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TOEFL Tip #165: Answer As FEW Reading Questions As Necessary

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on August 18, 2012

So many people worry about not having enough time to answer all of the Reading questions on the TOEFL exam. Indeed: time is tight. At best, you only have about 1.5 minutes for each question, and that’s possible only if you go directly to the questions without reading any of the passages beforehand.

Of course, if you need a score of 110 for Harvard Business School, then yes: you have to try to answer *each* question in less than 1.5 minutes. But most TOEFL test takers only need a 20-25 on the exam, and therefore can go more slowly on each question. This will, in turn, increase their accuracy.

Let’s take a pharmacist, for example, who is required by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to score a 21 on the Reading section. In this situation, 21 points out of 30 is 70% accuracy. And 70% of 39 questions (which is about how many Reading questions there are on average) is only 27.3 questions. To be safe, let’s round that up to 29 questions. If you only need 29 correct questions, then you need answer only 9.6 questions correctly per passage. Let’s round up again and say a pharmacist needs only 10 correct questions per passage. This has increased the time per question to 2 minutes each. Granted, 30 seconds is not long in the real world, but on the TOEFL exam, 30 seconds is a huge increase in time.

Now, for the bad news: it is true that if a pharmacist answers only 10 questions, he or she could still get one or two wrong and fall short of the needed TOEFL score of 21. True.

But this blog article wants to use this statistical analysis for a more important point:


The bottom line is this: if you remove the pressure of being a “perfect answering machine” from test day, then you will not be as anxious. You can take pleasure in ignoring 1 or 2 questions per passage that just look too hard. Or you could just ignore, for example, all of the insertion questions if you know that you never get them right in your practice exams. Or, if you have one passage that you know a lot about from your personal life (say, a pharmacist gets a passage about biology), then you can try to answer ALL of the questions correctly for that passage, but then neglect 4-6 of the questions in the passage that you know very little about, like Native American Art.

The psychological boost to your ego that results from your taking control of the test will definitely translate into more relaxed confidence while answering questions. Let’s face it, most questions are answered incorrectly because of nerves and time pressure. Remove those two negative elements, and you have a much better chance of meeting your goal!

Categories: Reading,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Preparation

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