Obviously, the first section of TOEFL iBT tests your ability to read and answer questions about reading texts or passages. This part of the test, in fact, contains three reading texts where each text is followed by 12 to 14 questions for the total of 39 questions. The reading passages are generally from 600 to 700 words long, and some of the skills which are tested under this section include the abilities:

a. To scan for details

b. To use the context clues to understand the meaning of vocabularies

c. To draw and outline differences

d. To recognize coherence

e. To understand how the author explains a certain number of viewpoints

f. To recognize re-statement (paraphrases) and sentence simplifications

g. To distinguish/differentiate which one is the important ideas and which one is not

h. To analyze and classify information in order to complete summaries and charts

Normally, the passages are very much similar to the type of material that you find in any introductory undergraduate college textbook. In the TOEFL iBT test, the passages usually cover a wide variety of topics but in general, they can be classified into these following types:

a. Science and Technology, including knowledge of astronomy, geology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, biology, medicine, and engineering

b. History, government, geography, and culture

c. Studies of Art which include painting, sculpture, dance, architecture, and theater/drama

d. Social science which include the knowledge of anthropology, economics, psychology, and sociology

Furthermore, some passages might be categorized in more than one way. For example, a biography presented might be related to the life of a historical figure, an artist, or a scientific pioneer. The reading passages are mainly expository which in this case, they may have something to explain about as a core subject. However, there are also some passages which appear to be narrative (telling the story of a person or an event), or may seem to be persuasive (arguing in favor of some issues or standing against a certain number of perspectives).

Meanwhile, the level of vocabularies used in the Reading section of TOEFL iBT test is quite sophisticated (quite difficult) but they are not so unrealistically complicated. For example, some specialized term such as the word ‘glossed’ is often marked with a blue underline and you can get its definition by clicking on the word, or you can guess the meaning from the context of sentences related to that word.

Anyway, keep it in mind that it is not necessary to understand every single term used in the reading passage in order for you to be able to answer all the given questions correctly. Perhaps, the key strategy to overcome the challenge of this Reading test is by training yourself to read more contextual passages or articles written from the various topics discussed, whether the source is from journals, researched papers, or other forms of written subjects.

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