The TOEFL iBT® Test: Improving Your Reading Skills

Advice for Reading
Performance Level: Low
Score Range: 0–14

  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 understand 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 lists of terms used in academic textbooks.
    • Make a plan for studying new words.
      • Write a new word on one side of a card and the definition on the back.
        • Write the sentence you saw the word in to help you learn correct usage
        • Study the words often and always mix up the cards
      • Group the words by topic or meaning. 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)
      • Review the new words on a regular basis so that you remember them.
    • 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.
      • Get calendars that teach 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.
        • Look for ways that main 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.