TOEFL iBT Reading: Understanding Organizational Patterns

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To be a good reader and to score high on TOEFL iBT reading, you need to connect various parts of a reading passage into a greater whole.  Making these global connections helps you to perform optimally when you are completing charts and schematic tables, both of which are 2-3 point TOEFL iBT reading question types.

However, concentratingly too intently on word to word and sentence to sentence, some TOEFL iBT readers do not make these connections.  Consequently, they are dumbfounded when they are asked questions about the organization of a reading passage.

One way to make accurate global connections among ideas is to identify the thesis, especially in terms of how it organizes the reading passage.  For example, if you saw the following thesis taken from Langston Huges article titled Salvation,  “I was saved from sin when I was thirteen.  But not really saved. It happened like this,”  you might guess that the organization of the passage will center around a narration in which the writer shares a personal experience with autobiographical significance.  Therefore, as you read the different paragraphs in this sort of passage, you will try to relate them to the central theme of how he was saved from sin.

Other TOEFL iBT reading passages might be peppered with process analysis, definition, classification/division, comparison and contrast, example and illustration, cause/effect,  analogy, or argument.  Having an understanding of these rhetorical patterns before taking the TOEFL iBT will better equip you to answer reading questions.  With this preparation, you will become a smart, rhetorical reader.

To see how well you can recognize these patterns, I encourage you to take this test.

Directions:  Read each sentence(s), all of which are taken from 75 Readings plus 8th edition by Buscemi and Smith. McGraw Hill. 2007. Then, choose which organizational pattern best matches the sentence(s).

1.  An Indian Father’s Plea by Medicine Grizzlybear Lake:  ” I would like to introduce to you my son, Wind-Wolf. He is probably what you would call a typical Indian kid. He was born and raised on the reservation. He has black hair, dark-brown eyes, and an olive complexion. And like so many Indian children his age, he is shy and quiet in the classroom. He is five years old, in kindergarten, and I cannot understand why you have labeled him a ‘slow learner’.”

A. Process Analysis

B. Definition

C. Classification and Division

D. Comparison and Contrast

E. Example and Illustration

F. Cause and Effect

G. Argument

2.  Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts by Bruce Catton:  “When Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met in the parlor of a modest house at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865, to work out the terms for the surrender of Lee’s army of Northern Virginia, a great chapter in American life came to a close, and a great new chapter began. They were two strong men, these oddly different generals, and they represented the strengths of two conflicting currents that, through them, had come into final collision.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

3.  Revisiting Sacred Ground by N. Scott Momaday:  “The Medicine Wheel is a ring of stones, some fifty feet in diameter.  Stone spokes radiate from the center to the circumference. Cairns are placed at certain points on the circumference–one in the center, and one just outside the ring to the southwest.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

4.   What is Poverty by Jo Goodwin Parker:  “What is poverty?  Poverty is getting up every morning from a dirt and illness-stained mattress. The  sheets have long since been used for diapers.  Poverty is living in a smell that never leaves. This is a smell of urine, sour milk, and spoiling food sometimes joined with the strong smell of long-cooked onions.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

5.  Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell:  “In Moulimein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people–the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

6.  Growing Up Asian in America by Kesaya E. Noda:  “I was sometimes addressed or referred to as racially Japanese, sometimes as Japanese-American, and sometimes as an Asian woman. Confusions and distortions abounded.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

7.  Clutter by William Zinsser:  “Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds-the writer is always slightly behind. Consider all the prepositions that are draped onto verbs that don’t need any help.  We no longer head committees. We head them up.   We don’t face problems anymore. We face up to them when we can free up a few minutes.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

8. The  Arrow of Time by K.C. Cole:” It was two months ago when I realized that entropy was getting the better of me. On the same day my car broke down (again), my refrigerator conked out and I learned that I needed a root canal in my right rear tooth. The windows in the bedroom were still leaking every time it rained and my son’s babysitter was still failing to show up every time I needed her. My hair was turning gray and my typewriter was wearing out. The house needed paint and I needed glasses.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

9. Writing Drafts by Richard Marius:  “Finally the moment comes when you sit down to begin your first draft. It is always a good idea at the start to list the points you want to cover.  A list is not as elaborate as a formal outline.”

A. Narration

B. Description

C. Process Analysis

D. Definition

E. Classification and Division

F. Comparison and Contrast

G. Example and Illustration

H. Cause and Effect

I. Argument

Answers

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1. g  2. f 3. b 4. d 5. a 6. e 7. g 8. h 9. c

For more information, go here:  http://onlinetoeflcourse.com

Michael Buckhoff

 

6 thoughts on “TOEFL iBT Reading: Understanding Organizational Patterns

  1. hi michael i read all yr reading stuff. i took toefl like more than 10 times.my reading speed is about 175-200 words /minute.I really like yr subscription but in real test is different than u explain in reading subscription.all u mention is short question and answer while in test beside vocabulary question, most of them are long questions like 2-3 lines and long options to answer like 2-3 lines each.that is more time consuming.enethough,those questions are easy but answer option are more confusing like out of four options three are probable and one perfect.its not like three are wrong and one right so we need some tips for that if u can my name is hitesh desai and my email id is hitusjaan@yahoo.com. thanks michael

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