toefl readingTo prepare for the reading section of the TOEFL, the single most important thing to do is to read in English. If you are taking English classes, you are already getting some reading practice, but don’t let your classwork be all the reading you do. Frequent practice will help you to read faster and more fluently, or smoothly. Read about topics that interest you to keep yourself motivated – for example, if you love cars, read an auto magazine. Love gourmet food? Read a cooking magazine or restaurant reviews. Remember that the TOEFL is given on the computer, so be sure you do some reading on a computer, such as news sites and blogs.

While any reading will build your skills, the TOEFL will test your ability to read academic texts. Therefore, at least some of your practice should be academic reading. Read short sections of high school and college textbooks. If you are not currently in an English-speaking country, there are many good TOEFL prep books and computer programs that also provide academic reading practice.

As you read academic materials, you can do several things to practice the skills that are tested on the TOEFL:

  • Skim the text – this means to read it very quickly to understand the main idea.
  • Scan the text – this means to look for a specific piece of information, like an important name, date, or number.
  • Ask yourself what the writer is trying to do in the text. This will help you see the organization. Is it classification? Cause and effect? Compare and contrast?
  • Briefly summarize what you’ve read to be sure you understand the key points.
  • Notice the pronouns in the text and identify the nouns they refer to. For example, in the previous sentence, the pronoun “they” refers to “pronouns”.
  • Guess the meanings of unfamiliar words from the context, or the information around them. Jot down your guesses to check after you finish reading.

An extra benefit of preparing for the TOEFL is that it helps you to develop language skills that will serve you well in university and beyond. Skimming and scanning, organization, summarizing, understanding pronouns, and figuring out vocabulary from context will make you a more effective reader in your courses and even in the future at work.

If you are preparing to take the TOEFL, be sure to check out the other posts in IEI’s TOEFL series!

What do you like to read? Tell us in the comments.

(Photo credit: AlaskaTeacher)