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toefl question types

If in-person or online TOEFL tutoring through Manhattan Review is not a possibility for you, study guides for this exam are critical.  Many students often are confused as to what medium to pursue in regards to a TOEFL study guide: textbook, audio CDs, Internet practice program or computer-based practice tests and quizzes.

It’s highly recommended that you get some practice with this exam on a computer, since most of you will be taking the iBt version, which is solely computer-based.  After all, reading an academic article on a monitor is a very different experience from reading on regular paper.  Often times, it’s easier to get lost in our reading when we read on the computer, in addition we tend to slower.  Even if you are just reading encyclopedia articles online, it will be useful practice for you in the long run.

In regards to TOEFL study books, here are some options for you with comprehensive breakdowns to help you find your way in the bookstore!


Manhattan Review’s Integrated Study Guide: Turbocharge Your TOEFL

By Joern Meissner & Tracy C. Yun

This study book, published through Manhattan Review, not only breaks down TOEFL question types and the test itself, but also focuses on common American idioms, useful vocabulary, grammar review, accent reduction, in addition to special sections on the use of articles and prepositions.


Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test

By Deborah Phillips

This book is a unique two-for-one deal, as the 2nd edition (preferred) comes with a CD-Rom, so you are able to get your practice both on the page and on the screen.  This book is broken down in our test sections (reading, listening, speaking & writing), first with a broad overview with general suggestions, and then complete breakdowns and subsequent exercises with skills.  Also included are two complete, full-length TOEFL tests, in addition to three appendixes: Cohesion, Sentence Structure and Error Correction.  In the very back of the book, in addition to a very clear answer key, is a final section about diagnosis, assessment, and scoring.  Please note, the audio CD for this textbook is sold separately, so keep that in mind when purchasing this book.


Delta’s Key to the Next Generation TOEFL Test: Six Practice Tests for the iBt

By Nancy Gallagher

While this is a practice test-only book, Delta publishes some great material about the TOEFL that is used all over the world.  In particular, many students claim the Delta TOEFL exercises are somewhat harder than the actual TOEFL exam, so in many ways it sets the bar high prior to test day.  (Please note, Delta publishes an “Advanced Skills” book, as well, for advanced students.)  CDs for the listening, speaking and writing sections must be purchased separately, but are well worth it, as the lectures make great additions to your mp3 or i-pods to buff up your listening skills.

What’s the ultimate advice when it comes to practicing for the TOEFL at home?  Practicing every day is certainly important, but keep in mind that you don’t want to burn yourself out.  Students can sometimes grow overwhelmed very quickly with the academic listening and reading material this tests contains, so too much of this work all at once can have an adverse affect.  Also, focus on a skill-by-skill basis, devoting so many hours a day to reading, writing, speaking or listening.  (However, feel free to add some variety by warming up your study session with independent speaking questions or outlining independent essays.)

Posted on October 25, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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Many students are often very perplexed as how to finish the TOEFL reading portion of the test on time.  On a TOEFL reading exam, you can expect anywhere from 3-5 reading sections.  Each reading section is broken down, as follows:

  • 1 page-long reading article on an academic topic (history, science, the arts, philosophy)
  • 13-14 corresponding questions
  • 20 minutes to read the passage and answer all questions

Reading on the TOEFL exam is not necessarily “normal reading.” In other words, students don’t have time to read the reading section in-depth, so a very essential skill is necessary: skimming.  Skimming is basically reading quickly for a general understanding of the passage, taking note of main ideas and overall organization.  How does one go about doing this?  Well, when you are skimming, keep the following in mind:

  • Read only the first two or three sentences of the first paragraph and the first and last sentences of each paragraph after that. Move quickly across the words as you read them – do not be tempted to read the passage word for word.
  • Take note of key words. As you skim each TOEFL reading article, you will probably notice words that are repeated or words that are synonymous with the main idea of the passage as a whole.  Taking note of key words, which are words that define the topic and supporting points of the passage, is crucial on the TOEFL.  More than likely, questions that follow will ask specifically about key words and if you have an idea of where they are in the passage, you will be able to answer the questions faster.
  • Don’t be afraid to take notes. Overall, taking brief notes on a reading passage can be very helpful because it will give you an idea of where to find specific bits of information in each passage.  Sometimes, it might even be useful to give each paragraph a word or phrase that best summarizes its main idea.  Keep in mind that all note-taking will have to be on a separate piece of paper because the TOEFL iBt is now given on a computer.

When you finish skimming each passage, which generally takes about 1-2 minutes, you should have an outline of the passage in your mind.  This outline will serve as a guide when answering the bulk of the TOEFL reading questions and hopefully, a tool to get you to finish each 20-minute reading section on time!

The TOEFL reading section is broken down into 10 different reading question types.  Many TOEFL test-takers find it easier to complete a reading section on time if they are aware of the reading questions they will encounter, and then be able to identify them.  Here is a quick rundown of each question type you will encounter:

  • FACTS/DETAILS: Fact/Detail questions want to know specific information found in the passage.  The easiest thing about this question type?  It’s always possible to find the answer, since it’s found directly in the passage!
  • NEGATIVE FACTS/DETAILS: These questions sometimes confuse students because they often ask for the wrong answer, not the right answer.  These questions are easily identified because they contain the words “NOT” or “EXCEPT.”
  • REFERENT: Another word for “referent” is “pronoun.”  These questions require a sharp eye and a solid knowledge of singular/plural, masculine/plural pronouns.
  • VOCABULARY: Vocabulary questions ask for definitions of specific words that are closest in meaning out of all four possible answers.
  • INFERENCE: Inference questions can be difficult because they are asking you to infer or imply something about the passage, meaning it’s not stated outright, like in a fact/detail question.
  • PURPOSE: This question type asks the reason, or purpose behind a reading passage or portion of a reading passage.  Often times, the word “purpose” is actually found in this type of question.
  • PARAPHRASE: Paraphrasing means saying the same thing in similar words.  On the TOEFL, paraphrase questions will ask you to choose a sentence that is most like a specific highlighted sentence within the passage.
  • COHERENCE: Another phrase for coherence questions is “sentence insertion.”  For these questions, you are required to take a sentence in bold and replace it within the most appropriate place within the passage.  Coherence questions require an eye for where a sentence is specifically placed within a sentence.
  • SUMMARIZING: Summarizing questions ask you to form a summary based off of six possible sentences.  You are often asked to choose three out of six that most closely resemble a topic sentence given to you – all of which are related to the reading passage.
  • CATEGORIZING INFORMATION: When approaching categorizing information questions, you are asked to place specific bits of information into categories related to the passage.  Often, categorizing questions are found at the end of a 20-minute reading section.

Overall, recognizing TOEFL question types can expedite your process when working through a reading section.  Along with each question type comes specific strategies – all of which a very knowledgeable TOEFL preparation instructor at Manhattan Review can assist you with!