Focus on Reading Skills: Vocabulary and Text Organization
A monthly peek at test content from Michael, a TOEFL® test expert.

Focus on Reading Skills: Vocabulary and Text Organization

Apr 12, 2016

When it comes to preparing for the Reading section of the TOEFL® test, engaging in activities to improve specific skills can be helpful. Two areas that are important to work on for test day are your vocabulary skills and your understanding of how academic texts are organized.

Increasing your vocabulary

The more words you know in English, the better prepared you’ll be for the Reading section. That’s because expanding your vocabulary increases your ability to understand reading passages. Keeping a journal of new words as you learn them is a good idea. Here are some tips:

  • Put the words in groups by academic subject areas, such as geology, biology and history
  • Create flash cards with the new vocabulary words 
  • Review these words frequently to keep them fresh in your memory
  • Start recognizing the meanings of prefixes, suffixes and common roots of these words 


Studying how academic texts are organized

In order to understand the meaning of what you are reading, it is important to understand how the text is organized. Seeing how sentences are related to one another can help you comprehend the text and allow you to answer questions about it more effectively on test day. Try out these tips for figuring out how texts are organized:

  • Make a list of the main points and supporting details 
  • Think about how these ideas are related to one another
  • Pay attention to how the end of one sentence relates to the beginning of the next sentence
  • Write a summary of the passage (if the text is comparing or arguing two points of view, be sure to mention both in your summary)

Focusing on learning new words and knowing how academic texts are organized will help you improve your comprehension skills. These skills are important for the Reading section of the test, and for lots of other things that you will be reading in English.

– Michael from ETS

For more ways to improve your English reading skills, take a look at the reading section of the TOEFL® Test Prep Planner.