How To Take a Reading Comprehension Test

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Multiple choice reading comprehension sections are common on most English examinations. Follow these points to score high on reading comprehension exams such as TOEFL, Cambridge Exams (First Certificate, CAE and Proficiency). International exams such as the TOEIC generally use multiple choice reading comprehension tests.

Here's How to Answer Multiple Choice Reading Questions:

  1. Keep in mind the exact amount of time you have to complete the exercise (18 minutes on the First Certificate, 20 Minutes per section on the TOEFL).
  1. Read the text through quickly without stopping to check your understanding of individual words. The first reading is to get a general understanding of the text.
  2. Read the text a second time more carefully. This time take to time to pause at sections you may find more difficult.
  3. Scan the multiple choice questions without looking at the answers. See if you can answer the questions easily by yourself. Skip any questions that you cannot answer immediately.
  4. Re-read the multiple choice questions and answer. Skip any question that find too difficult.
  5. If you can not find something close to your original answer (step 4) to the question, take a look at the text again.
  6. After you have answered each question, return to the text to find a justification for each of your answers.
  7. Return to the questions that you were not able to answer immediately and see if you can answer them now.
  8. If you still have time, check that the other possible answers are not specifically referred to in the text.


    1. If you find the text easy do step three before step four.
    2. Never spend too much time on any one question.
    3. Don't worry about understanding every single word. Reading comprehension focuses on general comprehension.

    Here's How to Answer Open Reading Questions:

    Open reading questions are more common in university, high school and other educational settings.

    These questions ask the reader to common on information in the text.

    1. Read the text for gist in the same manner as for a multiple choice test. 
    2. The second time you read the text, take time to notice the relationships established in the reading, as well as looking out for cause and effect. 
    3. Scan the open reading questions. Focus on the question words 'what', 'where', 'when', 'which', 'how' and 'why'.
    4. Answer questions that appear easy first. Skip any question you find difficult.
    5. For more difficult questions, note key words in questions and scan text to match these words. This will help you review and focus on appropriate passages from the text.
    6. Provide simple answers for questions you feel you can't answer. You may pick up a point or two because you made the effort.


    Questions with 'why' should never be answered with "because + reason', as even though the information may be correct, it's an incomplete sentence. It's important to repeat the question in your answer. Take a look at this example:

    Question: Why does the main character move away from his home town?

    Incorrect Answer: Because the main character is frustrated at the lack of opportunity and his heart is broken.

    Correct Answer: The main character moves away from his home town because he feels frustrated at the lack of opportunity and his heart has been broken.