TOEFL reading

The TOEFL reading section is the first part of the TOEFL iBT test and the second part of the TOEFL Essentials test.

Test structure

The TOEFL iBT reading section is composed of 3 or 4 texts of approximately 700 words each, with 10 questions to answer about each text. That makes a total of 30 or 40 questions in the TOEFL reading section. Depending on the number of texts and questions, students have 54 to 72 minutes to complete the TOEFL reading section.

The TOEFL Essentials reading section is composed of 4 types of questions on vocabulary, academic texts, and non-academic texts. In total there are 30 to 45 questions in the reading section and you have 22 to 33 minutes to complete them, depending on the number of questions. TOEFL Essentials is an adaptive test, so the questions in the reading section will get harder or easier depending on your previous answers.

Additional questions may be included in the TOEFL reading section that will not be counted towards your TOEFL score. These questions are used by ETS, the makers of the test, to calibrate the TOEFL. If you find that your TOEFL reading section is longer than expected, this is probably why. However, you cannot know which of the reading questions will not be counted, so it’s important to do your best on all of the questions.

Question types

The TOEFL iBT reading test uses texts written at a university level in academic English. These texts could be excerpts from a university textbook, for example, and are generally of three types: historical or biographical narrative, argumentative, or exposition of a subject. No prior knowledge about the subject discussed in the texts is required in order to answer the comprehension questions, but a good grasp of academic English is necessary.

The TOEFL Essentials reading test also includes texts written in academic English and tables of academic English content. The texts are short, around 200 words, and there are 6 questions about each text. For each table, there are 4 true/false questions. There are also texts written in everyday English and vocabulary questions included in the reading section of the TOEFL Essentials test.


The amount of time allowed for the TOEFL reading section is indicated in the instructions section of the reading test but you can use the time as you see fit. Because this section is timed, it is important to pace yourself so that you have enough time to read all the texts and answer all the comprehension questions. Blank answers on the TOEFL are counted as incorrect.


Students can move forward and backward in the TOEFL reading section, so they may skip a question and return to it later if time permits. The total score of the TOEFL reading section is between 0 and 30 with a high reading score being anything 24 and above. On the TOEFL Essentials, scores of 9 and above are high.

The next part of the TOEFL iBT is the listening section.