Welcome to the first-ever TOEFL iBT Reading section! If you guys are reading this on my blog, the podcast and video are down below. If you’re reading this on Spotify, thank you so much for supporting my podcast! If you’re reading this on Facebook, welcome to the live show! In today’s episode, we’re going to go over the 2 first types of reading questions on TOEFL iBT and how to navigate your way through them. I know quite a few of you have difficulty with specific ones, so I’ll cover all of them individually. Let’s kick this off.
A Reference question is the type of reading question that will take you less than 30 seconds to read both the question and all the options. Also, this is probably the easiest TOEFL reading question type. Especially if you follow the strategies from this lesson, you will almost always get the question right!
Let’s look at an example:
 Many millions of years after ferns evolved (but long before the Hawaiian Islands were born from the sea), another kind of flora evolved on Earth: the seed-bearing plants. This was a wonderful biological invention. The seed has an outer coating that surrounds the genetic material of the new plant, and inside this covering is a concentrated supply of nutrients. Thus the seed’s chances of survival are greatly enhanced over those of the naked spore.
The word “This” in paragraph 2 refers to:
- the spread of ferns and mosses in Hawaii
- the creation of the Hawaiian Islands
- the evolution of ferns
- the development of plants that produce seeds
As you can see, in a reference question, you will see a word, usually a pronoun highlighted in the passage. You are asked what the highlighted word refers to. If it’s a pronoun then you need to identify what word the pronoun is replacing.
Here are highlighted words you might be asked about:
- Subject pronoun: it, they
- Object pronoun: it, them
- Demonstrative pronoun: these, those, this, that
- Possessive adjectives: its, their
- Other reference words: the former, the latter, one, ones, another, other, others
Now, it is important to remember that you don’t need a full understanding of the passage in order to solve this question type. You just need to study the context surrounding the word. Usually, you just read the sentence where the highlighted word is mentioned, and then read a few sentences that come before it.
Next, you need to analyze the sentence structure and find out the answer.
Usually, you will see two structure types:
- Two sentences separated by a period
- One sentence separated by a comma