All about the Toefl – The Reading Section – Part II

In Exam Prep, Nivel de inglés, Toefl by viteng

The Reading Section – Part II

So, in our last post, I spoke a bit about what to expect and what to pay attention to while you´re reading the text. Here I´ll speak more about the types of question that we´ll find. However, if you haven’t read our last post, I recommend you read it (http://vitacuraenglish.cl/2018/01/17/all-about-the-toefl-part-ii-the-reading-section/), or if it’s the first time you read these articles, I´d suggest you start from the beginning (http://vitacuraenglish.cl/2018/01/04/all-about-the-toefl/). As I mentioned before, some of them are easier to see than other, but this doesn’t mean that they are impossible to answer, so relax. Let’s go straight into the line of fire and learn.

 

Types of questions.

There are two essential types of questions in this section: Multiple-Choice and Insert/Complete. In the Multiple-Choice questions, you´ll have to choose one from four options, the advantage in this type of questions is that if you´re not sure on which is the correct answer, you can make an educated guess on the one you think is the better one. there is no penalty for choosing a wrong choice, so under hesitation, I encourage my students to make an educated guess. Now, in this post we will be focusing on the Multiple-Choice questions and giving an example of each, along with the corresponding recommendations. In the next post I´ll explain the Insert/Complete questions which are usually left for the final section of each reading.

There are specific types of questions that you can get in this section, some of them are easy to predict, yet others are more analytical and demand a bit more effort to respond accurately. Keep in mind that here I will list the types of questions under my format and this doesn’t necessarily represent the official names of types of questions that there are, these arose from years of experience teaching how to prepare for the test and funneled them into the categories that you will see below.

Vocabulary

The easiest type of questions to predict are what I call “Vocabulary questions” these questions are spotted in the text once you see a highlighted word, usually a noun or a verb, keep in mind that they won’t ask a definition of the word, but rather they will ask for a synonym of it within the context.

For example;

Sample sentence:

This was where the astronomers found the massive meteor that travelled for millions of years.

  1. The word “massive” in the passage is closest in meaning to
  2. Very big
  3. Old
  4. Protected
  5. Planned

As we see here, Letter A is the correct answer. We can determine the closest meaning of this word, but we can’t always follow our initial instinct as words meaning can change depending on the context.

Reference

Another easy to spot question is what I like to call “Reference Question”, and this asks about what a specific word is referring to. The answer is usually right before the question.

For example;

Sample sentence:

This song was written in that period from which the revolution began.

  1. The word “which” in the passage refers to
  2. The song
  3. The revolution
  4. The period
  5. The song writers

In this case Letter C is the correct answer. We will normally find the reference immediately before the highlighted reference word, but this is not always the case, so, we have to apply our critical thinking skills to determine the correct answer. A simple technique to help us, is to re-read the sentence but, interchange the highlighted word for one of the options, and the one that makes more sense will be the correct one.

Paraphrasing

The other easy to see question is the one I call “Paraphrasing”, now I call it this way because the question usually asks for us to express the highlighted information in different words without excluding the main idea and points from that sentence. This one can be tricky as they will try to confuse us with the language. Here is an example so that you can see:

Sample sentence:

The story developed from a time where the colonial society was joyful and opulent.

  1. Which of the sentences below best expresses the information in the highlighted statement in the passage? The other choices change the meaning or leave out important information.
  2. The society of the colony was very happy and poor.
  3. Colonial society was wealthy enough and full of glee.
  4. Society in the colony was neither sad nor poor.
  5. The colonial society was sad and wealthy.

This can be a bit tricky as they will use synonyms to deviate us and make us chose the wrong choice. Which is why we must pay attention to the details. In here the correct answer is Letter C, why? Because it is the only option that correctly gives the two characteristics detailed in the sample sentence, which indicate that the society was joyful and opulent, which is the same as not sad nor poor.

Purpose

This is one that isn’t so easy to pinpoint when reading, but the question can usually be found easily in the paragraph. Good thing with this style of question is that they will indicate the specific paragraph where we will find the answer. They tend to make these questions with different approaches, sometimes it will be something like “The author uses X as an example of _____” but the most common style that I have encountered is from the perspective on someone in the text. For this example, you´ll find a short paragraph and the question below that.

Though it became known through the mid-7th century in Europe, many researchers and scholars still believe that this manuscript was written some 600 prior to this time. They gathered that throughout the expansion of the earlier tribes many of the historical facts were being accurately depicted within the text. The burning of the major cities is an example of these events which although some are mentioned in a very vague manner, they represent parts of the common events through that area and time.

  1. According to paragraph 3, why do so many scholars believe that the book was written between the 1st and 2nd century?
  2. Because many cities were burned in the area.
  3. Because it is information that scholars gathered from the tribes.
  4. Because many of the events in the text were accurately mentioned within the time and place.
  5. Because the events seem to be concurrent with those of the mid-7th

In this case we have to do a bit more reading than in the previous questions. My recommendation is for you to always read the first sentence of the paragraph as this one usually gives either the answer directly or cues it immediately after. So, in the first sentence we read “Though it became known through the mid-7th century in Europe, many researchers and scholars still believe that this manuscript was written some 600 prior to this time.” Which paraphrases our question but doesn’t respond the “why”, so we must continue reading towards the second, which says “They gathered that throughout the expansion of the earlier tribes many of the historical facts were being accurately depicted within the text.”. Here we see the answer very clearly and we conclude that the correct answer is Letter C. if we find ourselves in a situation where we haven’t found the answer, we must look in the complete paragraph. However, don’t continue to the previous or next paragraph, we will always find the answer in that specific paragraph.

….

Negative question.

Like other ones we have mentioned, the “Negative” question is relatively simple to find, but only once you read the question as it will ask about one detail that isn’t listed in a specific section of the text. It usually finishes with the word “EXCEPT” full in capital letters at the end of the questions. This is one where we might have to invest some extra time, because even if we are able to remember what was mentioned in the paragraph, we should read it all, to correctly discard the other three options. Here is an example;

 

After the initial impact, immediate consequences were seen. Many of these consequences led to the degenerative downsizing of the animal and vegetable population. Dinosaurs were the most affected by this as it toppled their food chain once herbivore population decreased in the first few months. The climate change brought by the collision had worldwide effects devastating the plant life. It is estimated that over seventy percent of the flora and fauna was depleted in a short time making it one of the largest Mass Extinctions in the history of our planet.

  1. All of the following were affected as a results of the meteorite impact EXCEPT:
  2. The herbivore population.
  3. Small mammals
  4. Dinosaurs
  5. Plant life in the planet.

From the options we can be a bit confused. However, if we read, we can list the ones that are mentioned and eliminate them one by one. Obviously, there will be one which we can’t eliminate and that will be our answer. In this case we will see that Letter B is the correct option, because it explicitly says in the paragraph that herbivores, dinosaurs and plants were affected, hence we eliminate them.

Inference

This one is also pretty clear once we read the question, because we will pinpoint the word “suggest”, “imply” or “infer”, hence the name. as you can imagine, we aren’t going to have the information quite directly. This means that we have to apply our critical thinking skill to be able to infer the information that isn’t mentioned. I´m going to use the same example paragraph as before to state the example.

After the initial impact, immediate consequences were seen. Many of these consequences led to the degenerative downsizing of the animal and vegetable population. Dinosaurs were the most affected by this as it toppled their food chain once herbivore population decreased in the first few months. The climate change brought by the collision had worldwide effects devastating the plant life. It is estimated that over seventy percent of the flora and fauna was depleted in a short time making it one of the largest Mass Extinctions in the history of our planet.

  1. Which of the following can be inferred from paragraph 3?
  2. Climate suffered great changes and then corrected itself.
  3. Herbivores adapted to the new conditions.
  4. There were several Mass Extinctions in our planet.
  5. Flora and fauna was reduced slightly.

Some options might sound a little right here, but we have to be able to eliminate them by seeing if we can really deduce the consequences they propose. Letter A suggests that climate suffered great changes which is true according to the paragraph, but we can’t validate that it then corrected itself. That information is not in the paragraph, but even if it is validated in the next paragraph we must ignore it, because it asks about paragraph 3 specifically. Letters B and D make inaccurate claims whether they are impossible to verify or directly contrary to what is stated in the paragraph, in consequence we eliminate them as well. Letter C is the correct choice, because it accurately infers from the last sentence that there were several more Mass Extinction events in out planet.

Specific

In this case, we can only know this type of question by reading the whole question. However, in this case we must also pay attention the whole paragraph, and skim down to look for the details within. This question will ask about a point that is mentioned directly in the text, so we don’t have to deduce or infer anything. It will be a specific question as the name suggests.

After the initial impact, immediate consequences were seen. Many of these consequences led to the degenerative downsizing of the animal and vegetable population. Dinosaurs were the most affected by this as it toppled their food chain once herbivore population decreased in the first few months. The climate change brought by the collision had worldwide effects devastating the plant life. It is estimated that over seventy percent of the flora and fauna was depleted in a short time making it one of the largest Mass Extinctions in the history of our planet.

  1. According to the author, in paragraph 3, what was the factor that had more consequences in the flora and fauna.
  2. Dinosaurs mass death toll.
  3. The climate.
  4. Flora and fauna changes.
  5. Several Mass Extinctions.

From here we can see that Letter B is the correct one, as it is the only one two accurately pinpoint the main consequence. If we read carefully we will see that climate affected plants, and in consequence the herbivores and then all the flora and fauna after that, this makes the climate the factor that begun the domino effect. The other options are incorrect because they don’t explain the domino effect from the top, and only the first one had the most consequences.

These are the ones I’ll explain for the moment. They are all multiple choice and relatively simple to answer once you get enough practice. In the next post, I´ll work on the insert/complete style of questions which are usually left for the final part of the section, and can be worth 2 points at times. So, I hope you continue with the next section so that you can get your dream score.

 

WRITTEN BY:
REINALDO LÓPEZ
ENGLISH TEACHER/EXAM PREPPER
ENGLISH TEACHER TRAINER