This month I read the March 7 issue of “The New Yorker.”  It contained a captivating article about animal rights called “The Elephant in the Courtroom.” Like all New Yorker articles it is a bit too long and a lot too convoluted to stand in for a TOEFL reading passage, but it does contain a few interesting concepts that could be turned into TOEFL questions by readers with time on their hands.  It discusses self-recognition in animals, which would make a perfect type three speaking question.  One could even write a question about autonomy in animals.

The same issue also contains a long review of Sanaz Toosi’s play “English,” which I’ve written about here before.  The play is set in a TOEFL classroom in Iran in 2008.  I am far from New York and unable to see it, but it sounds really compelling.

Next, I read the March 14 issue of the same magazine.  It contains an article about the booming demand for deer antlers in the USA (and abroad).  I mention this one because it contains some details about the purpose of deer antlers which could become a TOEFL question.  Indeed, I am pretty sure it already has.

There is a fantastic article in the same issue called “The Access Trap” about a particular high school in the USA that switched from selective admissions based on test scores to a lottery-based admissions system.  This isn’t something you will read about on the TOEFL, but I mention it here in case any readers are as interested in standardized testing (and related topics) as I am.  The story perfectly encapsulates a debate that is raging right now across the country.  Interesting stuff!

My final New Yorker, was the March 21 issue.  It contains a fun article about the history of the fitness industry and of exercise science .  It’s a fun and breezy read.  And it is almost like a TOEFL reading.  As you likely recall, the TOEFL often focuses on the history of some field of study.

I also read the May/June issue of Analog, but it is 100% behind a subscription wall, so I can’t link to the articles.  But it contained a fantastic article about mining asteroids.  Which TOEFL fans will recall is a pretty common topic in prep materials.  One day I will adapt the article into a practice integrated writing passage.  It talks about how the economics of colonizing asteroids is bad right now, but that it will get better when new energy sources are discovered.  It talks about how prices for mined resources will drop, but that cultural motivations will take their place as a justification for colonization.  TOEFL, right?

The same issue also contains a long story about how human bodies evolved to cope with “yesterday’s problems” which means we are currently stuck with adaptations that are no longer useful (and in some cases detrimental) in contemporary life.  That’s a type three TOEFL speaking question right there!  If you are interested in this sort of stuff, you can probably buy a copy of the magazine through their website.

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