Know TOEFL Reading Question Types Inside Out

Have you ever run out of time on the TOEFL reading section?

If you know the question types inside out, you can master the technique of how to identify each question to answer quickly, and you’ll beat the test.

Time Management and Focus

You’ll need to manage a new approach to organize your minutes more effectively during this section of the exam. Better management of your time will give you the opportunity to answer more questions correctly, thus leading to a higher section score.

Reading skill is tested on three sections of the TOEFL, so if you improve your English reading speed and comprehension with daily practice such as reading timed online academic articles, skimming, scanning, note-taking and paraphrasing, you’ll improve your overall TOEFL score.

The time is 60-100 minutes in the entire reading section with 36-70 questions of three academic passages of 600-800 words each. You’ll need to manage time of 20 minutes per passage. All topics focus on college subjects, so in your daily study time, practice academic texts of equal word count length in a similar time-frame. All questions are one point, except the last question in each passage set worth more than one point. Do not spend too much time on any one question. Use equal time to identify the answer, since they are all the same amount of points; and if needed, use process of elimination to narrow down the correct choice.

Of the four academic sections tested on TOEFL—reading, listening, speaking, writing–reading is the first skill tested. Since it’s the initial section, it may still be noisy at the test center with incoming test takers. So, you’ll need to focus attentively to not be distracted by surrounding noise. If you find yourself getting distracted by surround sound, put those headphones on to help block out the test center environment so you can zoom in on the reading content.

Accuracy in Skimming for Gist and Speed in Scanning for Details

Skimming the passage is useful to find the main idea in the first paragraph and pinpoint the meaning and to look for the key points (in key words) in the first sentences of body paragraphs. Once you have skimmed for the gist of the passage, begin to tackle the questions. Another technique, scanning, is also helpful. By scanning the question (key words) and referring back to the exact location in the passage, you can note specific details in order of what will be questioned. Your plan of attack can be to answer question by question in order, as questions will refer to the same order as the location of answers in the passage.


The Importance of Recognizing Question Types

Have you ever felt stumped on a reading question and lost time? Do you know how to recognize and answer all different types of passage questions?

What’s more, knowing the types of questions you will encounter and identifying each type of question on the reading section will help you answer correctly and speed you through each passage in a timely manner.

Try to wrap your head around the different types of reading questions in your preparation study, thus inching you closer to the highest section score on exam day.


Reading Question Types:


Sentence meaning

Sentence insertion

Stated or unstated details  – Factual and negative factual information

Inferences and rhetorical purpose

OrganizationProse summary and fill in a table

Pronoun reference

You’ll be asked what a highlighted word refers to. If it is a pronoun, you need to identify the word the pronoun is replacing i.e. know what each pronoun refers to in the passage. Most often, the words are subject or objective pronoun, demonstrative pronouns or possessive adjectives (it, they, them, these, those, this, that, its, their.)

Question Types Strength and Weakness:

How can you improve your speed and accuracy in answering questions?

Question types that are your strength, you’ll answer more quickly, and question types that are your weakness, you’ll take a longer time to respond to.

Thus, identify your strength in questions type above (which ones you answer correctly in past exams or practice) and your weakness (which ones are challenging that take longer to answer or that you got wrong on past practice or exams.)

Your Strength question types: _____________________________________________

Reflect on how you’ll identify these faster and answer faster:


Your Weakness question types: ____________________________________________

Consider how to improve on these with a new/different approach in practice and on the real test.


Tackle each weakness question type by addressing how to change your approach to answer correctly. For instance, do not use the same approach as you did before if you got those wrong. Consider what you could be doing better to improve speed and accuracy.  Once you figure out how to answer correctly, approach the weak question types by process of elimination, and take notes of those question numbers and your choice response(s), as you can go back to those later if you have a bit of time. If you use process of elimination, you’ll eliminate choices for a higher percentage rate. In study time, practice more of those types of questions to get ready with your new approach.

If you aim to answer 100% correct on your strength question types on practice questions, you’ll save time by going quickly through your strength question types with added confidence.

For more tips on how to approach answering each type of reading question type, stay tuned for strategy and details in upcoming posts. If you learned insight about reading question types in this post, give this post a thumbs up.

Fun Common Idioms on TOEFL Listening


Have you ever let the cat out of the bag? You have if you’ve ever told someone a secret. Just picture a closed bag holding a secret and a cat jumps out telling that secret.

One way to help you master common idioms on TOEFL is to visualize the idiom and link it to the meaning so it stays in your memory.

Idiomatic expressions are often heard in conversations on the listening section. Yet, if you don’t know what the idioms mean, you may be lost and answer incorrectly, leading to a lower score. To score higher, get to know common idioms that have surfaced on previous TOEFL.

Here are five common TOEFL idioms to practice their meanings.

Let the cat out of the bag                       to tell a secret


Once in a blue moon                     (something that happens) rarely




Be on the fence                              undecided; to have not formed an opinion yet



Raining cats and dogs                   Raining hard, a downpour




 Take a rain check                            Postpone a plan




Let’s examine each of these five idioms in a sentence to grasp how each may be used in context.

  1. I’m in the library every night, so I only go to a party off campus once in a blue moon.
  2. The professor let the cat out of the bag about exactly what was coming up on the final exam.
  3. During the campaign, I was on the fence which student candidate served others better.
  4. It was raining cats and dogs, so I couldn’t walk around campus without an umbrella.
  5. I studied late, so I took a raincheck on going out to the mixer.

Now, it’s your turn. Read the following sentences, and select the correct idiom to insert in context.

  • He’d known he was taking a risk when he ___________________________.
  • During the storm, some of the plazas around campus became rivers of water since it was _____________________.
  • I’ll ___________________________ on that meetup since I plan to study until midnight.
  • The university put on a performance _______________________________.
  • After she’d listened to both sides of the argument at the campus debate, she was still_________________ .


let the cat out of the bag, raining cats and dogs, take a rain check, once in a blue moon, on the fence

The next step in practice is to try out these idioms speaking to colleagues, so that you use them correctly before the exam.