How to Stop Running Out of Time on TOEIC Reading

If you always feel rushed during the TOEIC reading test, you’re not alone. Most test-takers are overwhelmed by the 100 questions they need to answer in just 75 minutes!

Luckily for you, we at Engoo have a lot of experience preparing students for tests. Today, we’ll share our strategies for defeating the TOEIC reading test in time.

Start with Part 7 and Spend Most of Your Time on It

The TOEIC reading test has three parts:

  • Part 5: Incomplete Sentences (30 questions)
  • Part 6: Text Completion (16 questions)
  • Part 7: Reading Comprehension (54 questions)

Part 7 is more difficult and longer than the other two sections. So instead of starting with Parts 5 and 6 and exhausting yourself before Part 7, we recommend doing the last part first and budgeting your time like this:

  • Part 7: 55 minutes (around 1 minute per question)
  • Part 5: 10 minutes (max 20 seconds per question)
  • Part 6: 10 minutes (max 30 seconds per question)

Giving Part 7 more time can also make a bigger difference on your test score. A guide to the TOEIC published by Oxford University Press explains:

If students don’t know the key words needed to get the answers to questions in Parts 5 and 6, spending extra time isn’t going to help. In Part 7, however, having an extra minute on a difficult question could make a huge difference in the search for the correct answer.

Part 7 Strategy

Unlike Parts 5 and 6 which are entirely fill-in-the-blanks, Part 7 has a lot more variety. There are long passages – sometimes even multiple passages – along with different types of questions.

If this part is challenging for you, we advise you to start with easier questions. These are the ones that can be answered with the least reading. For example, which of the following three questions are easier for you to answer?

  1. The word “highlight” in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to which of the following words?
  2. Which product does the customer want to return?
  3. What is most likely true about the product the customer ordered?

Question 1 asks about a vocabulary word used, while question 2 asks about a specific detail, which you can find by quickly scanning the text. On the other hand, question 3 asks you to make a guess based on your understanding of the whole passage. So when you work through question sets, start with questions like #1 and #2.

The Oxford guide explains another benefit of this approach:

[B]y quickly scanning the passage to answer the specific information questions they [test-takers] can pick up a general sense of what the passage is about and how it is organized. By the time they have answered the easier questions they may already have enough information to answer the more challenging ones, or at least they will have a better idea of where to look to find the answer.

Part 5 and Part 6 Strategy

You might be wondering how to answer questions in Parts 5 and 6 in 20-30 seconds. Many test-takers find it useful to go through the questions in two rounds.

  1. In the first round, you try to answer as many questions as possible, as quickly as possible. Skip questions you find difficult or time-consuming.
  2. In the second round, you return to the questions you skipped the first time and try your best to solve them. If a question stumps you for more than 20-30 seconds, take your best guess and move on.

But how do you know what questions to skip? In Parts 5 and 6, there are two main types of questions:

  1. Vocabulary questions
  2. Grammar questions

Vocabulary questions test your knowledge of what a word means and/or how it’s used. Here are some examples of vocabulary questions from the official TOEIC handbook.

On the other hand, grammar questions test your knowledge of grammar. Unlike vocabulary questions, you can figure these out without understanding all the key words. This is because many of them feature the same word in different forms, as you can see below:

For question 101, even if you don’t understand what “complicated” means, you can guess it’s the correct answer because “unnecessarily” is an adverb, which needs to be followed by a verb or an adjective.

The same goes for question 103. “Learning” is a verb, so you know that the word before it probably needs to be an adverb: (D) “regularly.”

So if you’re stuck on a vocabulary question, just take a guess and move on. But if you’re stuck on a grammar-focused question, try to figure out the answer using the surrounding words.

Practice Speaking English

Our last tip is to get plenty of practice speaking English. This might not seem intuitive, since there’s no speaking section on the TOEIC Listening & Reading test. However, as Oxford explains:

Oral production and the types of interaction common to group work … are natural and powerful ways to practice and reinforce the key information and skills students will need in order to do well on the TOEIC.

Our students agree with this as well. They’ve told us that online English conversation lessons gave them a chance to use vocabulary and grammar they learned preparing for the TOEIC. Plus, online lessons are a lot more fun than cramming!

If you’d like to make online English lessons a part of your TOEIC study plan, join Engoo and book a lesson with one of our professional tutors. (Some of our tutors have experience preparing students for TOEIC!)