Before the exam
- Read for speed
During the reading section of the TOEFL test, you will be confronted with 36-56 questions on three or four texts and you will have 60 to 80 minutes to answer them. Good timing and the ability to pace yourself will be the key factors to optimize your score.
Let’s say you have 56 questions, 80 minutes and four texts for your exam; this means you have 5 minutes to read each text and only 1 minute to answer each question. You will need to know how fast you should go: Are you a fast reader who needs to go back to the text for each question or a slow reader who can answer the questions in one go without reverting to the text? This part of the exam depends on your abilities.
Tip #1: Adapt your strategy to your skills and stick to timing. How fast can you read the text without overlooking too much information? Practice beforehand.
- Widen your vocabulary range
The TOEFL test is meant to challenge you, to take you out of your comfort zone. Hence, it will present you unknown words. The best way to prepare you for this is simply by widening your comfort zone. When you study for the Reading section of the test, you should always look up and take note of new words you discover. Create a list of all of the new words you have discovered during your preparation.
Tip #2: While preparing, read the whole text without looking up the words you don’t know so you can emulate exam conditions. Wait until the end of the text to search for definitions.
While reading, do NOT translate into your mother tongue with a translating tool but look up the English meaning of the word. That way you will remember it better, encouraging you to translate it yourself.
During the exam
Studying for an exam is a key step for success, but your knowledge will not reap its full potential unless you adopt an exam mindset.
- How to Answer the Questions
During the exam you will face different types of questions: standard multiple choice, inserting a sentence, and reading to learn.
Standard MCQ: This type of question will be the most common during the test. It may be about specific passages of the text or the meaning of a particular word.
Tip #3: Read every single answer option even though you may already know the correct one. Read the passage carefully because every correct answer will be supported by the passage.
Inserting a Sentence: For this type of question, a passage of the text will be provided and you need to insert an additional sentence where it fits best.
Tip #4: Read the passage introducing each option provided and decide which one makes more sense. Do not skim the options or stop after thinking you have found the right one.
Reading to Learn: This type of question will require you to organize the main points of a passage in a summary or chart.
Tip #5: Confusing at first glance, these questions will require some practice beforehand. For questions that involve the main ideas of the text, try not to get distracted by minor facts. Indeed, noticing a particular detail in the passage may push you to select that option but some details are included on purpose to mislead you.
- Relaxing for Comprehension
Stress will be one of your worst enemies. You must learn to remain calm when you encounter an obstacle. The Reading section of TOEFL is also about deducing meaning and identifying key information. The more a word is surrounded by context, the more its meaning can be deduced without necessarily knowing the actual definition. The Reading section will test your ability to understand a text without recognizing all the vocabulary.
You should not aim to learn the whole dictionary as preparation for the exam but instead know the right method to approach an unfamiliar word.
Tip #6: When encountering an unfamiliar word, continue reading and deduce the meaning of the word from the context.
- Moving On
As we said earlier, time is one of the key success factors for the TOEFL test. During the Reading section, you should remember that you have a very limited time to read and understand a document and even less time to answer the questions. What is your best plan of action when faced with a question you absolutely cannot answer? Do not stop; you should move on straight away to the next one. The price to pay for answering one tricky question could be the time you spend answering three easier ones. Every extra second you allocate to a question will be deducted from the next one which could result in you having just 10 minutes to read AND answer the questions of the final text.
Tip #7: There will be passages in the text about which you will feel more confident than others and some questions will be easier than others, but the best advice is to maintain your pace and skip questions needing too much time.