Phrasal Verbs in TOEFL Reading


In reading passages on the TOEFL, phrasal verbs tend to be used in sophisticated ways, as part of long, grammatically complex academic sentences. In this post, we’ll look at several TOEFL like phrasal verbs, as they might appear in a TOEFL reading. Each phrasal verb below has multiple definitions, but here I’ll showing you only the definitions that may be used on the TOEFL.

You won’t need to know any other meanings of these vocabulary words on the exam. But if you’re curious about the full use of these phrasal verbs, look them up on Wordnik or’s phrasal verb dictionary.


Go off – to leave

    Possible TOEFL Use
    A TOEFL passage on world history: When the early European explorers went off to find the Americas, they initiated unforeseen changes in world culture and world economics.


Bring about – to make something happen

    Possible TOEFL Use
    A TOEFL passage on world history: Among other things, early exploration of the New World helped to bring about the Enlightenment, an important European movement that helped intellectually shape the modern world.


Take back – to regain ownership

    Possible TOEFL Use
    A TOEFL passage on military history: The emperor’s army took back the castle by using military techniques and equipment that were very innovative by 15th century standards.


Come down- to drop to a physically lower point; to be removed (as in a building or structure)

    Possible TOEFL Uses
     A TOEFL passage about animals: Periodically, a sloth will come down from its tree to forage for food.

    A TOEFL lecture from an art history class: So when the wallpaper came down, they discovered a long-lost painting by one of the great masters.


Put down- to write down, record

    Possible TOEFL Use
    A TOEFL Reading passage about art history: The abstract impressionist art movement started as a way to visually convey things that couldn’t otherwise be put down in words.


Carry on – to continue to do something

    Possible TOEFL Use
     A TOEFL Reading passage about science: The scientists carried on with their research even after government funding for their experiments had ceased.


Bring back – to return a thing that was taken away

    Possible TOEFL Use
    A written announcement from TOEFL Speaking Task 2: The campus cafeteria will be bringing back their vegetarian menu. The menu had been discontinued last year.


It’s important to know how phrasal verbs might be used in reading passages on the TOEFL—in complicated sentences within academic passages, and in simpler sentences for the TOEFL Speaking Task 2 reading.

That being said, the majority of the phrasal verb use on the exam won’t be in the readings. It’s much more common to see phrasal verbs in speech on the TOEFL. In my next post on TOEFL phrasal verbs, I’ll give you a look at some phrasal verbs as they might be used in lectures, class discussions, and conversations on the test.


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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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