Reading Questions

Using strategy while reading can be difficult for students who are new to this process. However, strategies are very important, particularly when working through a timed, standardized test like the TOEFL. Whenever you do not understand how to apply or utilize a strategy type effectively, this means that we’ll need to work on them consistently and over time. 

If you are already registered, this means that you’re already on the right track. In Step One, we include a very detailed guide after each practice test which will walk you through the strategies. Step Two and Three also present some excellent video guides that will ensure you understand how to use the strategy to find the right answer. 

If you’re not yet registered for a system with reading in it, we strongly recommend that you make this your next step. In our systems, you’ll gain access to our tried and tested strategies and you’ll be able to work through practice tests to master each of them, step by step. Here’s a link to register now: Complete TOEFL Mastery

Regardless, when you’re struggling with a specific question in your system, we’ll be glad to help clarify everything. Just send us an email at that includes:

  1. the step or reading passage you’re struggling with
  2. the question number
  3. and the answer choice(s) you initially selected.  

We look forward to helping you get through the strategies in any way that we can.

When you understand the reading strategies, but you’re still getting a score that is low (or lower than expected and hoped), this typically means that you’re 1) skipping crucial parts of the strategy, 2) going to need comprehension and/or vocabulary improvement, 3) should consider tutoring to iron out any further difficulties. 

I know this sounds simple, but it’s true. We have students who bring this very same question to us in tutoring sessions. You’re not alone! Because these students are already registered for tutoring, we always walk through example questions together and find that, time and time again, the problem lies with the fact that the student didn’t strictly follow all steps of the strategy and/or could not understand the question, the passage, or the answer choices due to comprehension issues.

If you’re struggling, we recommend the following powerful combination of systems: 

Complete TOEFL Mastery

Tutoring Sessions

Whatever you do, keep working hard to master every detail and to improve your comprehension. There is no replacement for tutoring when you’re REALLY struggling, but we’re always here to answer any questions you may have. Good luck!

This is a very common question we receive from our great students. While we understand your concerns, we want you to feel absolutely confident that repetition is your key to mastery. 

Remember, your ability to answer questions in the reading section should have little to do with whether or not you are familiar with the content. If you’re having trouble with comprehension or vocabulary, these are separate issues which we’d be glad to help you with–don’t hesitate to let us know. It’s the strategy itself, though, that will act as your road map to the correct answer every time.

So, imagine strategy mastery like learning a new dance; when you’re learning a dance, you practice each step with repetition, and you do it with the same song again and again until it’s mastered, right? The same is true for reading. Practice the steps again and again with the same passages until you’ve mastered them. If you do this, you will be able to conquer any reading passage you face on the TOEFL. Keep working at it; we know you’ll succeed!

The summary question can be pretty tough. However, luckily, the order in which you place your selected answers does not matter. Don’t waste any time thinking about this because ultimately, the important thing is to ensure that you select the three correct answers out of the choices they present. Good luck!

While you may find that the topics on the TOEFL are challenging and unfamiliar, remember: ETS does not create reading passages that are unmanageable. 

For example, on my last test, I encountered a reading passage about bird calls. Now, I know very little about bird calls–I never studied this subject in college and I certainly don’t think about bird calls in my day-to-day life. However, because I know that: 1) the reading passage will provide all of the information I need to know, 2) it will only test my ability to find information that’s already presented in or implied by the text, and 3) I must use a strict strategy to find each answer, I recognize that I should be able to select the correct answers. It may be tough; I may feel a lot of pressure because of the time constraints, but I know and believe that I can find the answers. 

Always remember, if you’re struggling with the content of the passages, you should work on a combination of strategy and comprehension improvement. If you don’t have a NoteFull reading system, here’s a link to get started right away: Complete TOEFL Mastery

Remember, your ability to answer questions in the reading section should have little to do with whether or not you are familiar with the content. If you’re having trouble understanding the passages, this may be a comprehension issue. To improve your comprehension, you’ll need to work consistently each day. You may not see improvements right away, but with time you’ll start to become a stronger and faster reader.

If you’re already registered with a NoteFull system, you should be familiar with the “Understand More” and “Improve Vocab” sections in Step Three. We urge you to continue to work through those activities as often as possible. Please let us know if you have any trouble or questions as you move forward. 

If you’re not registered, we strongly recommend that you take a look at the following program. This will be a great way to start building your vocabulary and comprehension skills today. Click here for more details:  Complete TOEFL Mastery  

Here are some additional quick tips:

  1. Read daily. The reading you select should be a mix of comfortable and challenging. It shouldn’t be so challenging, however, that you cannot focus or understand the general points. 
  2. Keep a log of new vocabulary; review the words each week; practice using them for mastery. 
  3. Also, while you’re reading, try to use the general comprehension skills that good readers use: think about the text as you’re reading, connect the information in the text to your personal experience or information you already have in your mind, visualize the text, predict and think about what will come next in the text, ask yourself–what is the text trying to teach me?

No matter what, keep up the hard work and always let us know if you have any further questions. You can do it!

There are plenty of sources out there that we would recommend to you if you’re trying to improve your general reading abilities and comprehension. Here are some links to peruse:

Please don’t hesitate to write in and let us know if we missed any good, helpful sources you have found in your studies.

To develop a faster speed, you can try this exercise. Take any book or magazine (preferably an academic one like National Geographic) and read as much as you can at full comprehension and focus in one minute. Then, count the number of lines of text that you were able to read. Now give yourself one minute to read twice as many lines. You cannot read the same. You must skim and skip words. Did you succeed? If not, try again. But, of course, you’re always reading new material. Then, do this one more time (one minute to read twice as many lines as you just did). Then, do it one more time. After this, try reading fast at normal and full comprehension. Count the number of lines. This time you should have read a few lines more than you did the first time. If you do this every day, it can make a strong impact on your reading speed and comprehension.

We outline this strategy in much greater detail in our reading systems. If you’re struggling, we encourage you to register today. Here’s a link for more details: Complete TOEFL Mastery

Believe it or not: time-management (while not easy) is a choice! You either choose to look at the clock and move forward or not. Our strong recommendation is to answer the questions in the order that you receive them and to follow strict timing limits. For example, this is how your 20 minutes should break down:

20 – 19: read the 1st sentences of each paragraph

19 – 12 min 40 sec: answer questions 1 to 5

12 min 40 sec – 6 min 20 sec: answer questions 6 to 10

6 min 20 sec – 0: answer questions 11 to 14.

As you can see, this will give you more time to answer the difficult question 14. Now, make sure that you follow these timing requirements. It’s purely psychological: you must be comfortable choosing an answer when you’re not certain. It just wastes immense time if you think and think and think about an answer. Your strategy mastery will improve with time, but until then–always mange your time!