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TOEFL and GRE Reading Practice Part 2: The Battlefield

Recently, I did a post that can help you study for the TOEFL and GRE at the same time. In the post, I gave you a wordlist that combined TOEFL and GRE-level vocabulary, followed by some vocabulary study activities, and a reading passage that uses all of the highlighted words.

The reading passage in the last post was meant to be a fake beginning for an action/adventure novel. I didn’t plan on writing any more chapters. But one of my students over at CENA Academy in Japan asked me to keep writing the story, and to keep putting good vocabulary words into it. So I did! I now share the next chapter with you. Chapter 3 will come soon.


Reading activity instructions:

Step 1:

Look at the words below. Study any unfamiliar words on These words are a mix of TOEFL and GRE level words. Some of the words could probably be found on either exam:

abandoned, albeit, appeal, cautiously, community, controversial, demoted, diplomatic, discharged, dominion, economic, eleemosynary, financial, huts, inchoate, inculcated, indolent, jurisdiction, maintenance, meticulous, peer, peninsula, poverty, recession, repercussions, rubric, spite, spotlessly, stain, stray, stricken, structure, unyielding

Step 2:

Read the following passage, which uses all of the words in the list above. This passage is at a difficulty level that is somewhat TOEFL-like, but also somewhat GRE-like. You can consider the reading level to be halfway between the two exams. Pay special attention to the words in bold. Those words are taken from the vocabulary list above.

However, in the passage different forms of the words may be used. Even if you can’t quite remember all of the words’ meanings you looked up in activity 1, you should be able to guess the meanings of most words from context. If you need to, review the words again on as you do your reading.


The Battlefield

Prestwich peered cautiously at the men assembled in front of him. He got the strange feeling that the soldiers had requested him because of his weaknesses, and not in spite of them. His idea that he was selected because he was a weak leader was an inchoate one. He had no clear idea of why his weaknesses might appeal to the men under his command, or why a request for a weak leader would be honored by Prestwich’s commanders. He assumed that such a request would be very controversial.

It seemed to him that the intelligent and experienced men on his team would never make an unusual request like that. Requesting a weak leader would cause too many questions and too much disagreement. If these men had openly stated that their potential leader was weak, there could be repercussions. The men could be disciplined for disrespecting Prestwich as their superior officer. And the repercussions could be even harsher than that—a soldier could be demoted, even discharged from the military for openly disrespecting a senior officer.

No, Prestwich told himself, it didn’t seem possible that the soldiers would all openly talk about his weaknesses when they asked for him as their leader. Respect for senior officers would have been inculcated in these men from the beginning of their training. If the soldiers had any truly low opinion of Prestwich, they would be very careful about expressing it. They would be meticulous in only describing Prestwich in a respectful, diplomatic way. Still, Prestwich could not shake the feeling that the men in his new command all believed he was weak, and that his weakness was valuable to the men in some way. But this idea of Prestwich’s—this notion of his own weakness—remained inchoate. Prestwich simply didn’t fully understand why these men had chosen him as a leader.

Prestwich looked past his men, looking at the battlefield as a whole. It was a very strange battlefield indeed. The battlefield the men stood in was a village, albeit an abandoned one. Ten small huts stood in the village. No one had lived in these tiny homes in decades. But the population of the village had not left because of an economic recession. No, the people of the village had certainly not left because of the kind of financial pressure that caused so many similar small towns in Prestwich’s home state of Indiana to be abandoned.

Nor had the villagers left their community carelessly or quickly. There were no stray children’s toys misplaced on the ground, no old remnants of garbage or abandoned farms. The structures in the village were all spotlessly clean. It was obvious that someone had been meticulous in making the village seem like people might still live in it. The huts were washed on the outside and cleaned on the inside.

The maintenance workers who cleaned everything in the village were never indolent. They couldn’t be. The government agency that oversaw the maintenance in the village measured the cleaning efforts with a strict rubric. If the workers were given anything less than a perfect score, they could be killed, imprisoned for life, or worse. In the past, many workers had been killed for sweeping a floor poorly or leaving a water stain on a window.

The government that had dominion over the village was not known for charity or kindness. The village’s government was anything but giving or nice. In comparison to this village’s poverty stricken, ungiving, unyielding government, the strict American military seemed as kind as a smiling grandmother. In fact, most governments in the world, even ones that imposed sharp tariffs and other fees on the economic activities of its citizens, had more generosity of spirit than the village’s governmental command. For you see, the village was under the jurisdiction of North Korea. Compared to the government of the northern nation of the Korean peninsula, the rest of the world’s governments seemed downright eleemosynary, whether they were democracies or dictatorships.


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