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Mental Floss, Part 3: Extra TOEFL Practice

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.

TOEFL Practice with Mental Floss

In my last two posts, we looked at a website that’s full of articles that are good for TOEFL practice: . This site has a lot of very TOEFL-like topics. It also covers some topics that are less-TOEFL-like, but still academic enough to be useful.

As you can probably guess, the articles on Mental Floss are not 100% TOEFL-like. With its goofy name and playful print version (see the image above), the writing on this site is not nearly as formal as the language of the TOEFL exam. Still, many of the readings on Mental Floss make for good TOEFL practice. This can be true even when the topics are a little “off.”

Below are some “off-TOEFL” sections of the Mental Floss website that are nonetheless good for TOEFL practice.

TOEFL Practice: War

TOEFL passages focus very little on war. This is because ETS tries to make TOEFL topics culturally neutral. And wars–even old ones– can bring up strong cultural feelings.

I still recommend using Mental Floss’s articles about war as TOEFL reading practice. This  are the very scholarly and formal, with a tone that matches the TOEFL more closely than other Mental Floss articles. Additionally, these articles offer a lot of practice reading the past tense forms that are common in various historical narratives on the TOEFL.

For those who do have a historical interest in war, there are subcategories for  and .

TOEFL Practice: Art

The arts are covered in the TOEFL, although TOEFL materials usually limit limit art content to the history of art. In contrast, Mental Floss’s  focuses more on pop art and entertainment, or on art tutorials for people who want to learn how to draw.

Still, there is some TOEFL-relevant material in Mental Floss’s art section. This article about  is of the most TOEFL-like Mental Floss art readings. But most of Mental Floss’s TOEFL-like art readings are hidden under a different category, which I’ll mention next….

TOEFL Practice: Architecture

Architecture is a topic that can definitely come up on the TOEFL. And the types of historical write-ups and art analyses you’ll find in TOEFL Reading are also present in many of the  on Mental Floss. Again, you’ll also find some content that is better for general reading practice and not TOEFL studies–write-ups on the homes of celebrities, tour guides for interesting landmarks, that sort of thing.

The takeaway

I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part study guide for a truly excellent TOEFL practice resource. In future posts, I’ll focus on specific readings from Mental Floss, complete with vocabulary guides and TOEFL-style questions to go with the text.

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