Kate Hardin

Meet the TOEFL Reading Section

The reading section is designed to test how well you understand and interpret college-level academic writing similar to that found in introductory textbooks. The reading section of the TOEFL will probably be more difficult than most other tests you’ve taken, because not only is the language very advanced, but the texts are also about very specific topics that will probably be new for you.

There will be three or four passages in the reading section, each with 10 questions. This brings the total amount of time in the reading section to 54 or 72 minutes (18 minutes per passage). Although there are many, many possible subjects that the passages may come from, you don’t need to know anything before the test about these topics in order to answer the questions. All the information you need will be written in the passage.

You will be able to read each passage before answering the questions that relate to it. After you’ve read the passage, clicking “next” will open the first question in a window next to the passage. Many of the questions are specific to a particular paragraph; if this is the case, the relevant paragraph will be marked with an arrow. Even when a question only relates to one paragraph, you’ll be able to view the entire passage if you want.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

Most of the questions in the reading section have exactly one correct answer. The most important exception to this is the table questions, which will give you five or more answer choices, of which you must pick all of the correct answers and organize them properly within the table. We’ll deal with table questions in greater detail soon. Other questions with two or three answers are very rare, and they are clearly marked. There are special instructions that say “CHOOSE TWO answers” for those questions.

Finally, be aware that some of the reading passages may use technical vocabulary that you aren’t expected to know. These words will be underlined, and clicking on one of these words will show the definition for that word. But you will never be asked about the definition of one of those words in the questions. The words that the TOEFL asks about are all used in general English or explained in the passage.

If you want to learn about the TOEFL reading section in video format, you can watch the video below. 🙂


  • Kate Hardin

    Kate has 6 years of experience in teaching foreign language. She graduated from Sewanee in 2012, where she studied and taught German, and recently returned from a year spent teaching English in a northern Russian university. Follow Kate on Google+!

More from Magoosh