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Finding Evidence in TOEFL Reading

If you’ve done any of the practice reading tests that come with answer guides, you may have noticed something: most answer guides give not only the answer to the question, but also an explanation of why it’s the correct answer. In other words, they provide evidence to support their answers. Although the TOEFL doesn’t test your ability to find evidence, it’s an essential skill for doing well on the reading section. After reading every question, you should be able locate and point to exactly where the answer is. That means, in many cases, reading the question, going back to the passage, and then looking at the answer choices to find the one that matches.

That’s a very important step, and students who get confused by wrong answers often skip it. It’s much easier to find the correct answer if you know exactly what you’re looking for. That way, you can compare the structures of sentences, the relationships between the pieces within each sentence, and the main ideas of each sentence. Being able to compare the text directly to the answer choices is a great help.

Finding evidence can mean finding the correct answer in a sentence, clearly stated. But if it’s not that simple, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find evidence. Sometimes an answer will be implied or suggested by the use of a particular transition or by a statement about a related topic. Let’s look at an example:

Here’s an excerpt from a lecture (yes, we’re using a listening sample for this activity) about United States history.

“Because the United States is such a large country, it took time for a common national culture to emerge. One hundred years ago there was very little communication among the different regions of the United States. One result of this lack of communication was that people around the United States had very little in common with one another. People in different parts of the country spoke differently, dressed differently, and behaved differently. But connections among Americans began to increase thanks to two technological innovations: the automobile and the radio.”

What does the speaker imply about modern-day Americans?

A) They share a single culture propagated by radio entertainment.
B) The majority of individuals within the population own cars.
C) They are more similar to each other today than they used to be.
D) There is no nationalist culture within the United States.

The correct answer is C. Evidence: “Because the United States is such a large country, it took time for a  common national culture to emerge.” This sentence implies that a common national culture did eventually emerge.

Finding evidence can be very slow at first since you have to go back to the text before answering each question, but you will gain speed with practice.  You can get even faster by working on recognizing the topic sentences of paragraphs, which will help you identify which part of a text is likely to contain the evidence you need. With this method, it will become much easier to choose correct answers on the first try, saving you valuable seconds.


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