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TOEFL Reading Question Type – Categorization

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

The categorization questions are somewhat similar to the prose summary questions. Both of them test your ability to identify important ideas of a passage, and both involve putting those ideas into a table. But while prose summary questions only require you to choose the main ideas, categorization questions will have you choose which of several sub-headings each idea belongs under, and the statements in categorization questions might be a little less important than the statements in summary questions, which are really only the most important ideas from the passage.

A table in a categorization question will have two or three columns and two or three rows. There will be five correct answers for you to choose and categorize. Each table is worth three points total, and you will get partial credit if you get three or four correct answers.

Each table will deal with a certain kind of relationship such as cause and effect, problem and solution, or comparison. Correct answers will be clearly related to the category in the passage. The extra, unused answers will be about different topics from the passage, will change the relationships between things, or will be on the same topic but not stated in the passage. Basically, answering categorization questions is very similar to answering detail questions, but you must look for several correct answers on two or three different topics.

Check out this example to see what I mean. (Please note that the question below is easier than one that you’d see on a real TOEFL and the passage is shorter, but the main purpose of this—to understand the format of the question and the skills needed to answer it—is accurate.)

A. People usually dress up for these concerts.

B. The audience is required to sing with the music.

C. People wear casual clothes or dress less formally than they usually do at these concerts.

D. It’s essential to know the music that will be performed before attending a concert.

E. It is important to see all of the performers clearly.

F. The audience may sway, sing, or dance with the music.

G. This performance is led by a conductor.

The sentences that belong under the first category are C (rock concertgoers often “dress ‘down’”) and F. The sentences that belong under the second category are A, D, and G. The incorrect answers are B (neither pop/rock nor classical concerts require audiences to do anything, although it is acceptable to sing at a rock concert) and E (the passage does not state that either genre prioritizes seeing the performers).



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