The TOEFL iBT® Test: Improving Your Reading Skills

Advice for Reading
Performance Level: Intermediate
Score Range: 15–21

  1. Read as much and as often as possible in English.
    • Read texts on a variety of topics.
      • Read both academic and non-academic materials.
      • Read about subjects that interest you and that DON’T interest you.
    • Write basic questions to test your understanding of a text.
      • Write questions and answers about the first paragraph. Then guess what might be discussed in the next paragraph.
    • Use your knowledge of grammar to try to comprehend difficult sections of a passage.
      • Think carefully about the relationship between independent and dependent clauses.
      • Look for words that refer back to some information given in a previous section of the text.
        • Look at pronouns and find the nouns that they refer to
        • Look at relative pronouns (who, that, which, whom, whose) used in adjective clauses (for example, The student whose classmates are taking the TOEFL test....) and find the nouns they refer to
    • Work with a reading partner. Read different newspaper or magazine articles.
      • Write questions about the articles you read.
      • Exchange articles with your partner and try to answer your partner's questions.
  2. Continually expand your vocabulary knowledge.
    • It is important to increase your vocabulary on many subjects because you will have to read about various topics at the university.
      • Review glossaries/lists of terms used in academic texts.
    • Develop a system for studying new words.
      • Write each word on a card and mix up the cards each time you study them.
        • Write the context (the sentence the word was used in) to help you learn correct word usage
      • Group the words according to topic or meaning and study the words as a list of related words.
      • Study vocabulary by making a list of opposites (words with different meanings) and synonyms (words with similar meanings).
        • opposites (relevant-irrelevant; abstract-concrete)
        • synonyms (excellent, outstanding, superb)
    • Expand your vocabulary by analyzing the parts of a word. This will help you understand some unknown words that you see.
      • Study roots (a part of a word that other parts are attached to)
        • -spect- (look at)
        • -dict- (say)
      • Study prefixes (a part of word attached to the beginning of a word)
        • in- (into)
        • pre- (before)
      • Study suffixes (part of a word attached at the end of the word)
        • -tion (inspection)
        • -able (predictable)
      • Study word families (the noun, verb, adjective, or adverb forms of related words)
        • enjoyment (noun)
        • enjoy (verb)
        • enjoyable (adjective)
        • enjoyably (adverb)
    • Use the context to guess the meaning of unknown words.
      • Notice when difficult terms are defined in the text.
      • Look for examples with an explanation of the meaning of a word.
      • Look at the other words and structures around an unknown word to try to understand it.
    • Use resources to help you study vocabulary.
      • Use an English-English dictionary to learn correct meaning and word usage.
      • There are calendars that teach you a new word each day or websites that will send you an e-mail with a new word each day.
      • Study the vocabulary you find on university websites that give information about the university and the faculty teaching at the school.
    • Practice correct usage by making sentences with new words. This will also help you remember both the meaning and the correct usage of the words.
      • Have a teacher check your sentences.
      • Review the new words on a regular basis so that you remember them.
  3. Study the organization of academic texts and overall structure of a reading passage.
    • Read an entire passage from beginning to end.
      • Look for the main ideas of the article.
      • Look for the supporting details.
        • Pay attention to the relationship between the details and main ideas
    • Learn to recognize the different styles of organization that you find in articles in English in order to understand the way an article is structured.
      • Pay attention to the connecting words/transitions used for specific relationships.
        • steps (first, second, next, finally)
        • reasons (because, since)
        • results (as a result, so, therefore)
        • examples (for example, such as)
        • comparisons (in contrast, on the other hand)
        • restatements of information (in other words, that is)
        • conclusions (in conclusion, in summary)
    • Outline a text to test your understanding of the structure of a reading passage.
      • Begin by grouping paragraphs that address the same concept.
        • Pay attention to how the key ideas in one paragraph relate to the main points of the next paragraph
        • Write one sentence summarizing the paragraphs that discuss the same idea
      • Look at connections between sentences.
        • Look at how the end of one sentence relates to the beginning of the next sentence
        • Think about the connection between the ideas of the two sentences
        • Combine the sentences using appropriate transitions words to show the relationship between ideas
    • Write a summary of the entire passage.