There are two ways to train yourself for the reading section of the TOEFL. The first is to find practice TOEFL reading passages with questions, and imitate the reading portion of the test. The second is to do normal English reading, without questions, which will improve your English level in general.
Official TOEFL Reading
Absolutely the best way to get TOEFL reading practice is to use real passages from real tests. Much like TOEFL listening practice, you can find some of this free online at the official ETS site. There are two places to find the reading passages. First, there’s one passage in the “TOEFL iBT Test Sample Questions” software. This is really the best example you can possibly find, because the software is the same as what you will see on test day. But there’s one very large disappointment: only one reading passage can be found here. Considering you will have 3-5 passages on your real TOEFL, that’s not a very helpful amount.
So ETS compensates for it by providing four other free reading passages other than the software. This is nice, but it’s still not enough.
The best way to get more practice is with one book: Official TOEFL IBT Tests. That gives you a total of 15 more official TOEFL reading passages. There is no better material, although it doesn’t teach strategy or give sufficient explanations.
Unofficial TOEFL Reading Practice
There are many sources for reading passages with questions that look like what you will see on your real exam. Many use structures similar to that on the real test, but few offer really good questions. If the practice is free and looks like the TOEFL, it’s probably not actually very good test preparation. The text might be good reading comprehension and vocabulary practice, but it’s very rare that free test practices are well made. I don’t know of any free TOEFL reading which is especially good for preparing for ETS’s test.
There are, of course, many TOEFL preparation books out there which will give better material than the free practice (although not all books are created equal!). We will review the biggest publishers’ TOEFL books on this blog in the upcoming months. But if you are looking for a book to buy right now (other than the official ETS books), I’d recommend Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test. The reading is actually often harder that the real test, and there are some imperfect questions, but it is generally good practice and comes with other great self-study features.
Practicing with Non-TOEFL Articles
What the test really asks from you—what it is testing—is your experience with English. If you have read a lot of academic English in the past, you will do well on the TOEFL. This is just as important as (really more important than) practicing answering test questions.
So what is the best source for TOEFL reading practice? That really depends on your level of English and your target scores. If you’re trying to score more than 90 on the TOEFL, you probably want to use some more challenging material. Almost any U.S. news source would be good practice, but the most challenging might be the same sources we recommend for GRE. If you train using those sources, you’ll be pretty comfortable for the TOEFL. Again, though, those are the most challenging.
The truth is that any somewhat academic reading would be good practice. Just find a good source of authentic American English that has the right topics (science, history, and the humanities especially) and if it’s the challenging for you, then it’s good TOEFL practice! Just make sure you’re reading about the right topics: recipes don’t help!
TOEFL Reading Practice from Magoosh
Over the years, we’ve also compiled quite a lot of free reading practice right here on our blog. Here’s my favorite of those practice materials:
- TOEFL Reading Sample PDF: 1 passage with 14 questions
- TOEFL Reading Practice Passage: 1 passage with 5 questions
- Magoosh TOEFL Reading Exercise: 1 passage with 5 questions
Also, don’t forget to check out my other posts on the TOEFL:
And Magoosh’s own practice material for the exam!