Extensive reading as prep for the TOEFL

Some learners have made this their New Year’s resolution: “Extensive reading.”
I do not intend to offend them nor do I want to deny its importance, but as far as the TOEFL test is concerned, extensive reading works only marginally. If you are time-conscious and have set the goal of getting the required score in a couple of months, then, I would not recommend this way of learning English. 
People think of extensive reading as reading a lot of English at a higher speed, but that goes against the reading strategies that you should adopt in taking the TOEFL.
In the TOEFL reading section, you are required to answer local quesitons, where you are asked to identify one particular sentence in the passage and to carefully analyze that sentence in comparison with four answer choices.
Q5. According to Paragraph 4, what happened in 1789?
How would you answer this question?
Any test-taker can detect the word 1789 in the reading passage and start to analyze the sentence that contains it. The problem is that if they don’t clearly understand the sentence, they cannot arrive at the correct answer choice.
If you think this way, it would be better if you practice “sentence correction” questions in SAT or GMAT. That is what I would call a reading practice.
I know quite a few high schoolers who have stayed in the U.S. for a year as an exchange student and come back in Japan, preparing for the TOEFL test. They are good at speaking and listening, but their reading score is as low as 2 (out of 30! Can you imagine this?)
This can be explained beautifully.
While they are in a high school in the U.S., they were required to get the gist all the time (whether they read or listened). By the time they came back to Japan, therefore, they were pretty much confident they can get the gist of the reading passage in no time. This actually does not do them any good when they take the TOEFL test, since most of the reading questions are made up of local questions like above.
The important thing is when you read, whether you know the topic or not, you need to focus on each sentence and carefully analyze it from the viewpoints of grammar and context. One good exercise can be found in the SAT writing section and the GMAT sentence correction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s