A few weeks ago, I recommended a book that will help students improve their ability to read about scientific topics.  Today I want to share a quick review of The Little Book of Big History, which can help students improve their ability to read articles about history.

This book attempts to tell the entire history of the earth in a series of fairly short articles.  What I like about this book is that the articles are just about the same length as the articles in the reading section of the test (about six paragraphs).  Moreover, the language used in the articles is at about the same level as the test.  They seem to have a Flesch Reading East score of about 40 to 50.  That makes them a bit easier than the test, but it is close enough.

The selection of topics is great.  Indeed, I noted a bunch of topics I’d like to use to create my own reading practice tests (not to mention some integrated writing practice questions).  Topics here include things like:

  • Hunter-gatherer technologies
  • The beginning of art
  • Mass extinctions
  • Domesticating animals
  • From barter to money
  • Credit, debt and investment

Depending on how much time you have, I’d recommend just reading five or six of these per day, along with a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words.  Consider keeping a list of new words to study from later.

To use the book most effectively, perhaps skip the first part (which deals with the creation of the universe, and the last two parts (which deal with slightly more modern topics than are used on the TOEFL).

If you do pick up the book leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

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