It’s May!

As always, “Science News” is a good source of articles for academic reading practice. A few stories stood out this month.  In particular:

Meanwhile, a reader sent in this article from the New York Times:

Sapiens Book CoverI finally read Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind“last month.  This is one of the most popular history books of all time, and it is a perfect source of academic reading practice.  It is about the early history of mankind, which (as I indicated last month) is one of the most frequent topics on the reading section of the TOEFL.  You can buy it on Amazon, or get borrow it from the Open Library.

I listened to the audio version of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, “The Bomber Mafia.”  Like Harari, Gladwell is a rock star in the world of non-fiction publishing.  His latest is about bombing missions carried out by the American military during World War II.  It is certainly thought provoking.  You can buy it on Amazon.

Hills of Adonis CoverFinally, I read Colin Thubron’s travel book “In the Hills of Adonis.”  This one is an account of his walking tour of Lebanon in 1967.  I recommended one of his earlier travel books last month.  Actually, I’m working my way through his whole bibliography in anticipation of his newest book, due out this November.  His work can be challenging but if you like travel and you like history check it out.  You can buy it on Amazon, or borrow it from the Open Library

Alright, that’s all for this month.  Next month I’ll have some words about a new TOEFL prep book published by Barrons.  Hopefully my first issue of “History Today” magazine will arrive, and I will be able to switch from science to history in terms of article recommendations.


The TOEFL Essentials page for test takers has launched.   It contains a ton of good information, but the most important is obviously the collection of three sample TOEFL Essentials Tests.  Check them out.  Obviously you will also want to check out the list of TOEFL Essentials Content.

For my take on this content, you should watch my video about the question types.

Here are a few random details about TOEFL Essentials that have trickled out via the regular webinars hosted by ETS.  Yes, I watch every single one of them:

  • The reading, listening and writing sections of the test will be adaptive.  The speaking section will not.
  • At launch, the e-rater and SpeechRater automated scoring technology will NOT be used.  Only human graders will be used.  Automated scoring will be introduced later.
  • Scoring rubrics will be published in June.
  • The default voice (that gives instructions) will have a mild British English accent.
  • Right now the “foundational skills” will consist of vocabulary knowledge and sentence construction.  Additional skills will be added later.
  • The score recipients will have access to two writing and two speaking samples.  Plus the unscored video interview from the end of the test.
  • At launch, the test will be available one day per week.  It will be expanded up to three days per week, depending on demand.
  • The TOEFL ITP will continued to be administered. 
  • Some of the documentation that was to be delivered in May has been delayed to June.

If you were hoping to get some details about the new test this week, you can keep waiting.

The site used to say: “after the score requirements guidance and score concordance tools are released in early May.” Now it says: “after the score requirements guidance and score concordance tools are released in early June.”

Likewise, score requirements were “expected to be available in May 2021.” But now they are “expected to be available in June 2021.”

The “assessment framework document” is still promised for May, though.

See also: