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.

Best tips to remember what you study in TOEFL

  1. Focus. You first need to learn it before recalling it. So, in order to learn it well, focus on listening if you are in a language class or reading if you are doing that task. If you are doing self-study, make sure to select a quiet study space set up for optimum least distracting desk area. In this way, you will be able to focus and not be distracted by your phone, internet, or friends.
  2. As you are reading, ask yourself important questions about what you read
    Of course, you are much more likely to recall it if you know your purpose for reading it. Ask yourself questions such as who (did the action,) what (happened,) where (did it happen,) when (did it happen,) why (what’s the reason for it,) how (did it happen) about the subject matter.
  3. Employ various learning approaches while studying
    Studies show most humans remember 20% of what is read, 30 % of what is heard; 40% of what is seen visually, half of what is written down on paper (typed) or said out loud, and 60% of what is performed manually with movement. Remember when you study, to use all your different senses for learning different ways: write notes down, say your notes out loud and record them, or draw pictures to take visual notes.
  4. At the end of each study session, quickly go over what English you studied. If you skim the main objective and retrace the key points of the goals of each study session, you will remember the lesson at that moment, and the next time you study, it will help you recall them. Be sure to take a few minutes to summarize your notes using key words that will improve your memory later.
  5. As often as you can, look over what you studied as a short review
    It is much easier to recall things with a regular study pattern. For instance, if you study once a week, review briefly what you did the last session. Or, if you study every other day, start your session by reviewing what you studied the last time. If you have time to study daily, then begin your study time by reviewing just a couple minutes what you did the day before. On the other hand, if you try learning everything at the last minute, your memory will not retain the information.
  6. Take time to recall your study sessions without your notes
    Without referring to your books or materials, take a few minutes to remember what you studied. Give your memory a quiz make creating notes on what you think you studied, then go back and check your notes or texts to see if it is consistent. You will recall more if you practice this technique.