The Reading Section Overview- TOEFL-iBT® (4/4)

The Reading Section Overview- TOEFL-iBT® (4/4)

This is the final part of a four part series that focuses on the TOEFL Reading Section Overview.

Here are the links to the previous sections if you’d like to start from a previous point.

General Overview

The Passages

Multiple-Choice Questions

Now, let’s continue to the final part of this series, where we will focus on the questions where we must dedicate more time.

Final Questions

This post will cover the final types of questions we will fin in the TOEFL-iBT Reading Section. These questions are intentionally left for the end of each passage, as they are the ones where we must invest a greater amount of time.

The questions we will find here are:

Insert a Sentence

Complete the Summary

Complete the Table

We will not get all of them in the test, as sometimes they will overlap.

Here are the questions:

Insert a Sentence

You will only be presented with this type of question once through each passage, which is a positive fact. These questions will ask for a lot of reading comprehension as we will have to be able to link information accurately to make the best match.

Here I copy a slightly edited version of paragraphs 4 and 5 to demonstrate better how these questions work.

P4
The largest barrier for these sources of renewable energy has been the cost. An investigation in the energy investment sector showed that the money that was injected into these two sources of renewable energy are long from harvesting their profits. (A) According to a national press investigation, more than $300 billion were invested each year between 2010 and 2016 in solar and wind energy. However, by 2016 the combined output of solar plants and wind turbines constituted close to 5,5% of the planet’s electricity where solar made up 1,3% and wind 3,9%. (B) Although countries like Denmark have been able to increase their solar and wind energy to over 50% of its energy output, they are not the role model everyone wishes to follow, as they have become one of the countries with the most expensive costs of electricity for the end-user.

P5
These findings have shifted the attention of many towards other forms of renewable energy, leaving one as the prize winner.
(C) The lack of consistent sunlight and wind have made France and Sweden a new beacon of hope when they proved themselves with some of the world’s lowest amount of carbon emissions per capita. Sweden has managed to make 95% of its electrical output from zero-carbon sources with 42 % of its electricity coming from Nuclear power plants and 41% from Hydroelectric power plants. (D) Though Hydroelectric is a great and safe source, it has some immediate environmental effect and is limited to areas with sufficient water flow and specific geographical conditions. The greatest advantage of Nuclear is that it has very little restrictions with regards to geography and weather, in consequence, it can offer a constant output of electricity. Other countries like Costa Rica and Norway are following their steps working on a zero-emission plan through sources that will have far fewer negative effects on the planet.

Question 8. Look at the four squares (Letters A, B, C, and D in this example) that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage.

Sentence: This was a great deterrent for many countries as better results were expected.

The first thing we have to look at before reading the paragraphs is the bolden sentence. We need to look at the message they are transmitting there and the connections it has to the content before and after.

The sentence begins with the word “This”, which indicated that it is referring to a previous topic.

This is a great hint, as it can help us add a noun in the previous content as long as it matches the issue spoken in this bolden sentence.

It declares that “better results were expected” so we know they are talking about the result of something and that in the following sentence or sentences they should mention something related to it.

Ok, let’s go to the options to see where we can place this sentence.

Take a look at the sentence before and after option A, and I am going to insert the bolden sentence here for a better visual. They read:

An investigation in the energy investment sector showed that the money that was injected into these two sources of renewable energy is long from harvesting its profits. This was a great deterrent for many countries as better results were expected. According to a national press investigation, more than $300 billion were invested each year between 2010 and 2016 in solar and wind energy.

If we insert our bolden sentence here, then we can see how it will interrupt the flow of the investigation being discussed.

Though it makes a pretty good reference with the issue of the profits not being collected for a long time, the following sentence gives further support by offering statistics and figures that validate that claim.

This would be the option which most students will chose in error. By reading the following options we will be able to find the best option.

I will continue here with the sentences before and after option B, while placing our bolden sentence within.

However, by 2016 the combined output of solar plants and wind turbines constituted close to 5,5% of the planet’s electricity where solar made up 1,3% and wind 3,9%. This was a great deterrent for many countries as better results were expected. Although countries like Denmark have been able to increase their solar and wind energy to over 50% of its energy output, they are not the role model everyone wishes to follow, as they have become one of the countries with the most expensive costs of electricity for the end-user.

Placing our bolden sentence here makes sense. The previous sentence continues to offer some statistics, but if we look carefully, the figures offered are the result of the investment.

It speaks of it in a rather crude manner, saying that billions were invested and only 5,5% of the energy comes from Solar and Wind.

That can be the result they are looking for when they say “This”.

The sentence after continue explaining that a specific country yielded a much better result, but that now electricity is very expensive for the end user.

Making it a bitter victory. Which may be the “great deterrent for many countries”. Because all expected a happier result.

Now we will try with option C, doing the same as before.

These finding have shifted the attention of many towards other forms of renewable energy, leaving one as the prize winner. This was a great deterrent for many countries as better results were expected. The lack of consistent sunlight and wind have made France and Sweden a new beacon of hope when they proved themselves with some of the world’s lowest amount of carbon emissions per capita. Sweden has managed to make 95% of its electrical output from zero-carbon sources with 42 % of its electricity coming from Nuclear power plants and 41% from Hydroelectric power plants.

So when reading the first sentence here and continuing to our bolden sentence, we find some issues.

The first sentence finishes by saying that a prized winner was found, but our sentence states that this was a deterrent.

This incongruence in speech cannot be good as there was no room for a sudden shift in position.

Furthermore, the following sentence, speaks of an almost unrelated topic. Though at first it may seem related, as we continue reading we can see how the nolden sentence seems to be out of place.

We must continue with the final option to choose a winner.

As you may expect I will be placing the sentences before and after option D, and include our bolden sentence for improving our visual.

Sweden has managed to make 95% of its electrical output from zero-carbon sources with 42 % of its electricity coming from Nuclear power plants and 41% from Hydroelectric power plants. This was a great deterrent for many countries as better results were expected. Though Hydroelectric is a great and safe source, it has some immediate environmental effect and is limited to areas with sufficient water flow and specific geographical conditions.

Now the previous sentence begins saying that an alternative was found and offers statistics to show the success of that alternative.

But again our bolden sentence starts by declaring that this success is deterrent, when in fact it is not.

Afterwards in the next sentence they speak about Hydroelectric plants and some of its issues with the environment.

The bolden sentence doesn’t seem to fit well here as it is off topic.

This can be seen clearer when we take it out and see that all seems fluid without it.

This leaves the right choice to be letter B which accurately combines all the information before and after the insertion of this sentence.

These types of questions can be time-consuming and even after practice you can find yourself spending close to 2 full minutes to solve them.

We will normally find the options within a single paragraph, which simplifies the flow of information, though it is still common to see the options span for up to 2 paragraphs, so it’s good to be prepared for those scenarios as well.

Complete the Summary

This will be our most common final question. Also, this is the question that takes the longest time to respond in the test.

You will only receive one of these per passage and this one will be worth 2 points, though at times it could be worth more.

This means that you must put all your effort here. And we have been trying to save time in the previous questions to use it in this one.

Here you will be asked to complete a summary of the whole passage and you will get 6-7 options (1 through 6 or 7) from which you will choose three.

Note: You will not complete a summary, but rather chose three statements that summarize the main points made in the passage.

Only three of them will cover the strongest arguments without using the same vocabulary as in the text itself, and the incorrect options will focus on smaller details or incorrect references, for which you must be very careful upon selecting.

The way to select the options you think are the best, will by clicking and holding a specific option and dragging it to a box.

Normally the options will be to the left and you will have to drag them to the right boxes.

Allow me to illustrate it better.

Question 9. The paragraph below is an introductory paragraph for a short summary of the passage. Select THREE answer choices from the chart that represent important ideas in the passage in order to complete it. Some sentences are incorrect because they contain information that was not in the passage or contain information that refers to a minor detail.

Introduction

The general search for alternative sources of energy has been a clear objective for environmentalists for some time now. Though many options provide this, some of them may not be as friendly to the environment as initial investigations might have suggested.

A. Though the environmental impact is inevitable, Solar and Wind energy remain the best renewable energy sources.

B. Countries like Costa Rica are pioneers when it comes to environmental energy sources.

C. We cannot work with a single energy source in all locations as the conditions will vary and can pose a benefit or a weakness to different types of power plants.

D. The claims that Wind and Solar energy are the future of mankind providing the most environmentally friendly sources of energy, is put under the microscope to reveal surprising data.

E. Though large investments have been made in renewable energies. The gains are far from being seen.

F. Hydroelectric power plants are the future of renewable energy providing a large percentile of the energy use of many countries.

Here I place the summary in order for you to not have to go to the other post and search it.

Note: In the TOEFL you will be able to read the summary as you are presented with the options.

Renewable just isn’t enough.

P1.
For a few decades now, mankind has been claiming that in order to help counter the effects of global warming, a much larger portion of the resources must be allocated into renewable energy, specifically solar and wind power. Sunlight is inherently unreliable and as wind is the child of the sun, it too is deemed dubious as a steady source of energy. In addition, they create a significantly large carbon footprint due to all the material they require for construction, transportation, and maintenance. Adding the sheer cost of building solar and wind power plants is not only an overwhelming investment in the short term, but it has increased the prices of power in those countries who have already shifted towards these sources of energy. Many have looked at other alternatives in order to mitigate the negative effects.

P2
Ever since humans have harvested the energy of the sun and wind, it was known that these methods could not be applied to all areas, as the amount of sunlight and wind that a given area received, varied widely as soon as you shifted the geographically. The equatorial part of our planet receives the most amount of constant sunlight, making this the optimal place for solar farms to be built, which in consequence leaves nearly 75% of the planet without the capacity to do the same as conditions won’t be as advantageous. The northern and southern hemispheres with only partial sunlight through the larger portion of the year cannot compete, so alternatives must be set out. Yet wind is no stranger to this phenomenon. There are few places on the planet where the wind can be harvested at its maximum leaving us with the same geographical problem.

P3
In an ironic turn, the damage that these alternative sources of energy generate towards the environment is deterring many future projects. The energy output from a solar panel or a wind turbine takes years or even decades to erase the carbon footprint it leaves behind. It becomes clear once thinking that a standard wind turbine is over 300ft of height and can reach 250 tons in weight. Besides, many local communities have protested the construction of solar and wind farms due to the amount of space they require to function properly. Deforestation has taken place in parts of Europe and Brazil to make space for huge wind farms, devastating the local flora. Furthermore, the transportation of local fauna to new locations has led to tougher competition for their resources and many animals have not been able to adapt. Adding the amount of birdlife that has died by the heat produced by solar farms or by the blade of a turbine, it becomes clear that a larger degree of damage than what was expected is occurring.

P4
The largest barrier for these sources of renewable energy has been the cost. An investigation in the energy investment sector showed that the money that was injected into these two sources of renewable energy is long from harvesting its profits. According to a national press investigation, more than $300 billion were invested each year between 2010 and 2016 in solar and wind energy. However, by 2016 the combined output of solar plants and wind turbines constituted close to 5,5% of the planet’s electricity where solar made up 1,3% and wind 3,9%. Although countries like Denmark have been able to increase their solar and wind energy to over 50% of its energy output, they are not the role model everyone wishes to follow, as they have become one of the countries with the most expensive costs of electricity for the end-user.

P5
These findings have shifted the attention of many towards other forms of renewable energy, leaving one as the prize winner. The lack of consistent sunlight and wind have made France and Sweden a new beacon of hope when they proved themselves with some of the world’s lowest amount of carbon emissions per capita. Sweden has managed to make 95% of its electrical output from zero-carbon sources with 42 % of its electricity coming from Nuclear power plants and 41% from Hydroelectric power plants. Though Hydroelectric is a great and safe source, it has some immediate environmental effects and is limited to areas with sufficient water flow and specific geographical conditions. The greatest advantage of Nuclear is that it has very little restrictions with regards to geography and weather, in consequence, it can offer a constant output of electricity. Other countries like Costa Rica and Norway are following their steps working on a zero-emission plan through sources that will have far fewer negative effects on the planet.

So as I said previously, we need to invest a lot of time in this question. Just reading the intro summary and the options will be time-consuming. But then comes the analytical part, we will really consume time.

Do remember that we must focus on the options that focus on main details of the text, so the minor details, though very present in the essay, are not important for this summary.

Let’s go option by option to see which ones we can discard. Remember that we must choose three.

Option A. It reads: Though the environmental impact is inevitable, Solar and Wind energy remain the best renewable energy sources.

We can automatically discard this option. We know from the text that this goes in the opposite direction of the main message of the passage. It clearly negates the positive effects of Solar and Wind energy claiming the negative attributes it offers.

From the passage´s perspective, the viable option is Hydroelectric and Nuclear, placing it´s emphasis on Nuclear energy due to reliability.

Option B. It reads: Countries like Costa Rica are pioneers when it comes to environmental energy sources.

Now we should be able to skim through the passage and find Costa Rica. We read it in the last paragraph near the end.

From there we can interpret that Costa Rica and Norway are following the steps of others. Yet this makes option an incorrect statement, as it is declaring that Costa Rica is pioneering when it is actually following.

In consequence we must drop this option from our potential answers.

Option C. It reads: We cannot work with a single energy source in all locations as the conditions will vary and can pose a benefit or a weakness to different types of power plants.

So this option declares that not all geographical locations are suitable for all types of power plants. Statement that is mentioned in the first paragraphs of the passage where they state that about 75% of the planet doesn’t have constant sunlight during the year.

Furthermore the text mentions that the conditions change, as seasons go by through the year. This pushes this message on. Then it continues by saying that those conditions can be beneficial or not to certain forms of power plants.

This is one of the strongest messages transmitted in the passage. This is why it pushes for Nuclear energy as the best alternative. Simply because the geographical and environmental conditions do not affect it at the same rate as other sources of energy like Solar and Wind.

This must be selected as one of the correct options.

Option D. It reads: The claims that Wind and Solar energy are the future of mankind, providing the most environmentally friendly sources of energy, is put under the microscope to reveal surprising data.

So here they confuse us a bit with the clause within used in the sentence. We could ignore the information between the commas and still convey the same message. That clause just explains in more detail the information mentioned before.

We are also spoken in a bit of a metaphorical form here, for which we need to be adapted to the expression “to be put under the microscope” which means to look in further detail.

From here we can gather that doubt is being placed under the old claims that Wind and Solar are solely good for the environment. Continuing this thought by saying that it revealed surprising data.

Yes, the data was a surprise to many, as the mainstream thought was that Solar and Wind energy would contribute as an efficient alternative. Yet the data revealed that this was not the case.

Yes, the data was a surprise to many, as the mainstream thought was that Solar and Wind energy would contribute as an efficient alternative. Yet the data revealed that this was not the case.

This option looks good. So we have to mark it in the good side and select it as an option.

Option E. It reads: Though large investments have been made in renewable energies. The gains are far from being seen.

This is a message that is pushed quite directly in the passage. It offers numbers and figures to demonstrate the amount of investment and the result of that investment in some years. The results were not satisfactory to many which put further investment into doubt.

So the whole declaration here is clearly in the passage. And it can be considered a main argument of the passage as a whole. Which is why we should consider this a correct option.

Yet not as strong as the other ones that we have chosen.  This is relatively common in the TOEFL Reading section. This is one of the tricky options where you´re not sure if this is a strong or weak detail.

If we are in this situation where we cannot identify this as a good or weak option, the best thing to do here is to put this option in the maybe pile, and if we are able to discard the rest of the options, then we know that this one is correct.

Option F. It reads: Hydroelectric power plants are the future of renewable energy providing a large percentile of the energy use of many countries.

If we read the whole sentence, we can find some truth to it. The passage does declare that Solar and Wind are not what many expected and it makes Hydroelectric and Nuclear stand out as a beacon of hope. Yet the emphasis is placed in Nuclear energy and not so much in Hydroelectric.

It provides an example, such as that of Sweden; “Sweden has managed to make 95% of its electrical output from zero-carbon sources with 42 % of its electricity coming from Nuclear power plants and 41% from Hydroelectric power plants.” but right after declaring that it mentions the weaknesses of Hydroelectric with it´s geographical limitation.

So unfortunately this option must be eliminated as it is not fully backed up by the passage.

Some of these options will be very tricky, so improving your reading comprehension will definitely help here.

The best way to solve these types of questions fast is to skim the options and find the main message each one gives. This will help to identify if the information is the main topic or if it is just a supporting factor for a larger argument.

Some of the options will represent a topic mentioned in more than one paragraph. Usually these ones are major points as they span through the passage and are supported by more minor details.

In occasions, a passage can be split into sections with subtitles in between. If one of the options mentions the title, then we know we are talking about a major point.

Complete the Table

We will find this type of question in every test. This will be represented as the last question of the passage and if you receive this question, then you won’t get the Complete the Summary question. These will usually be worth 2 or 3 points. They will vary depending on the number of options they ask.

If we comprehend the passage and are able to detail the main arguments or characteristics then you shouldn’t have many problems here. Let me illustrate it here:

Question 10. Two of the following choices are mentioned in the passage as advantages of Nuclear energy, and two of them are mentioned as disadvantages of Solar and Wind energy. Complete the table by matching appropriate answer choices to the category they belong to.

1. Very limited geographical deterrers.

2. At times deforestation is needed to increase construction.

3. Threatens avian life

4. Can provide steady outflow of energy.

5. Needs steady water flow.

6. Does not allow constant flow of energy.

7. No large investment is needed for construction.

Advantages of Nuclear energy
a)
b)
c)
Disadvantages of Solar and Wind energy
a)
b)
c)
d)

So reading the options we can see how we can categorize these options into fitting the slots that are provided. Here, we will go one by one on the options to see where we can fit them.

A. Very limited geographical deterrers.

So we can find evidence in the passage that classifies Solar and Wind energy sources as having issues with the location as not all parts of the planet receive the same amount of sunlight and/or wind. It becomes clear that it is referring to them, furthermore, it pushes the disadvantage attribute as this is a serious limitation as expressed in the passage.

This option will go into the Disadvantages of Solar and Wind energy

B. At times deforestation is needed to increase construction.

In paragraph 3 we will find evidence of this point. Halfway through the paragraph, we can find the statement that declares that deforestation has occurred in order to make space for the construction of more Wind Turbines. We can also find that the local population has protested these actions which taints it with a negative stigma.

Hence becomes clear that this option must be placed in the Disadvantages of Solar and Wind energy

C. Threatens avian life

Also in paragraph 3, just in the next sentence from the previous option, we will find evidence that mentions this. It says:

“Adding the amount of birdlife that has died by the heat produced by solar farms or by the blade of a turbine, it becomes clear that a larger degree of damage than what was expected is occurring.”

Once we read this, we can see that it is clearly a negative characteristic of Solar and Wind energy. Hence we must label this option and place it in the  Disadvantages of Solar and Wind energy

D. Can provide steady outflow of energy.

We can conclude from the passage that this is an advantage. The biggest issue that Solar and Wind energy has is that they don’t provide a steady flow of energy. 

So we understand that this must be referring to another source. The other sources mentioned in the passage are Hydroelectric and Nuclear.

In the final paragraph, they mention them as very good alternatives to replace Solar and Wind. And although Hydroelectric energy is mentioned there, they explicitly say that Nuclear provides a constant output of energy.

Hence, we can conclude that this must be an advantage for Nuclear energy.

E. Needs steady water flow.

Continuing in the final paragraph, we can see how they speak about Hydroelectric energy and the attributes the give. Here is the full sentence:

Though Hydroelectric is a great and safe source, it has some immediate environmental effect and is limited to areas with sufficient water flow and specific geographical conditions.

It becomes clear when reading this that they are not mentioning Solar, Wind or Nuclear energy. So this answer does not correspond to any of the categories.

F. Does not allow a constant flow of energy.

We get multiple references of this through the passage. Some of them are very indirect speaking of Wind and Solar energy in a broader term, yet other times they speak of this in a very direct manner.

We can classify this as a weakness of Wind and Solar.

G. No large investment is needed for construction.

This one can be tricky. We know that they mention the monetary aspect of Solar and Wind. They declare that large investments have been made in them and that it hasn’t paid back. 

We can understand from here that this large investment is a weakness for Solar and Wind energy. Yet that is the opposite of what number 7 declares. So, we cannot classify it as a weakness of Solar and Wind as they DO need a large investment.

Can we assume that it is an advantage for Nuclear energy? Not really. It is never stated in the passage that Nuclear energy is cheap nor expensive. 

Though we can assume by our general knowledge that a Nuclear plant should be expensive, at the same time we must avoid putting our external knowledge in the categorization of options in the real test.

So due to lack of evidence, we will fail to place option 7 within any one of the categories.

In the end, the option selected will look like this:

1. Very limited geographical deterrers.

2. At times deforestation is needed to increase construction.

3. Threatens avian life

4. Can provide steady outflow of energy.

5. Needs steady water flow.

6. Does Not allow constant flow of energy.

7. No large investment is needed for construction.

Advantages of Nuclear energy

1. Very limited geographical deterrers.
4. Can provide steady outflow of energy.

Disadvantages of Solar and Wind energy

2. At times deforestation is needed to increase construction.
3. Threatens avian life
6. Does Not allow constant flow of energy.

It can be confusing at times when we have spare choices that we could not fit. But that is why the passage only lets you insert a given amount of options within each category. We were only able to select 5 options out of the 7.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this question, the score can vary from 2 to up to 4 points (though 4 points are rare). So here I will draw a few charts that can guide you into knowing how many you need correct for the score you want.

The charts will vary in the number of options you get in the question, the number of correct answers and the score they announce.

Starting with the fewer number of choices.

Number of Correct Number of Choices Potential Score Max Score
1 3 0 2
2 3 1 2
3 3 2 2

Here we continue with 4 Choices, which is a fairly normal number to get.

Number of Correct Number of Choices Potential Score Max Score
1 4 0 3
2 4 1 3
3 4 2 3
4 4 3 3

5 Choices is also common but not as much as 4 Choices.

Number of Correct Number of Choices Potential Score Max Score
1 5 0 3
2 5 1 3
3 5 1-2 3
4 5 2 3
5 5 3 3

It is rather unlikely to get 6 choices, and once we do, we will normally have to ommit some of the choices as they wont fall into any particular category as in our example.

Number of Correct Number of Choices Potential Score Max Score
1 6 0 4
2 6 0-1 4
3 6 1-2 4
4 6 2 4
5 6 3 4
6 6 4 4

This one is common. In my opinion, the most common one to get. And just as in the example, we normally won’t be able to categorize all the options, which will leave 1 or 2 behind making the max amount of choices 5 or 4.

Number of Correct Number of Choices Potential Score Max Score
1 7 0 4
2 7 0 4
3 7 1-2 4
4 7 2 4
5 7 2-3 4
6 7 3 4
7 7 4 4

This one is common. In my opinion, the most common one to get. And just as in the example, we normally won’t be able to categorize all the options, which will leave 1 or 2 behind making the max amount of choices 5 or 4.

 

Number of Correct Number of Choices Potential Score Max Score
1 7 0 4
2 7 0 4
3 7 1-2 4
4 7 2 4
5 7 2-3 4
6 7 3 4
7 7 4 4

You can see how getting one option right will not offer you an advantage. And how getting all but one correct will prevent you from getting the max score for this question.

This is designed this way as it does allow for a small margin of error, though we should always aim at getting  all of them correct.

 

If you have read this far, then congratulations. You have proven that you have an interest in getting a great score on the TOEFL-iBT.

This has been quite a long read, but totaly worth it if you use the information on these 4 posts, to study constantly. You can come back again and re-read what you have forgotten or are in doubt of.

Stay tuned for our next series coming up soon about the Listening Section.

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