To get: free TOEFL Tips Emails, then Become a Free Member

TOEFL Tip #124: EXTRA! EXTRA! ETS Changes TOEFL Reading Section

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 12, 2011

ETS  announced on October 7th  that starting November 1, 2011 the Reading section of the TOEFL will have two major changes to it.

1. There will now only be ONE Experimental Reading passage on tests that have a “long” Reading section.

2. TOEFL will no longer break up the Reading section into two differently timed sections.

This means that now, the TOEFL timer will say 60 minutes if you have only 3 passages, and it will say 80 minutes if you have 4 passages (one of the 4 will be experimental, but you will now know which one!)

To understand these changes, we first have to explain how the Reading section has been administered until now. Previously, you were given the first passage with 20 minutes on the timer. Then, you received TWO passages and 40 minutes on the timer. If you received an “Experimental” Reading section, you were given TWO MORE passages and 40 more minutes. (The Experimental Section allows TOEFL to test out new passages to see if they have any mistakes in them. It’s their way of “beta testing” passages before those passages are used in a real test.) You wouldn’t know if the first 40-minute section or the second 40-minute section was the Experimental Section, which means you had to complete all five passages. This took 1 hour and 40 minutes! TOO LONG!!!  In addition, once the first passage’s time was up, you could not return to that passage again. (Although our research did find a bug in the programming: if you clicked on the REVIEW button and then clicked on a question from passage one, you could get back to the first passage.) This was bad because if you had time remaining after you answered every question, you could only go back and change answers in passages two and three, but not in passage one.

Well, enough test takers must have complained because now, instead of 5 passages (3 that you’re graded on and 2 that you’re not graded on) you’ll now receive only 4 (3 that you’re graded on and only 1 that you’re not graded on).

This might not seem like much of a change, but shortening the Reading by 20 minutes will be a huge improvement. Now, test takers will not get as tired before having to take the three other sections of the test. Even Strictly English tutors are exhausted after 1 hour and 40 minutes of Reading questions.

Frankly, we at Strictly English don’t think that ETS shortened the Reading section based on test taker feedback. ETS has consistently proved that it’s not really interested in customer service, as evidenced by how little they care about the deplorable test center conditions. Instead, we think that this is a direct response to the PTE Academic, a competing English Proficiency test that is only about 2.5 hours long, which is about 1.5 hours shorter than the TOEFL iBT.

Regardless of the reason, this is FANTASTIC news for test takers. You won’t be as tired entering the Listening section of the test, and you’ll get out of the exam in under 4 hours now.

As for all the passages being grouped into one timed section, this is also wonderful news. Now you can note on a piece of paper all the questions that you want to return to. And if you have time remaining, you can go back to any of the passages’ questions. MUCH BETTER!


Categories: Reading

14 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. Irina Kazarian

    wrote on October 17, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Really good news! I’m sure all my students will appreciate it.

  2. Kate Wong

    wrote on October 20, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Hope they will now consider revising the reading section of the TOEIC exam!

  3. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on October 20, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    From your typing fingers to ETS’s inbox!!!

  4. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » Not all TOEFL Books Are Created Equal

    wrote on October 25, 2011 at 9:09 am

    [...] real test). This is because some of the books have not been revised recently. For example, when the Reading Section changes on Nov 1, all the books will be describing that section incorrectly. Also, Task 1 of the Speaking changed [...]

  5. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » The Year In Review

    wrote on December 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    [...] Additional topics about the Speaking section included elocution, diction, speaking with feeling, blending sounds, and news about a change to Speaking Task One. The Listening section also featured posts about using metaphoric idioms, and listening to public radio. In the Writing section, we discussed how less is more, touch typing, and using a QWERTY keyboard. We also spread the word about changes in the Reading section. [...]

  6. Amy Celorio

    wrote on May 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Hi good afternoon I have a question for you. You see that now in the reading section you can switch in one single reading between the questions, for example, if the second question is to difficult you can go on with the next and after that go back to the difficult one. My question is if it is possible to switch between the readings for example if the first one is the most difficult I can go to the second one, then the third and last go back to the first one. Hope you can understand my question :)

  7. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on May 25, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Yes, Amy, you CAN now save the hardest passage for the end of your Reading Section. Just DO NOT FORGET to go back to it!!


  8. Aki

    wrote on May 31, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I missed 6 q in last reading passage .otherwise my exam went perfect do I stand a chance that they may consider d fact .all other sections went good .i need to score more than 100 do I stand a chance

  9. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on May 31, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Hi Aki.

    If you only missed 6 questions on the reading and did perfect on everything else, didn’t you score above a 110? What score *did* you get?

  10. zak

    wrote on June 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I took the newly designed toefl test , i was not aware of these changes,nevertheless, the reading section was 4 readings with 57 questions for 80 mn. Average of 14 questions for each reading. Before it was 13 questions average. Many questions refer for two paragraphs at the time.
    Good luck everyone.

  11. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on June 2, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for the information Zax!

  12. Gigi

    wrote on January 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Hi everyone! Well, just to say that I took my Toefl this morning and I am scared because I did knew it will be so hard….
    For all futures Test takers I suggest that tried to prepare as much as posible read a lot…! Especially from scientific reviews…I will wait 2 week to received my scores…I promiss myself that if I pass the Toefl, I will create a website and contribute to all of u with my experience…
    I appreciate all of u send my the best of luck…

  13. suri

    wrote on March 27, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    hello everyone, i just finished the toefl test. I don’t know about experimental passage due to which i lost the 10 question that means, done 3 passage out of 4. if there any posibilties of counting only three passage.

  14. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on October 9, 2016 at 7:28 am

    Sadly, no. You must do all 4 passages.

Leave a comment

will not be published