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TOEFL Reading Section: Common Mistakes

TOEFL Reading Section: Common Mistakes

TOEFL reading section is the realm in where the routes to ride are set by means of subtle strategies which are to be explored keeping in knowledge to avoid the common mistakes. The common mistakes should be given emphasize so that one can drive the reading section in a smart way keenly. The keen knowledge of the common mistakes builds a shield to go onward with confidence to answer all the questions by means of correct vibes with a view to gleaning a smart and desired score.


Reading the entire passage word by word 

  • One has to remember that TOEFL is a time-constrained test. So there are no points for understanding and enjoy the entire passage by being relaxed like reading any novel or story i.e. reading the entire passage, word by word.
  • The Reading section consists of 36-56 questions, designed to test a wide range of reading skills within 60-80 minutes. These include reading for gist, main ideas, skimming, and understanding the logical argument to recognize writers' opinions, attitudes, and purpose to answer the questions from academic texts within 3 or 4 passages. 
  • So, one has to scan and skim the text quickly to get an idea of the topic.
  • There are many unnecessary words and information that can be skipped. It is really unwise to waste time to explore the meaning of any word that is of no use in answering the questions.
  • One needs to start to answer the questions as soon as possible to avoid unwise use of time mistakenly.


Disorganized Management of Time

  • A disorganized management of time can be the driving force of messes and mistakes.
  • A dedicated 20 minutes for each section is considered enough to crack the three paragraphs and their related questions in the Reading section. So, it should be kept in mind that one can get approximately 1.5-2 minutes for each of the questions. So, if one devotes more time in 1 section, he/she will be left with less time to read the other passages and to solve the pending questions.
  • One can do a great mistake by being unconcerned about the timer on screen.  One should be concerned about the timer which is going continuously onward in a running section without having any pause button for any instant, sudden, uninstructed break. It should be kept in mind cautiously otherwise important time will be lost.
  • One of the common mistakes in TOEFL reading is poor preparation to deal with vocabularies which is really crucial urge to score smartly. ‘Vocabulary in context’ questions are those that one should spend about 20-30 seconds and they can provide the ample time necessary for ‘summary’ questions.


Leaving Review button Unused 

  • Review button is a very powerful button in TOEFL exam screen of the computer. If one presses it, he/she will get redirected to a screen that lists all of the questions in the reading section.
  • So one should not be leaving the review button unused rather he/she should take the advantage of it positively.
  • The review button page will let one know which questions one has answered, which you haven’t and which you haven’t reached yet.
  • Not only that but on this page, you can jump around to different questions. So here is another problem which may create a disorder if anyone jumps around too much. It is also time consuming.
  • It is suggested to answer in sequential order and to come later to the unanswered question to guess and answer utilizing review button.


 Miss to Explore the Cue-words  

  • The time constraint to read and answer all questions puts one under pressure and this can cause to miss out the cue-words or keywords given in questions.
  • One of the most common mistakes test takers make is mistaking a negative factual question for a factual question i.e. they can overlook the word 'NOT' or 'EXCEPT' in the question and therefore they look for the wrong answer. Eventually, they lose marks.
  • In addition, when reading the passage, people often overlook transition words such as 'however', 'though', and 'despite'. They may also overlook those words when answering a sentence insertion or purpose question. It is also a mistake and crucial fact to be cautious.
  • Even though one is under a time constraint and are under pressure, it’s vital to slow down and carefully read each question.
  • It is suggested not to search the keywords as it and look for its synonyms or words that make sense with respect to them. One may not find its answer by searching the keywords as it is rather it may lead to a wrong answer making a mistake of searching the answers using the exact keywords.
  • While reading, one needs to identify the keywords with a keen attention and then one can search those keywords in the passage to find an answer.


 Unfamiliar with Vocabularies

  • Unfamiliar vocabulary is one of the biggest problems almost all test takers encounter during their TOEFL exam.
  • It’s almost unavoidable, especially in the reading section. When one does encounter unfamiliar words, he/she should be strategic.  
  • Actually, one doesn’t have to understand every word in a passage.
  • One needs to check if the word is important to understanding the passage. If it isn’t then the step is to move on because it’s going to take time and making sure that completing the reading section is more important than understanding every word.
  • If the unfamiliar word contributes much to the overall understanding of the passage, then one needs to be aided by the specific strategy.
  • One needs to check if the unfamiliar word is underlined and defined. There are not many of them throughout the test, but sometimes there are. One can click on them and a definition provided by the test will pop up.
  • One should read the sentence to see if he/she can make a reasonable guess. Native English speakers don’t understand all words, but based on the context of where and how the word was used in the sentence/passage, they are able to make an educated guess of its meaning. To guess as much as one can works against this problem to score positively.
  • The test takers can look at the surrounding paragraph for context for easier guessing. Sometimes, when they cannot guess the word, they can guess the whole sentence based on its surroundings.
  • It is very important to not get stuck on a single word or phrase. It needs to keep in mind that one has only 20 minutes to utilize wisely.
  • In order to deal with the unfamiliar vocabulary for the TOEFL test one needs to enrich the vault of vocabs. One can start by setting goals of learning 7-10 new words each day.  This will help you learn more than 50 new words in a week, which is a great achievement.


Inattentive to Identify the Main Idea

  • The purpose of the reading should be to identify and understand the main idea of the passage. Some candidates follow skimming and scanning strategies and end up doing it wrong. 
  • Performing incorrect skimming and scanning would waste time and one may miss out essential information.
  • Practicing reading under timed conditions would help to develop reading skills.
  • This will also help to train our brain and understand the main idea of the passage.


Perplexed by the details of Passage

  • The test takers often get stuck on the meaning of a single word or get stuck looking at small details.
  • One should not get confused on these details because one may forget the main idea of the passage.  
  • One can also get stuck at a small detail, a particular phrase, or a specific fact from the article.
  • This detail is often one that can help to answer one of the questions, so he/she does not only get stuck at one idea but also at a single question for a long time.
  • If one is doing fine with time, spend a minute or so to briefly summarize the main idea of the passage in mind and brain. This will help later in spotting out the wrong answer quickly.  


Forget to Apply the Method of Elimination

  • The test takers always take tests and try to find the correct answer.
  • One should eliminate the wrong answer before selecting the correct answer in TOEFL.
  • The TOEFL makers purposely try to confuse the test takers. They use complicated and convoluted wording in their questioning. This is done on purpose.
  • The best way to avoid making a mistake is to take time to eliminate answer choices first to walk towards the way of correcting the answer.  


Ignorant of the Grammar, Spelling and Tense

  • It is a huge mistake if one is ignorant of the grammar and spelling inside the passages along with the tense in which the passage is presented and given to reading.
  • The test takers have to maintain the coherence and link to match the answer with the given passage on the basis of a correct form of grammar, spelling, and tense.       


Unwilling to use Scrap Paper in Reading Section 

  • The test takers usually do not scrap paper for the reading section. One uses scrap paper for the listening, speaking and writing sections of the exam, but not for the reading.
  • Scrap paper is a great resource to use while one is doing the reading because it’ll help remind one of the difficult points, questions and what answers one eliminates. The noted points will also help to answer the questions in the sequential order.
  • One can write so briefly e.g. only the keywords, answer choices (a, b, c, d), signs, abbreviation, and read simultaneously. The attention with sight should be concentrated on the screen of the computer.


The exploration of common mistakes always helps and makes anyone confident enough to deal with the reading passage smartly. The smart approach to the knowledge of common mistakes in the brain can lead towards a result for the TOEFL test takers where he/she can glean the desired score. So one needs to be cautious enough to know the common mistakes as a shield to avoid the wrong approach saving the marks.                                                                                                          

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