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Are you planning on taking the TOEFL ITP test but you’re not confident with your reading skills?

In this article, we’re going to go through the top strategies you need to know to get a high score in the TOEFL Reading module.

First, we will give you general tips. And then we’ll discuss the 6 Different Question Types which you will need to be able to answer to perform well.

General Tips

1. Time Management

You have 55 minutes to answer 50 questions in the TOEFL ITP Reading module. That’s about 1 question per minute, so don’t waste your time reading the whole passages because you won’t have time!

So what should you do instead?

2. Skim The Passages

In TOEFL ITP Reading, you will need to skim through the passages. Spend a minute or two on each passage to get main idea and location of key information before reading the questions. This will help you when scanning for key words.

3. No Prior Understanding Needed

Don’t worry if a passage is on a topic that you’re not familiar with. All information you need to answer the questions is included in the passages. No background knowledge is needed.

4. Answer ALL Questions!

You do not lose points for wrong answers, so make sure NOT to leave any answers blank!

6 different question types

There are six different question typesin the TOEFL ITP Reading module and each type requires a different strategy. So sit back and enjoy as we take you through the 6 different question types:

1. Main Idea Questions

This type of question may be worded in the following ways:

  • What is the main idea of the passage?
  • What is the subject of the passage?
  • What is the topic of the passage?
  • What is the author’s main point of the passage?
  • With what is the author primarily concerned?

The answer to this type of question can generally be found in the first sentence of each paragraph. However, this is not always the case.

Start by looking for the main idea in the first line of each paragraph. But then scan the rest of the passage to make sure that the topic sentence isn’t located somewhere else.

Once you have found the topic sentence, eliminate the wrong answers and choose the best answer from the remaining choices.

Check out the following sample passage and question:

In the first half of the nineteenth century, a New York newspaper, the New York Sun, successfully carried out a hoax on the American public. Because of this trick, relationship of the paper rose substantially.

On August 25, 1835, The Sun published reports that some wonderful new discoveries had been made on the moon. The article described strange, never-before-seen animals and temples covered in jewels. Many members of the American public were fooled by the story, even some prominent members of the paper were dramatic.

Paper sales increased considerably as people eagerly searched out details of the new discoveries. Later, the newspaper company announced that it had not been trying to trick the public, instead, the company explained the moon stories as a type of literary satire.

Which of the following best states the topic of the passage?

A. A nineteenth-century discovery of the moon

B. The New York Sun

C. A hoax and its effect

D. The success of a newspaper

If you read the first two lines of the first paragraph, you will notice that the paragraph talks about a hoax carried out by a newspaper called New York Sun.

The second paragraph states that people were fooled by the hoax and the third paragraph explains how sales increased after publishing the hoax.

We can conclude that the best answer is (C).

2. Stated Detail Questions

As the name suggests, a stated detail question asks the test taker to identify a specific piece of information in the passage, whereas an unstated detail question requires you to find a statement that is not mentioned.

In stated detail questions, the answer is often a paraphrase of what the passage says. The words are not exactly the same, so this is where your paraphrasing skills and vocabulary range are tested.

This type of question may be worded in the following ways:

  • It is stated in the passage that…
  • The passage indicates that…
  • The author mentions that…
  • According to the passage…
  • Which of the following is true about…?

It is important that you can identify the key word in the question because the relevant part of the passage contains that key word.

Next, you have to scan the passage for the key word and carefully read the sentence containing this word. Look for an answer that rephrases the main sentence or idea in the passage and then choose the best answer.

Check out the sample passage below:

The plane with the largest wingspan ever built was nicknamed the Spruce Goose. The wingspan of the Spruce Goose was 320 feet (almost 100 meters) and the plane weighed 200 tons. It was so big that it needed eight engineers to power it.

The plane was designed by Howard Hughes in response to a US government requested for a plane that was able to carry a large cargo for the war effort. It was made of wood because wood is a less critical material in wartime than metal.

The plane was so difficult to build that it never really got used. It was flown one time only, by Hughes himself, on November 2, 1947; during that flight it travelled a distance of less than one mile over the Los Angeles harbour, but it did fly. Today, the Spruce Goose is on exhibit for the public to see in Long Beach, California.

According to the passage, when the Spruce Goose flew, …

A. It went only a short distance

B. It fell into the Los Angeles Harbour

C. It flew 100 miles

D. It carried a large cargo

The answer to this question can be found in line 7-9 of the third paragraph, where it says:“It was flown one time only” and “it travelled a distance of less than one mile”

The idea here is that the plane didn’t fly far, so the answer that best rephrases that idea is (A).

3. Unstated Detail Questions

When tackling unstated detail questions, you will need to find three correct answers and choose the one that is not correct. This is slightly more challenging than finding the correct answer.

This type of question may be worded in the following ways:

  • Which of the following is not stated about…?
  • Which of the following is not mentioned about…?
  • Which of the following is not true about…?
  • Which of the following is not discussed about…?
  • All of the following are true, except

The strategy required to answer this question is similar to that used in dealing with stated detail questions. However, instead of finding just one true answer, you have to find three and eliminate them.

Check out the following sample passage:

Whales are mammals rather than fish, yet they live in the world’s ocean rather than on land. Because of the fact that they are mammals, scientist have believed for quite some time that whales are descendants of land mammals.

Some interesting evidence to support this theory has recently been found. In Egypt, fossils have been found of a forty-million-years-old whale leg, kneecap, ankle, footbones, and toes. It appears form the fossils evidence that the bones were not very strong and no very large in comparison to the size of the whale.

Based on this fossils evidence, the following evolutionary path has been hypothesized. As the whale began its evolution toward the water, its legs weakened and decreased in size. Then, during its millions of years in the water, the legs slowly disappeared, leaving only the front flippers today.

Which of the following is NOT mentioned about the whale fossils in the passage?

A. They were found in Egypt

B. They support the theory that whales came from land

C. They are forty million years old

D. They showed that ancient whales had flippers

Lines 2-3 states that scientists believed that whales are descendants of land mammals, so eliminate (B).

Lines 4-6 state that “In Egypt, fossils have been found of a forty-million-year-old whale leg, kneecap, ankle, footbones, and toes.” So we can eliminate (A) and (C).

The answer is therefore (D) because line 11 says that today’s whales have flippers unlike ancient whales.

4. Implied Detail Questions

This question type requires you to conclude what the passage is about. This type of question contains the words implied, inferred, likely, or probably to let you know that the answer is NOT directly stated. This type of question may be worded in the following ways:

  • It is implied in the passage that…
  • It can be inferred from the passage that…
  • It is most likely that…
  • What probably happened…?

First, as always, find the key word in the question. Then, scan the passage for the key word or related information.

Next, find the sentencecontaining the key word. Finally, look for the answer in this sentence.

Check out this sample passage and question:

On the hardness scale, corundum immediately follow diamond, which is the hardest mineral in the world. Corundum is perhaps better known by the name of its gemstones, ruby and sapphire. Basically, gem corundum is divided into two groups: corundum that is red in color is called ruby, and corundum that is any other color is called sapphire.

Pure corundum is clear, but pure corundum is rarely found in nature. If small amounts of the chemical substance chromic oxide (Cr2O3 ) got into the crystal structure when it formed millions of years ago, then the corundum can take on. Other chemical substances enter into the crystal structure of corundum, and it can take a variety of other colors. Most people associate blue with sapphire, can certainly when corundum can have a variety of other colors -eg., green or purple- and still be called sapphire.

It can be inferred from the passage that corundum is…

A. The hardest mineral in the world

B. Not as hard as sapphire

C. The second hardest mineral

D. A rather soft mineral

The first sentences states: “On the hardness scale, corundum immediately follows diamond, which is the hardest mineral in the world.”

So we can immediately conclude that corundum is not the hardest mineral in the world, since that status belongs to diamond. Corundum’s hardness is second to diamond, and therefore, the correct answer is (C).

5. Vocabulary in Context Questions

This type of question is quite common in the TOEFL Reading Module and requires you to determine the meaning of a difficult word or expression. The question will tell you where the information is located.

This type of question may be worded in the following ways:

  • What is the meaning…?
  • Which of the following is closest in meaning to…?
  • … could best be replaced by which of the following?

Check out the following sample passage and question:

At the end of the Revolutionary War, America was no longer a colony; instead, America was a new, young country that needed to set up its own government. There was a lot of disagreement throughout the country as to the type of government that was best. One of the major issues was whether there should be a strong federal government with little power in the hands of the individual states or a weak central government and powerful states.

The expression “set up” in line 2 could best be replaced by which of the following?

A. Defend

B. Organize

C. Argue about

D. Protect

From the sentence “America was no longer a colony; instead, America was a new, young country that needed to set up its own government.” we can conclude that America was no longer a colony and had to organize its own government. Therefore, the correct answer to this question is (B).

6. “Where” Questions

In this final question type, you will need to determine where in the passage a piece of information is found. The question will give you a list of possible locations.

The wording in this question type is very simple.

  • Where in the passage…?
  • The author explains … in …

To answer this type of question, first understand the information you are looking. Then go to the lines listed in the answers, then skim for that information.

Check out the following sample passage and question: 

By 1963, the one-man space flights of Project Mercury had successfully taken place, and NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space administration) was ready for a new challenge. That new challenge was to send two men into space at the same time, rather than one, so that it would be possible to conduct a wide variety of new maneuvers and tests.

An appropriate name was found for that new project: Project Gemini. The name “Gemini” might seem appropriate because it is the name of one of the constellation of stars in the sky, but that is not the real reason for the choice of the name. “Gemini” comes from the Latin word geminus which means “twin.” The constellation Gemini received its name because it consists of two very bright stars with no other bright stars close by, and those stars seem like twins. The NASA project received its name because of the number of men who would be together in the space capsule orbiting the earth.

Where in the passage does the author describe the composition of the Gemini constellation?

A. Lines 3-4

B. Lines 5-7

C. Lines 7-8

D. Lines 8-10

Lines 3-4 contain no information about Gemini. So (A) is obviously wrong.

Lines 5-7 only give information about the name for the new NASA project being Gemini, so (B) is also wrong.

Line 7-8 says where the name “Gemini” comes from but does not cover the composition of the constellation, so (C) is also incorrect.

Lines 8-10 inform us about the composition of the Gemini constellation, so the correct answer is (D).

So there you have it. We have discussed the main strategies you need to ace the TOEFL Reading Module. Hopefully this explanation helps you with your TOEFL journey.

However, if you need more guidance then you should definitely keep reading.

Next Steps

Are you confused about how to maximise your TOEFL score?

Preparing for TOEFL test can be overwhelming. It feels like there’s too much to learn in too little time. You search for tips and tricks on the internet & you watch youtube videos. But they just don’t seem to help. In fact, they make you even more confused.

This is because most courses teach TOEFL the wrong way. They give you useless exercises that waste your time and don’t give you the right strategies that work. 

As a result, you end up feeling more confused and stressed and unprepared to take your test. 

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way! 

At IELC, we teach TOEFL the right way. 

At IELC, we know what it takes to succeed in the TOEFL test. And we want to share our knowledge with you so you can succeed too! We know how to teach TOEFL the right way and that’s why we have the best track record in Indonesia for helping our students achieve their TOEFL targets. 

We help you overcome your problem areas. 

We find your problem areas and help you overcome them with the right strategies and exercises.

We teach you test-taking psychology secrets so you know how to stay focused during the test.

We teach you essential vocabulary and grammar for the TOEFL writing and speaking modules so you can express yourself with clarity and confidence.

We teach you how to generate ideas and brainstorm and prepare for any topic that comes up.   

Guidance from our expert TOEFL teachers.

Our expert TOEFL teachers guide you along every step of the way so you can prepare in a systematic way and be confident that you are prepared for the test. 

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Whether it’s Online or On Campus, we will help you get the skills you need to achieve your target TOEFL score. Contact us today to get your FREE consultation and start your journey towards success in TOEFL today!


Anthony McCormick

IELC Managing Director