A Preview of the TOEFL® Reading Section
A monthly peek at test content from Michael, a TOEFL® test expert.

A Preview of the TOEFL® Reading Section

Sep 8, 2014

Hi, there! It’s Michael from ETS here. To help you prepare for the Reading section of the TOEFL® test, I thought I would give you an overview of the section and a look at the 10 types of reading questions you may encounter on test day.

Reading Section Overview
Time limit: 60-80 minutes
Questions: 36-56 questions
Tasks: Read 3-4 passages from academic texts and answer questions.

10 Types of TOEFL® Reading Questions

  1. Factual information questions: You are asked to identify factual information that is explicitly stated in the passage.

    Example: According to the paragraph, which of the following is true of X?

  2. Negative factual information questions: You are asked to determine which of the 4 answer options is wrong, which has a detail or idea not in the passage or is stated inaccurately. 

    Example: The author’s description of X mentions all of the following EXCEPT…

  3. Inference questions: After reading the passage, you are asked to decide which of the 4 statements the author was trying to imply.

    Example: Which of the following can be inferred about X?

  4. Rhetorical purpose questions: You are asked why the author of the passage has presented a particular piece of information in a particular place or manner.

    Example: Why does the author mention X?

  5. Vocabulary questions: Based on the passage, you are asked which of the 4 answer options is closest in meaning to the selected word or phrase.

    Example: The word X in the passage is closest in meaning to…

  6. Reference questions: A word is highlighted in the passage; you are asked to choose which of the 4 answer options best refers to the highlighted word.

    Example: The word X in the passage refers to…

  7. Sentence simplification questions: You are asked to choose a sentence that has the same essential meaning as a sentence that occurs in the passage.

    Example: Which of the following best expresses the essential information in the highlighted text?

  8. Insert text questions: You are given a new sentence and are asked where in the passage it would best fit.

    Example: [You will see a sentence in bold] Where would the sentence best fit?

  9. Prose summary questions: You are asked to select the major ideas in the passage by distinguishing them from minor ideas or ideas that are not in the passage.

    Example: Which three choices express the most important ideas in the passage?

  10. Fill in a table questions: You are given a partially completed table based on information in the passage and asked to match the appropriate statements to the provided text.

    Example: Match the appropriate statements to the provided text.

Keep in mind: this is an overview to get you started. Be sure to check back for future posts, where I’ll go in to greater detail about specific reading questions. Think you’re ready to put your skills to the test? View Sample Reading Questions

Looking for even more ways to prepare for the TOEFL® test? Take the only official practice test that uses real TOEFL® questions. Get started with TOEFL Practice Online >