While doing some research for a freelance writing job, I came across The Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction from Oxford University Press. Oxford’s “Very Short Introduction” series now includes more than 500 titles. Each one describes a topic in about 200 pages in a fairly accessible style. And they are cheap, too. The series could be really great for people who want an easy and fun way to improve their academic reading skills. I suppose that titles related to history will be most relevant to the TOEFL. Remember that TOEFL passages are supposed to simulate articles from freshman-level university textbooks (and sometimes they are lifted directly from such books). These books are somewhat comparable to such textbooks.
Meanwhile, during my recent holiday in Canada, I snagged a few old issues of “Science News” from the library discard stack. A few articles from the November 6 2021 issue stood out as particularly relevant:
- Some Birds Learn to Recognize Calls While Still in their Eggs describes a unique feature possessed by some birds. As you know, TOEFL speaking questions are often about unique animal features.
- A Volcano-Induced Rainy Period Made Earth’s Climate Dinosaur-Friendly is about dinosaur features and climate. Dinosaurs and climate appear on the TOEFL quite a lot. Especially in the integrated writing question. Read this one!
- This article about how Dog DNA reveals ancient trading networks in the arctic is just like something that might appear in the reading section of the TOEFL. Articles about early human civilization are common the test.
- Speaking of which, here’s an article about how ancient footprints suggest that people arrived in the Americas earlier than expected. This could be part of an integrated writing question, or a reading passage!
I also read the November 20, 2021 issue of the same magazine:
- How these sea-loving mangroves ended up far from the coast is a perfect practice article. It describes a thing called a “relict ecosystem,” which is when an ecosystem shows adaptations to conditions that are no longer relevant to it. I think one of ETS’s practice questions is about “relict adaptations” in animals. Basically the same thing!
- Here’s an article about links between Olmec and Maya societies of mesoamerica. Again, this sort of thing is just what the TOEFL test creators like to include in the reading section.
There are actually many more great articles in both of the magazines, but I will leave it at that. I’ll be back next month after I work my way through a few more science mags. I think I have enough of those on hand to cover both the November and December columns.