Who should read this?
WARNING: there is no use reading this if you have only a couple of weeks to prepare for TOEFL and perfect your Academic Reading Skills.
I have had very few students who succeeded in getting a high Reading score with only a few weeks of preparation, and they had all had a VERY ADVANCED level of Academic English to start with.
This article is only for those who understand (or have learned the hard way) that preparing for the TOEFL Reading section can take a lot longer than preparing for other sections. It involves lots of “baby steps” that, over time, build up to the mastery of the Academic Reading Skills and comprehension of the Academic English content.
The ‘baby steps’
If you are lucky enough to have started learning English at an early age, chances are you have already acquired a decent amount of the General English vocabulary. You can probably understand the news, simple articles, and other everyday content. While that can be considered one of the first small steps towards the TOEFL Reading mastery, it is far from being enough. TOEFL Reading materials are a completely different beast. They rely on the Academic vocabulary and a certain structure.
What to read
You have probably been advised to read newspapers and books, in order to practice reading and enrich your vocabulary. Although reading any content in English is helpful, the best way to build the reading skills applicable to TOEFL and other Academic English Proficiency tests, such as IELTS and CAEL, is to use the reading resources designed for that. This could mean textbooks, professional magazines, or, increasingly popular blog posts. Of course, not all websites and blog posts are created equal. Some are written professionally, using the appropriate, formal language and proper grammar. Others are meant to entertain more than educate; they are not very useful.
So how do you choose a credible resource? If you are not sure, ask your TOEFL teacher.
I have recommended this website to many of my former students. It is a free resource which offers reading practice compiled specifically for English learners. In addition to countless articles of various lengths and difficulty levels, this site offers short quizzes that are comprised of many types of reading questions found in the TOEFL Reading section.
The articles are grouped in five categories:
- Easy English contains short articles and pictograms, which are accompanied by comprehension and vocabulary questions/quizzes.
- Interesting English contains articles focused on different types of vocabulary. Some examples are: Weather Idioms, contronyms and synonyms. Other articles address grammar points, like Tag Questions.
- Fun English contains short articles about places, people or events. They are followed by comprehension and fact/detail questions.
- Practical English contains samples of forms, letters and invitations, followed by comprehension checking questions.
- Academic English contains Academic articles of various lengths, followed by fact/details and academic vocabulary questions.
Michael Goodine’s recommendations:
For more excellent reading recommendations, check out my colleague’s series of blog posts “You Should Read More”