TOEFL IBT Reading Practice: Preparation for Exam Day

toefl ibt reading practiceThe TOEFL IBT (an acronym for Test of English as a Foreign Language – Internet Based Test) is a standardized test required for anyone from a non-English speaking country wanting to attend an English speaking college. The test consists of four different sections: reading, listening, speaking and writing. The reading section consists of questions about academic texts; often sections of texts that you would find in a traditional college textbook. In order to ace the exam and gain admission to your college of choice, you’ll need to take some TOEFL IBT reading practice tests in preparation for the actual exam.

If you’re planning on taking the TOEFL IBT in the future and need to begin studying, Udemy has an all-encompassing course that will prepare you for every single section of this exam.

What Should You Expect?

Prior knowledge of the subject matter in the test is not necessary. The reading portion of the TOEFL requires you to have basic knowledge of comparing and contrasting, cause and effect, and being able to extract information from a given passage. You’ll need to be able to read a selected passage in English, and understand the main idea, vocabulary used and make inferences based on the information you are given. Other than an understanding of the English language, the passage will give you all of the information you need to know in order to answer the questions.

How to Prepare

Practice Exams

In order to accurately prepare for the exam, taking practice exams online can help acclimate you to the types of passages and questions that you will face during the test. Many practice exams are available that use actual questions from previous exam years. The official ETS site offers a handful of sample test questions, as well as links to both free and paid eBooks and practice tests that will help prepare you even further. Taking a practice test just once will help, but in order to truly be prepared for the exam you should take a handful of practice tests and look at a handful of practice questions. The more exposed you are to potential passages and questions on the exam, the more you’ll be prepared on test day.

English Texts

After all, the TOEFL tests your ability to understand the English language. Even if you’re not practicing directly from sample questions or old exams, simply reading academic texts in English will help prepare you for the test. When choosing articles to read, make sure you are choosing those that challenge you. Read about a handful of different topics, from business to science to health and humanities. Big name newspapers are often a great way to practice your academic English; try reading a handful of articles from The New York Times, The Economist and The New Yorker daily. If you run across a word that you do not understand, try to determine whether or not you can figure out the definition by the context. If you can’t, look up the definition in the dictionary and keep a running list of all of the words you had to look up. The articles you will read in these sources will be more difficult than the sections of text you will find on the TOEFL; if you can understand these difficult articles, you will have no trouble understanding the questions on the exam. After reading a particular article, try to determine what the main point of the article was. Jot down specific details of the article and how they relate to each other, and then ask yourself what the point of the article was. Is the author trying to persuade readers, is it strictly factual, or is it an opinion?

If you want to start easier and work your way up, begin by reading sections of local US newspapers. Those that are not as academically focused will not be extremely challenging, but they will get you acclimated to the English language before moving onto more difficult texts. The most important thing to remember is to challenge yourself! If you perfectly understand everything you are reading, you need to choose more difficult material.

Proper Studying Techniques

  • Although flashcards of difficult words will help you better understand the definition, context is key to truly knowing how words are used in different sentences. This is why it is so important to read about academic topics such as science, technology, and the humanities.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get prepared! Learning a language doesn’t happen overnight, so you’ll need to dedicate at least an hour or two every single day to study for months (or more) before the test.
  • Practice English even when you’re not actively studying. Thinking, writing and conversing in English will help you develop proper grammar skills and give you extra practice. If you’re cleaning around your house, have NPR (National Public Radio) on in the background. This is an interesting and informative station that covers a wide variety of topics. The more you are exposed to English, the better you will get at reading and understanding the language.
  • Learn to recognize the parts of speech. Knowing what a verb is, an adjective, a noun, an adverb, etc will help you understand how sentences are formed. If you understand what role each part of speech plays within a sentence, you’ll be able to deconstruct sentences and determine the proper answers to the questions on the exam.
  • Read as much as you can! If you’re not interested in beginning with academic articles, start reading English novels. Being able to read a passage and understand the main idea is one of the biggest parts of the reading section.
  • Know the types of questions you’ll be exposed to. You can get a good feel of the questions you’ll be answering by completing practice exams that you can find both online and in test prep books. In the reading section, you’ll need to answer questions on the main idea, vocabulary, details from the passage, what the purpose is and inferences that can be made from reading the text. The more you expose yourself to the types of questions that you’ll find on the exam, the less nervous you’ll be when the real exam finally comes.


Yes, the TOEFL IBT is the test that is ultimately going to determine whether or not you get accepted to the college of your dreams. Yet, the more nervous you are on the day of the test, the worse you will do. The good news is that the more you prepare yourself for the reading section of the exam, the more you’ll be prepared for all of the other parts of the exam. Increasing your English skills by reading, writing, listening and speaking will help you both in preparation for the test and for experiencing classes in English every day once you are accepted to the college of your choice.

You can ease your nerves by making sure you are successfully prepared for any questions that may be thrown at you on test day. Don’t try to cram; you may be able to hold a lot of information in your short term memory, but only facts held in your long term memory will help you in the future. Get a lot of sleep the night before the exam, eat a healthy breakfast, and pass that exam!

If you’re looking for a place to start studying for the reading section of the TOEFL, Udemy has a course that will ease your nerves and get you prepared for the big day.