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TOEFL Tuesday: It’s Raining Vocabulary!

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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.
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Note: TOEFL Tuesdays will now run every other week. In other words, the next TOEFL Tuesday post will be on June 14th, two weeks from today.

We’re going to continue our series on vocabulary from our this week with an interesting set: words about rain (or lack of rain).

That’s a pretty specific topic, right? How many words about rain are actually useful for the TOEFL? Several, actually. The TOEFL often includes reading or lectures about natural sciences, and climate or weather is frequently included somewhere on the test. Maybe you won’t see all of the words below on your TOEFL, but there is a high probability you will see at least one of them, even though they’re not common words. Take, for example…

(a) Drought

In a way, this word is the opposite of rain. A drought is a period of time when little or no rain falls. Usually, during a drought many plants die—sometimes animals, too. But this isn’t about a desert, because a desert is dry permanently. A drought is not permanent.

For example, in the last few years, California has experienced a bad drought. Usually, California gets a lot of rain in the winter. But recently, most winters have been dry. As a result, large lakes became much smaller, rivers dried up, and farmers can’t farm.

(to be) Arid

The adjective “arid” is very similar to “dry,” but it is specifically used about air. Deserts are arid places, as are areas in droughts. But keep in mind this is a very strong word used for weather. If you turn on a heater in your home and the air is dry, you wouldn’t call it “arid.” In that case, simply “dry” works well.

(a) Torrent

A torrent is a lot of water moving quickly. It can be used for both rain and for rivers. So you could say “The storm brought a torrent of rain” or “the storm grew the river into a violent torrent.” In both cases, there is a large, powerful force of water coming fast.

(to) Erode

This word is about rain in part, but also about wind. Both can erode mountains, rocks, hills, or other parts of land. It happens over a long time—as rain falls on the same mountain time and time again, slowly the mountain becomes flatter and smoother, because the water takes away small amounts of dirt and dust every time.

Not that the noun form is not is “erosion,” which looks a little different but has the same meaning (just a different part of speech).

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