How to prepare for your TOEFL reading section

The TOEFL Internet Based Test (iBT) evaluates four aspects of English language proficiency: listening, reading, speaking, and writing.

The reading section of the TOEFL iBT consists of 3-4 passages from academic sources, each of which is about 700 words in length. Test takers have 60-80 minutes to complete a total of 36-56 questions (about 12-14 questions per passage).

Here is a short TOEFL-style reading passage along with a few sample questions of the sort that commonly appear in the test. If you are unable to complete the passage and the questions within a total of five minutes, your reading comprehension skills will probably need some work before you attempt the TOEFL. Good luck!

Marcel Duchamp was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.  His early art was a masterful expression of Cubism, although his fellow Cubists were fiercely critical of the way in which Duchamp introduced motion into his paintings.  For this reason the early Duchamp may also be regarded as a Futurist.  Having established his reputation as a painter of genius, Duchamp eventually lost interest in the creation of “retinal art” designed to please the eye of the observer and instead turned his attention to the “readymade”, an innovation destined to produce a new understanding of art itself.  A readymade was simply an everyday object transformed into an artwork through an alteration of context.  One famous Duchamp readymade was an ordinary snow shovel that the artist bought from a dealer, inscribed with the title “In Advance of the Broken Arm/(from) Marcel Duchamp 1915”, and then hung from the ceiling of his studio.  Without this physical re-positioning it could easily be mistaken for a simple shovel, as actually occurred on one occasion when the artwork was left in a corner while on public display: “a janitor at a museum in Minnesota picked up In Advance of the Broken Arm on a winter day and went to work on a snowdrift, doing Duchamp’s inscription no good.”

The sample questions below measure your ability to understand academic passages in English. Answer all questions on the basis of what is stated or implied in the passage.

Example Question 1
What is the main idea of the passage?

A Duchamp was a brilliant Cubist painter.

B Duchamp believed that the purpose of art is to please the eye of the observer.

C Duchamp introduced a new way of understanding art.

D Duchamp had more influence on art critics than on practicing artists.

Answer: C – The main purpose of the passage is to describe how Duchamp’s innovative approach influenced modern art.

**Example Question 2
**The passage suggests that Futurism

A emphasized the depiction of motion.

B emphasized the creation of readymade artworks.

C was part of the artistic movement known as Cubism.

D was not designed to please the eye of the observer.

Aswer: A – According to the passage, Duchamp can be classified as a Futurist because he sought to re-create the effect of motion in his paintings.

**Example Question 3
**The word “it” in bold refers to a

A context

B readymade

C title

D studio

Answer: B –  “It” refers to the readymade artwork In Advance of the Broken Arm.

image: cea