I once heard, “If you prepare, you will not fear.”, a quote so true when taking a standardized admissions test such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, the Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT). And when it comes to conquering the reading section of this difficult test for international students, you will certainly want to be prepared before tackling 60-90 minutes of conceptually dense academic reading passages. In fact, so that you have an adequate reading speed of 250-350 words per minute, good concentration, and 60-80% comprehension of TOEFL reading passages, you should prepare yourself by building your college-level vocabulary, reading extensively for 45-60 minutes a day for several months, and having effective test-taking strategies.
Build your Vocabulary
First of all, you will need to build your college-level vocabulary so that you will be able to understand the language used in the TOEFL iBT reading passages.You can find such lists in TOEFL preparation books or at ESL web sites. A good TOEFL vocabulary list should consist of 1,000-2,000 common academic words, and, once you acquire your TOEFL words, you will need to create a note-card study system so that you get the meanings of these words into your long-term memory.
Get into a Daily Routine of Reading for about 45 Minutes
Second of all, block 45-60 minutes of time each day during which you read non-stop, even when encountering unfamiliar words. The point here is to get your brain used to concentrating in English, especially when reading for longer periods of time. Remember that the TOEFL iBT reading section, whose passages are notoriously conceptually dense, can be as long as 90 minutes. At first, you may find that you cannot concentrate for the entire 45 minutes of reading. That’s is OK. Therefore, if your initial concentration if only 15 minutes, try to build from there. ‘What should I read?” you ask. Reading multi-chapter fictional or non-fictional books, all of which should be a minimum of 250+ pages, will improve your speculative thinking ability and help improve your automaticity of language use. This and the vocabulary-building phrase of your academic reading proficiency may take up to year or more.
Utilize Effective Test-taking Strategies
Finally, you need to have good test-taking strategies while you take the TOEFL iBT test. Rhetoric, charts, schematic tables, implied detail questions, paraphrasing, and vocabulary: These are but a few of the types of questions you will have to answer, and you need to know two things: first, how identify each of these question types, and second, where to find the answers in the reading passages. TOEFL books will have targeted exercises to improve your reading skills in these areas. Complete all the skill-building exercises, including the reading comprehension practice tests. Once you have completed several practice tests within the time constraints recommended by the TOEFL book and you have met your reading proficiency practice test score goal, you should be prepared to take the actual TOEFL iBT. Unlike the vocabulary and extensive reading phases of your TOEFL iBT reading preparation, this last phase of your preparation will only take a few weeks.
To sum up, by practicing over an extended period of time, you will conquer the reading section of the TOEFL iBT. You will be able to concentrate better, read faster, and will remember more of what you read. And that is nothing to be fearful of, right?