TOEFL – How Dreamreader can help learners prepare for the reading section

My University has regularly offered a TOEFL iBT preparation course for learners who want to study abroad. I have volunteered to teach this class many times now and the more I become familiar with this test the more I realize just how challenging this must be for learners. It can also be very challenging to teach a preparation course for several reasons. Personally, I have found teaching for the iBT can be very stressful. One of the reasons for this is many of my learners need a certain score to go on a study abroad program. This makes it a very high-stakes test and therefore a test that they feel they need the best possible instruction and guidance for. The IBT is a test of academic English. It tests students’ abilities to comprehend and use English in academic situations. This makes it challenging to say the least. I’m sure many of my native speaker friends would find the test challenging to take. I therefore decided to do a series of posts for teachers wanting to know more about this test and I will share my experiences teaching it.

What is the TOEFL iBT?

The iBT differs from the paper based test because as the acronym suggests it is a test delivered via the Internet. The TOEFL iBT test measures learners’ ability to use and understand English at the university level. Unlike the paper based test, it tests not only reading and listening, but writing and speaking. It also evaluates how learners can combine their listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks. It is also much longer than the paper based test. There is a 60 minute reading section, a 60 minute listening section, a 20 minutes speaking section followed by a 60 minute writing section. It is indeed a challenging test.

The Reading section

The Reading section is the first part of the test. This involves reading a long passage on a certain academic topic. The topics can be very challenging and are written in an academic style. The questions test vocabulary knowledge, comprehension, main idea, gist of the passage along with sentence comprehension. Learners also need to be able to answer inference and summary questions. On top of this, there is a time restriction which makes this extra challenging.

Dreamreader and TOEFL

If you’re familiar with the TOEFL test, you may have noticed that our questions in the Academic English section are similar to those on the reading section.  That’s because we’ve tried to provide materials and questions that are similar in spirit to the TOEFL while at the same time allowing for general comprehension reading.  You may also notice that there are more types of questions that are available in each level. For the beginner level reading lessons, we’ve tried to stick to the basics, which is why we’ve focused them on vocabulary and general comprehension.

As learners get further into the higher level readings, the question types get a little more difficult, which represents the broader range of questions you might find on TOEFL iBT reading section.  These question types include implication, prediction and title questions, which really test learners’ ability to fully understand what they’ve read.  If you have learners who are preparing specifically for the TOEFL test, it might be a good idea to get them to time how long it takes to read an article and answer the questions.  This will give them better practice to help them get accustomed to the time pressures of the TOEFL.