7 No-nonsense Tips to Improve Your TOEFL Reading Score

The Reading section of the TOEFL can be one of the most challenging parts of the test, even to well-versed English speakers. The section consists of anywhere from 3 to 4 different texts, and each has 12-15 questions. The text topics can vary – anything from film history to microbiology or political science can come your way.

Thankfully, here is a list of seven things you can do immediately to help you get a better score. Let’s get into it.

  1. Read More

Now, this is a big surprise – you actually need to read more in English to get a better score. Jokes, aside, exposing yourself to English language texts and materials is crucial in helping you perform well on TOEFL.

The Reading section throws at you a variety of academic-level texts that often contain a plethora (here’s one!) of unfamiliar words or concepts. It is thus very important to read, read and read! Anything ranging from news articles, magazines and books to whatever you can get your hands on, will help you score better.

Do not forget to also read about topics you are unfamiliar with or not as interested in – science, technology, culture, history, film, geology, etc. The Reading section will contain a very large number of such topics and preparing in advance for the language used in such texts will be helpful.

  1. Work on Your Vocabulary

A rich and varied vocabulary can make your life a whole lot easier, even when you are swimming in unfamiliar waters. Even when a sentence is about a topic you don’t know much about, knowing the key words – especially verbs and nouns – can make a difference.

We live in a world where search engines have made the process of learning new words very easy – do not be lazy to google any unfamiliar words and write them down. Writing new words down in a designated notepad or document and revising what you learned in the past is a good way to build your vocabulary, so use it.

  1. Learn How to Skim

Skimming is a very useful practice of going through a piece of text quickly and understanding its core meaning, as well as some details, without spending too much time and attention on it.

With practice, skimming will enable you to save some time in wanderings question by glancing at the paragraph or sentence in question. This is not to say that certain questions demand your full attention on the text, but learning how to skim well can make a difference between spending a minute or fifteen seconds just looking for a general idea in a passage, to give an example.

The idea is to know before hand what you are looking for in the paragraph – a detail, the big picture, an idea, or something else and to answer the question without spending too much time on it.

  1. Manage Your Time

The Reading section is all about managing your most precious resource – time. You will not have enough time to read every paragraph in a lot of detail.

You have 20 minutes per text (passage) and around 12-15 questions for each so you have to make those minutes count. At its longest, the Reading section can have a maximum of 56 questions, and only around 80 minutes for 4 texts, which leaves you with very little time to both read and answer the questions, so pace yourself accordingly.

  1. Do Not Get Stuck on one Question

A solid piece of advice is to keep track of questions you have left unanswered on a piece of paper (although the software does this, too) and return to those questions you were unsure how to answer later. Most importantly – keep moving and do not dwell to long on one question.

Always keep an eye out on the time, prioritize questions you can answer easily and leaves those which block your train of thought for later – but do not forget about them. TOEFL does not punish you for incorrect answers so make sure you answer every single question, even if you are unsure!

  1. Know the Question Structure in Advance

The Reading section is all about the ability to answer questions in a timely and efficient manner, often about topics you might not know much before hand. It is thus very important to know in advance what type of questions you will encounter and how best to approach each of them.

There are several different types of questions, from those that ask of you to understand the factual information provided in a sentence, to those that require you to put a sentence in the right context. Whether you practice on your own, or with the help of a tutor, preparing in advance for what kind of questions you will encounter is sure to help you solve the tasks with greater efficiency, speed and accuracy.

  1. Relax

Last but not least, while technical preparation is important, mental preparation can often make or break your score. Time constraints, unfamiliar words, complicated texts and the fact that the section can take more than an hour can cause stress and limit your performance.

It is important to remember to relax, breathe, clear your head and approach every challenge with an open mind and clarity of thought. Whatever stress you might have going into the test, you should leave it at the door and enter the ring with the goal to perform to the best of your ability.

Good luck!

Stefan Mrvaljevic

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can prepare for TOEFL or IELTS with me, click here.



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