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The Best TOEFL Reading Practice

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.

TOEFL Reading Practice

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:


Also, don’t forget to check out my other posts on the TOEFL:

TOEFL Speaking Topics
TOEFL Writing Topics

And Magoosh’s own practice material for the exam!

40 Responses to The Best TOEFL Reading Practice

  1. Adderly June 21, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

    Hi Lucas,
    First, thank you for your reviews. I recently bought the Cambridge and the Complete Guide books and they seem very nice resources for my preparation.

    Well, my question is: What is the best Oxford Thesaurus? (only thesaurus) I find many versions of that (concise, compact, learner’s, paperback). It is really confusing.

    Thanks for all.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 23, 2014 at 10:48 am #

      I don’t think there’s one “best” thesaurus, so that’s a bit hard to answer. Really, it depends on what you need it for. For most non-native students, I would recommend the learner’s thesaurus, but if you are at a very high level of English, you might choose one of the others. Honestly, which one you choose won’t matter too much; any oxford thesaurus includes a lot of the same material, and they’re all good! A smaller, cheaper thesaurus would probably suit your needs well, though. Compact or paperback would do the trick, from what it looks like.

      • Rashed February 4, 2016 at 12:01 am #

        Hello Lucas
        your comment implies that to develop ur academic vocabulary we should memorize the Entire Oxford Thesaurus dictionary ??

        Note: if possible please answer me on my email mentioned in the forum.

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas Fink February 4, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

          I definitely don’t recommend memorizing a thesaurus! Sorry if I gave that impression. I only responded to Adderly’s question about what the best thesaurus is.

          I only recommend that you use a thesaurus when you can’t remember a word that you want to use. Then you search a synonym and it can help you remember the word you want. 🙂

  2. Sani July 21, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Thank you for all the advice for the reading section.

    I have a question about the summary question of the reading. After recognizing the three main ideas should I put them in the boxes with the order that they are in the question or should I put them in the order of the passage?

    Thanks a lot for your time and attention.

  3. Juliana October 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm #


    I liked very much your text! It helped me a lot to see how can I start my studies. But I live in Brazil and I don’t know where I can find some good academic articles to practice my reading, I mean, blogs, websites, and other midias at the internet. Can you help me? (Sorry if I wrote something wrong in the comment)

    Thanks a lot!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas October 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

      Of course! There are a few publications listed in this blog post, to start. You might also want to check out, which collects academic articles of interest from a number of other sites.

      Those are all quite difficult sources, but that’s good! A challenge is always a great way to learn. 🙂

  4. Addison November 2, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    Hi, Lucas!

    First thanks for sharing your experience that would really help me. So I have a question for you! I passed my IBT TOEFL exam in 18th of October, actually last month and I just had 63 score that was not enough for me.( reading 14, listening 15, speaking 13, writing 21) My point is that I want to score more than 100 on the TOEFL because I want to apply to Dentistry university in United States.Also I read all related on Toefl books such as Cambridge, 4th edition of official ETS books, Kaplan, Barron and so on. Now I don’t know how to prepare my exam again because I don’t have books to prepare my exam and how can I do? help me please 🙁

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas November 3, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

      Hi there! If you’re trying to make an improvement of ~40 points, books about the TOEFL alone won’t be enough. You need to improve your general English knowledge and ability, not just learn the test. That means reading in English, speaking (preferably with a conversation partner) regularly, listening to native English speakers, and even writing in English regularly for a long period of time. You may not be able to make such a large improvement in just a few months; improving your general English ability that much can take years, for some students. But to make that improvement, exposure is key! Immerse yourself in English, and you’ll continue to improve. 🙂

  5. Marwa December 1, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Thank you for sharing Lucas, I had the IBT official book and I practiced an hour for a couple of months, unfortunately, It didn’t work and I got 70!! I need to know how many hours do I need to spend to improve my score up to 100, the fastest way would be better.
    I started to be more exposed to people, trying to listen carefully and speak with them. about reading, I like reading. The problem is about writing, how can I evaluate my writing and try to improve it?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 2, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

      Hi there! It’s great that you’re surrounding yourself with English. That frequent exposure will be a big help!

      Now, improving from a 70 to a 100 can take time, and I cannot say with such little information about you and your personal needs how many hours it will take you. It sounds like you already know the test well, but you could probably benefit from more practice of the best ways to answer questions. Nonetheless, your core English skills will need improvement, which almost always takes more than a few months. It could be 3 months of intense study, or it could be over a year, depending on your specific needs.

      As for improving your writing, I recommend reading a lot, for one. Read newspapers, magazines, textbooks, fiction, and more. The more you read, the more familiar you will be with the grammatical structures, vocabulary, and rules of writing that you need for your own writing. Of course, you should also write frequently, too. It helps to write responses and summaries of what you read. Frequently edit your writing, too. Set a summary to the side for a week or two, then come back to it and fix all of your errors, rewriting if necessary. If you have an English-speaking friend or teacher to help you with this, then definitely ask for their help!

      And keep reading our blog for more writing advice, of course. 🙂

  6. Wael December 2, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Hi there.
    At first,Thanks very much on the useful advices, it really helps a lot.
    I’m going to have a PBT test next month and so far I’m doing good, but sometimes I come across with some unfamiliar topic, like agriculture topics for instance, and suddenly I can’t remember what I read and I get distracted very easily, especially when the answer choices are similar to each other and that badly affects my psychological state during the whole test. Do you have any advice for me?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 2, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

      It is difficult dealing with new, unfamiliar, and sometimes boring topics, I know. You might want to try a different method to see if it helps: skip the passage at first (read only the title), and go straight to question number one. After reading question one (just the question, not the answer choices), start reading the text. Stop reading when you find the information you need, and answer the question. Then move to question 2, and return to the passage to continue reading from where you stopped before. This method doesn’t work for all students, but some find that it helps to stay focused!

      Otherwise, if that doesn’t help, I recommend taking a couple of short notes on each major piece of the text, usually for each paragraph. You only need a couple of words; don’t spend a long time writing! That keeps you focused on the passage, because you are always looking for the most important part of a paragraph to put into your notes.

      I hope that helps!

  7. Meena Hosham December 4, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    I need to be ready for a Tofel IBT in a month is it possible or i should extend the test time?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 8, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      Yes, it’s possible! But that depends on how much improvement you need to make, and what your target scores are. If, for example, you took a practice TOEFL and scored 30 points lower than your target, I would say that yes, you should extend the time and improve your general English skills. But if you only need to learn the format of the test and the best ways to answer questions, many students find that one month is enough time.

  8. Tesoke December 19, 2014 at 3:13 am #

    Hi, would you please give me some useful strategies for the following questions in the reading section?

    1- Negative fact questions (those have EXCEPT for)
    2- Paraphrased questions
    3- Insert text questions
    4- Summary questions (last questions)

    Thanks a million

  9. tshiya December 28, 2014 at 4:46 am #

    I’m passing the ibt TOEFL test in 2 week from now. My reading target score is (22, 23). I have been practicing the reading section with an average of 1 h/ day since almost a week. I got always a score of around [18,19,20]. Do you think that I’m able to increase my score by 2 to 3 points in the next 2 weeks ? Do I need to increase my practicing time per day ? my major weakness is related to the vocabulary and (the last questions of 3 points)
    thank you

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 30, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

      It’s certainly possible, yes! Be sure to pay careful attention to all your wrong answers during your practice. Learn exactly what was wrong and how you could have answered correctly. And if vocabulary is a problem, then keep reading as much as possible and making flashcards!. Those questions are some of the easiest to study for in a way—just keep learning new words, and you’ll improve. 🙂

  10. MArgarita January 11, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    I would like to what type of online course you recommend to improve the reading portion of this test. Your recommendation would be appreciated

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 12, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      To improve your reading, there are a number of skills that are important. But there are two types of practice that I think are most important:

      – Reading academic texts! Read every day, if possible. is a great place for challenging material.
      – Practice with official TOEFL material. Learning the format, how to best answer each question type, and your personal weaknesses are massively important. Closely analyzing mistakes and learning how to avoid them is probably the most important part of preparation for the reading section.

      As for recommending an online course, I’m afraid I might be too biased to give a direct answer to that, since we have our own online TOEFL course. I’d prefer that you based that decision on more objective advice and information. 🙂

  11. shadi June 14, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    hi Lucas,
    i have a very very important question to ask You which is:(no body else could help me with that)
    is reading English novels or study my lessons(i’m studying at nursing university) would help me pass TOEFL??
    i’m also willing to be a nurse in english spoken country like american or canada. so i thought studying my resources would help me with that but i think it has no benefit in the TOEFL and it’s a waste of time (because i think for toefl i have to read only articles, newspapers or certain books) but:(( i also have to pass an exam(NCLEX) to become a registered nurse in those countries or any other so i have to be master at my lessons in English…. (it’s a big dilemma specially that i have limited time(like a year) and studying both types of english would take a lot of time…so can you tell me which one should i focus more?!
    please if you can give me some advice i would really appreciate it :))

    p.s sorry i wrote too long…oh one more thing: at my university my grades are A in my OWN language!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink June 16, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

      Reading novels can be a big help for general English improvement, but you’re right that reading academic material (including magazine articles and news) is better practice, because the TOEFL doesn’t include literature. It’s not a waste of time to read novels, certainly, but they’re less productive for test preparation. Still, if you enjoy reading literature, keep doing it! Just make sure you don’t replace test-like reading completely with fiction. You can use those novels to make yourself read extra. 🙂

  12. nadia August 2, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi ,i will give toefl for the first time but already gave ielts.can you guide me good books for toefl

  13. Charitha August 21, 2015 at 7:06 am #

    Hi Lucas !
    I have been studying for TOEFL from Cambridge Prep . Sometimes I feel that in listening section more than one answer is correct. I can immediately sense that when I’m solving the questions and I often make mistakes in that particular question or so says the Cambridge test. Is this true ? Does this happen in the actual TOEFL ?
    Also I would like to know if Cambridge TOEFL tests are easier or harder than the actual test.
    Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink August 24, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

      You can see more about that in my book review on Cambridge, but the short answer is that yes, Cambridge tends to be harder than real TOEFL material, and too often has debatable “wrong” answer choices that would not be on a real TOEFL. They too often focus on subtle details or distinctions, whereas on real ETS questions, if something is wrong, it is definitely wrong, so long as you understand the language well enough. But beware that sometimes the feeling of “more than one answer is correct” happens when you’re answering any material that is a bit difficult for you. So don’t just assume the practice material is wrong—think carefully about why it may actually be wrong.

  14. Saif August 28, 2015 at 4:11 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    Thank you for your topics and ideas, it’s really helpful.I would not be mistaken to say that people who take TOEFL test are competitive and intelligent but they often fail their test due to unrelated questions, for example an engineering student won’t be able to understand medical terminology and vice-versa. If the test is in someone’s native language, in this case, they would face problems.
    the point I want to make is, how to overcome this problem with only having knowledge in a single field!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink August 28, 2015 at 10:37 am #

      Don’t worry! You don’t need any outside information to get even a perfect score on the TOEFL. All the information is in the lecture or text, so it doesn’t matter if you have knowledge in the field. 🙂 If you get an answer wrong, don’t blame previous knowledge—look carefully at the text or script and find where the information was, because it is always in the test.

  15. muti January 16, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    i have a problem in the reading section in TOEFL IBT i just started doing practices on the cambridge prep test but i’m only getting 18,17,16’s and i don’t really know what to do but i want to improve it to a 25 or higher and my test is in less than one month to be exact,,,,suggestions would be highly appreciated plzz,,,,

    • David Recine
      David Recine January 19, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

      Hi Muti,

      Sorry to hear you’re practice scores are not as high as you’d like them to be on the exam itself. This can be frustrating and disappointing– especially just one month before test day! Right away, I can tell you one thing you should definitely start doing in the next month if you haven’t done this already: take practice tests using authentic materials from ETS, the company that makes the TOEFL exam.

      You can get the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test and the book of Official TOEFL iBT Tests at very affordable prices from the ETS web store. And you’l be given the option to instantly download electronic versions of the books. The Official Guide offers four authentic practice tests, and there are five more tests in the Official TOEFL iBT Tests book. ETS also offers full exam sections in their free TOEFL Quick Prep service.

      You can find links to the official books, Quick Prep, and other sources of official practice exams here:

      There are probably other specific things you could do in the next month to boost your score. To assess exactly what you should do, take a good look at your strengths and weaknesses. What sections of the TOEFL are the easiest for you, and which are the hardest? Are there any question types you find more challenging than others? How is your pacing? Can you finish each section within the time limit? Think about those sorts of things, and you can make a study plan for the next month that builds on your strengths and helps you overcome your weaknesses.

  16. Sara February 20, 2016 at 4:50 am #

    hey there,
    I got 97 in the toefl but most of the universities in USA prefer 100. I mailed to their official site they said that you can apply 100 is simple their prefered score. And the worst part is I got lowest score in reading 22…SIGHS
    I am so confused what should I do?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 1, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

      As Lucas has explained in the article, the best way to improve your reading score in most cases is practice, practice, PRACTICE. But if you want to boost your Reading score, it may also help to think about your exact reading weaknesses, and any TOEFL Reading strengths you may be able to build on. Think about the question types you find the hardest and the ones you’re most confident in. And figure out which specific reading skills you’re the strongest and weakest in (vocabulary comprehension, understanding complex sentences, skimming and scanning, active reading, etc…)

      And of course, continue to refine your skills in the TOEFL and general English reading with the kinds of top practice materials that Lucas mentions in this post.

  17. Elijah Kim May 4, 2016 at 4:04 am #

    Hi, Lucas. I am Elijah Kim(In fact, that is not my real name. My name is Kim, Sung Joo:) Actually I’m from Korea and it is my first visit. You have enormous information about TOEFL test ! So, I want to ask you some questions. Could you recommend a TOEFL BOOK’s’ for me? Umm. Just TOEFL Reading. And please give me the review. Thank you for your recommendation.
    p.s. I want a book with lots of passage. Because, I already have the strategy book. Please.. I want lots of passages with 12-14 questions. Thank you Lucas!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 9, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

      Ask and ye shall receive, Mr. 김 “Elijah” 성주! 😉 A great place to start for Lucas’s recommendations of TOEFL books is here: Lucas’s list of the best TOEFL books of 2015. And we have an entire section for TOEFL book reviews on our site (almost all of which are personally written by Lucas!). You’ll certainly find books that are passage heavy and have plenty of actual practice materials– here at Magoosh, we prefer that format too.

  18. Shakil August 28, 2016 at 1:50 am #

    Hi, Lucas
    Have any website or any option to check my writing position???

  19. Nityanand October 23, 2016 at 5:22 am #

    Hello ,
    I scored 79 in TOEFL iBT .My targeted universities specify that minimum score requires 79. Is it fine if I apply on the basis of a current score or should I retake TOEFL ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 23, 2016 at 7:47 am #

      Hi Nityanand,

      I’ll be honest with you that it would be better for you not to be at the minimum score at your targeted universities. As such, it may be in your best interest to retake the TOEFL. However, if you do not have the flexibility, I would recommend that you contact your target schools to see how much they emphasize the TOEFL in their application.

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