts, History, Social Sciences, etc

You can take a look at the following articles to get familiar with the other sections of the exam:

TOEFL Reading Exercise Type #1: Multiple Choice Questions

When it comes to the TOEFL Reading section, it is always predictable, which can be extremely useful for test-takers. As we mentioned before, each TOEFL section comes with 10 questions, and the first 8 of them are always multiple choice.

The multiple-choice TOEFL Reading questions are made up of a short question that is followed by four answers to choose from. Only one of them is correct!

Examples from GlobalExam:

1.The bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, also known as the Zambezi shark or unofficially Zambia in Africa and Nicaragua shark in Nicaragua, is a shark commonly found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. The bull shark is known for its aggressive nature, its predilection for warm shallow water, and its presence in brackish and freshwater systems including estuaries and rivers.

2. The bull shark can thrive in both saltwater and freshwater and can travel far up rivers. They have even been known to travel as far up as Indiana in the Ohio River, although there have been few recorded attacks. They are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks, including many attacks attributed to other species. Bull sharks are not actually true freshwater sharks, despite their ability to survive in freshwater habitats.

3. The bull shark is commonly found worldwide in coastal areas of warm oceans, in rivers and lakes, and occasionally salt and freshwater streams if they are deep enough. It is found to have a depth of 150 meters but does not usually swim deeper than 30 meters (98 feet). In the Atlantic, they can be found from Massachusetts to southern Brazil, and from Morocco to Angola. In the Indian Ocean, it is found from South Africa to Kenya, India, and Vietnam to Australia.

Question 1. How heavy are male bull sharks?
Question 2. What do 'they' refer to in Paragraph 2?
Question 3. What can one infer about Bull Sharks?

girl reading a book

TOEFL Reading Exercise Type #2: Insert Text Questions

During every TOEFL Reading passage question set, there is always an insert-text question and it is usually the 9th question that comes before the last one.

In this question, you will be given an entirely new sentence that doesn’t belong to the passage. You will also find a number of squares in one of the paragraphs, and each square acts for places where you can place the new sentence.

Examples from GlobalExam:

A Little Piece of Cajun Prairie

1. Cajun prairie is a distinct grassland, named for the settlers who lived there. It once covered more than 2.5 million acres of Southwest Louisiana.

Today, only about 100 acres of Cajun prairie remain. If the work of two biologists and many volunteers pays off, however, a little piece of Cajun prairie will always exist in Louisiana. “I think that saving Cajun prairie is important because once it is gone, you cannot bring it back,” says Charles Allen, a retired professor from the University of Louisiana and the botanist for Louisiana’s Fort Polk.

“There are plants and animals there that have never been tested for human use. We could be losing a plant that would cure cancer, or provide food or fiber,” he says.

2. Allen and biologist Malcolm Vidrine, a professor of biology at LSU in Eunice, have been working for almost two decades to restore the Cajun prairie. Although Cajun prairie and the tallgrass prairies of the Midwest both belong to the temperate grassland biome, Cajun prairie soil has unique characteristics. It is made of tight, heavy clays that formed as a result of coastal flooding and rains. This soil, combined with frequent lightning fires, makes it difficult for trees to grow but easy for prairie plants to flourish.

3. In the mid-1700s, many French Acadians, later known as Cajuns, arrived in Louisiana from Nova Scotia, Canada. They sustained themselves for over 100 years by fishing, hunting, and some farming. They also sustained their environment because their lifestyle caused little damage to the prairie.

4. The establishment of the railroad in the late 1800s brought new settlers to farm the rich land. These settlers brought with them new, more intensive agricultural practices and established herds of cattle that overgrazed the vegetation. By the early 20th century, most of the Cajun prairie had disappeared.

Today, the Cajun prairie ecosystem is labeled as “imperiled globally” by the Nature Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving natural communities. There are now fewer than 100 acres of Cajun prairie left in Louisiana.

The railroad led to the near disappearance of the prairie, while also playing an important role in saving the last remaining pieces of prairie, mostly in remnants of small, narrow strips along railroad right-of-ways. Because the railroad owned these pieces of land, they were never farmed.

Question 1. In the text, look at the marks [1] to [4] that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage. "The fires destroy shrubs and trees, but do not kill most of the prairie plants." Where would this sentence fit best?

TOEFL Reading Exercise Type #3: Reading-to-learn Questions

The reading-to-learn questions have 3 to 5 answers and worth 2-3 points, unlike the other questions that are worth only one point.

These questions represent categorization or summary by choosing three out of five sentences, the ones that describe the biggest ideas from the entire TOEFL Reading passage. In the case of categorization, you will be provided with a list of statements, you will need to match the statements with the ones they describe.

Examples from GlobalExam:

‘Silk, which had been imported to Britain by the French, was difficult to produce in large quantities, just like wool was.’

This sentence is an introductory sentence for a very brief summary of the passage. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas of 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. This question is worth 3 points.

A. Previous laws were set into place to protect the production process, making this textile a challenge to industrialize.
B. The East India Company began exporting it from India in the late 17th century.
C. Great Britain produced 6 percent of world demand for this textile in the 19th century.
D. Religious workers escaped from their country and brought their skills to Britain in the 1600s.
E. Many merchants took advantage of the spinsters and weavers they worked with.
F. Pirated equipment from Italy was used to produce this textile in the mid-eighteenth century in England.
G. An American invention was used to separate the seeds from the textile using different disks with hooks.

All the Tips You Need to Ace the TOEFL Reading Test

Just because you can read English well, it doesn’t always mean you are ready to pass the TOEFL Reading test. This is why we have got for you the best tips that will help you ace your test.

Find the right reading strategy for you

For some test-takers, indulging right into the passage might not be the correct approach for them to read and understand it well, so here are a few ways that can help you:

  • Read the entire passage first carefully, then scan it quickly with your eyes to check the answers.
  • Read the passage slowly (one paragraph at a time) and start answering the questions of each paragraph individually.
  • Read the questions first and then scan each paragraph for the correct answers.

To know which approach is right for you, you will need to practice and experiment over and over again! Do it multiple times till you are aware of which one works for you best.

Follow your own pace wisely

Sure, you read the passages slowly and check and re-check your answers over and over again, but you are tied down to a strict timing schedule. If we calculate it right, we will find that you have only 1 minute and 48 seconds for each question. So, here is the time scheme we recommend:

  • Reading: 9 minutes
  • Answering: 7 minutes
  • Checking answers: 2 minutes

If you can follow this timing and master it during practice, then you will be able to improve it as well. Every minute during this test is important, so the more you organize your time, the better your chances to answer and re-check your answers during longer minutes.

Don’t forget to boost your vocabulary

You need to remember that TOEFL Reading contains harder vocabulary than the rest of the exam, which is why relying on your current vocabulary may not be helpful.

You have to practice TOEFL Reading exercises regularly and write down every new word you learn. Also, we recommend you practice strategies that can help you deal with new vocabulary during the test, as well as strategies to help you ignore them when necessary. Sometimes, guessing the meaning of a word can help you understand the entire sentence, which is why practicing is highly important.

girl reading a book in a store

What Resources to Use When Training for the Reading Section

It is best to find exercises that are similar in content to the real test in order to prepare you appropriately, for instance using different TOEFL Reading practice tests. Also, it would be great if the answers come with corrections/explanations for better understanding.
It is also important to learn the types of questions beforehand.

Here are the best platforms that we highly recommend to practice the TOEFL Reading section:

#1 GlobalExam

Once you join GlobalExam, you will be in good hands. This platform was specially designed to help test-takers study and train for their language proficiency tests. It is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and highly motivational to keep you learning with a smile on your face. It is the best way to improve your reading skills amongst all the other main skills and reach your target score!

#2 ETS

ETS is administrating the TOEFL, which means the practice options mirror the real TOEFL test. The ETS offers a few selections of free TOEFL iBT practice sets as well as online courses to help test-takers study better for the test.


This one is also by ETS, and it is a perfect option for anyone who doesn’t want to sit for hours in front of a laptop. TOEFL GO! is the official online TOEFL practice app that will allow you to study and practice for your test whenever you want.

#4 TestDEN

Before you begin with TestDEN, make sure you have a minimum of 30 days to spare because that’s how long it takes to complete. However, it provides a structured course and many practice tests that will help you work on your weaknesses when it comes to the English language. This is one you will start by taking four TOEFL practice tests to have an accurate idea about your current level.

#5 Magoosh

Another great way to practice for your TOEFL online is Magoosh. The latter will teach you the exact format of the test while helping you prepare for it in a smart way. Magoosh is the best tool for anyone who is not yet understanding the TOEFL structure.

Prepare for the TOEFL on GlobalExam’s Online Platform

As we mentioned before, GlobalExam is one of the best ways to practice for the TOEFL Reading test because it is specially designed to help test-takers practice and learn for their exam to guarantee a great score and a better future.

Once you join our platform, you will have access to:

  • Study sheets: consult 390 grammar and vocabulary revision sheets with questions.
  • Exercises with explanations: complete 14 training sessions focused on different parts of the TOEFL.
  • Mock exams: test yourself with nine full TOEFL mock tests under timed conditions.

This is your chance to guarantee a great score on your TOEFL iBT test. Join GlobalExam NOW!