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TOEFL: Reading Time Management Tips

 This article covers:
  • What is the format and structure of the TOEFL reading section?
  • How can I help my students practice for the TOEFL reading section?
  • What’s the best way to prepare for the TOEFL reading section?
  • How to improve TOEFL scores on the reading section?

TOEFL is one of the most popular English language proficiency tests. The TOEFL iBT is accepted at universities and colleges worldwide because it specifically tests your student’s academic English skills.

The TOEFL exam offers a higher standard of proficiency than other English tests. This can help students stand out to prospective schools. So it’s important for students to study and practice for each section when preparing to take the TOEFL exam. For the reading section, this means students should know how to read and understand dense articles about academic topics. Students will face similar situations during their studies, so TOEFL can help them prepare for what they will actually experience.

Stack of books
TOEFL Reading Section

For both the TOEFL iBT in-person and the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, your student will need to complete this section. The reading section is the first part of the TOEFL test. Your student will read three or four academic articles (about 700 words each) and answer ten questions about each one.

Curious about the difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition? Click here to learn more about which TOEFL test is the right choice for your students, and click here to find out more about each TOEFL section in detail.

For many students, the biggest challenge of this section is time management. They’ll have just 54 minutes (three articles) or 72 minutes (four articles) to read all of the articles and answer all of the questions.

Fortunately, you can help maximize student success by sharing these tips to ensure they make the most of their limited time.

TOEFL Reading Time Management Tips for Test Day

1. Skim the Articles

Your student won’t have time to thoroughly read all of the articles before they begin answering questions. Instead, they should quickly skim each article for one to two minutes as soon as they see it. “Skimming” an article means to quickly glance at it while looking for the main ideas.

Encourage your student to pay special attention to the first paragraph as they skim the readings. They should also closely read the first sentence of each body paragraph. This will give them a general idea of what the article is about and the main supporting arguments used by the author. Once they start answering the questions, they will have a chance to examine the articles more closely.

Learn more about how each TOEFL section is graded and how each section impacts the overall TOEFL score.

2. Jump Around

Some students aren’t aware that they can move back and forth between questions on the TOEFL exam. They can even move between articles. To do this, your student will need to look for the arrow buttons at the top of the test software. Clicking these arrows will allow them to move forward or backward one question at a time. They can also select the “review” button to immediately jump to a specific question.

If they are unsure about a question, encourage them not to waste too much time thinking about the answer. They can go back to the question later, so make a guess and move on to the next question. Remind them to use their notepaper to record which questions they plan to return to.

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3. Quickly Note “Eliminations”

Often, students get stuck when they aren’t sure of the correct answer to a question. But, there will probably be one or two answer choices that they know are incorrect. Remind them to make things easier for themselves by quickly noting these choices. For example, if they are sure that choice “A” from the first question is incorrect, they can write “1A” with a line through it on their notepaper. They can do the same for “1B” if they are confident that it isn’t correct either. When they go back to that question, they will know to totally ignore those choices.

4. Manage Time Properly

Your student will have limited time to answer each question. This means they’ll need to spend more time on some answers, but less on others. To help decide which questions deserve more time, encourage them to look at question complexity.

For example, vocabulary questions are fairly direct. Most of the time, your student will either know the answer or they won’t. They shouldn’t spend more than a minute thinking about those. Rather, they should pick an answer and move on. On the other hand, “sentence insertion” and “negative factual” questions require the student to examine an entire paragraph to find the answer. Those questions will require extra time.

Learn more about the different question types found in the TOEFL exam.

5. Focus on One Question at a Time

For each article, the answers to the first nine questions can be found in a single paragraph. Thankfully, the test indicates which paragraph contains these answers. As your student attempts to answer each question, remind them to look for clues only in the paragraph indicated. The correct answers will not be found in any other article or paragraph. This will help save time so that your student can review the whole article for each article’s final reading questions.

6. Answer Every Question

This seems obvious, but it needs to be mentioned. Your student should answer every question! There is no penalty for incorrect answers on the TOEFL. This means that a guess is better than nothing. If your student notices that they’ve got 30 seconds remaining on the clock and unanswered questions, they should make quick guesses.

Interested in more tips to help your students succeed in their TOEFL Exam? Find practical advice to support your students in the articles below:

Smiling student
Maximize Student Success

These are just a few strategies to help your student make the best use of their time on test day. Remember that every student is different. As they prepare for the TOEFL exam and work through practice tests, let them also try their own time management strategies to discover what works best for them.

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