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TOEFL “School Life” Vocabulary: Opportunities and Choices

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

As loyal readers of this blog know, listening recordings on the TOEFL contain both academic and non-academic vocabulary. The non-academic vocabulary is usually related to life on a university campus. Today, I’ll introduce you to four words and phrases common in non-academic campus English.


“Well-rounded” describes something that has a good amount of variety or a good balance of different things. On campus, this term is often used to refer to the classes that are taken in a bachelor’s degree. A degree is said to be well-rounded if students study many different things before they graduate: language, math, science, history, sociology, art, and so on. Universities pride themselves in helping students become well-rounded people— people who are educated about many different things and have a lot of different interests.

Broad range

“Broad range” describes variety, too. It is a little different from well-rounded, however. “Well-rounded” is an adjective, while “broad range” is a noun. Furthermore, “well-rounded” has a positive meaning, while “broad range” can be positive or negative. You could say that a university offers students a broad range of opportunities (positive), or you could say that students face a broad range of problems (negative).

Take advantage of

“Take advantage of” is a phrasal verb. This phrasal verb has a positive meaning and a negative meaning. In a good sense, “take advantage of” means to use the opportunities you’re given. This is the way the phrase is often used on college campuses. University students are encouraged to take advantage of helpful courses, student services such as tutoring, and special opportunities such as internships or volunteer experiences. In a negative sense, “take advantage of” can mean to unfairly use a person or thing for one’s own benefit. This use happens on campuses too. Often campus officials will make public announcements about scams or theft, warning students not to let people take advantage of them.


In higher education, “versus” can be used to talk about choices between two things. For instance, many bachelor’s degrees ask you to either write a final essay (called a capstone paper) or do a final project (called a capstone project). In this situation, your adviser may talk to you about “doing a capstone paper versus doing a capstone project.” “Versus” can also mean “opposing.” Versus is usually used in this sense to talk about sports and university teams. When versus describes opposing teams, it can be abbreviated as “vs.” As I write this, my home state (Wisconsin) and the home state of most of the other Clemmonsdogparkers (California) are about to play each other in a college basketball game. The game is being advertised as “Wisconsin Badgers vs. Cal Bears.” May the best state university win!


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