Structure of the TOEFL Reading section

The Reading section is the first section of the TOEFL. You will be given three or five passages of approximately 700 words. Each passage can have 12 to 14 questions. You will get 20 minutes to read the first passage. Then you have 40 minutes to read the second and third passages. Finally, if your test includes a fourth and fifth passages, you will get another 40 minutes to complete them.

Number of passages

Students are sometimes given five passages for reading, instead of the standard three. You are not graded on these additional passages. However, the test writers use your performance on these passages to assess their level of difficulty so that they can be modified for later tests. There is one problem, though. You will not be told which three of the five passages count towards your mark. That means you have to give the same importance to all passages.

The reading passages are academic in nature. They could be about arts, sciences, applied sciences or social sciences.

Functions of the screen buttons

Here are a few things to remember.


You will find a timer at the top of the screen during the entire section. If you are in the first part, the timer counts down from 20. If you are in the second or the third part, the timer counts down from 40.

The reading section has two or three parts depending upon the number of passages you have. If your test includes only three passages, it will have two parts. The first part takes only 20 minutes. The second part takes 40 minutes during which you have to read the second and third passages.

Back button

Within each part, you can go back to the previous question by clicking on the Back button once. You can also change your answer if you want to. Remember that you cannot go back to the first part from the second part. In the same way, you cannot go back to the first or second part from the third part. That means once the timer ends and you move on to the next part, you cannot go back to the previous part.

Students are not supposed to have any specialized knowledge in these fields. All the information you need to answer the questions will be there in the passage itself.