News in Levels: A Great TOEFL Resource


Recently, I’ve been using the website News in Levels with a TOEFL student of mine over at iTalki. News in Levels is quite useful for TOEFL Prep.

News in Levels has a very simple format. The site features short written news stories. Every news story on the site comes in three different versions, each at a different English reading level. Level 1 is the lowest level, and the Level 1 version is the shortest. From there, you can go to a Level 2 article that is a bit more wordy, with higher-level vocabulary, And then the longest, most advanced version of the article will appear in Level 3. You can see an example for one article here, here, and here.

News in Levels as a resource to practice TOEFL Paraphrasing

News in Levels can help you figure out how to paraphrase words you read or hear, restating the information in a shorter summary. This is because the three levels of article paraphrase each other, each restating the same story in a different way at a different length. You can model your own paraphrases after the variations of each article.

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You can also take some time to think about the decisions that the News in Levels writers make. The site actually gets rid of some of the information in its Level 3 articles in order to make the simpler, shorter first and second-level readings. Notice which information is omitted in the shorter paraphrases. Would you have omitted this information if you were paraphrasing the same article? Might there be ways to make a Level 3 article shorter without omitting any key details? Try paraphrasing and shortening a News in Levels article yourself to find your own “paraphrasing voice.”

News in Levels as a TOEFL Pronunciation Resource

It’s good to know exactly how words are pronounced in order to hear and say them correctly. News in Levels includes an audio reading of each article on their website. The readalouds of the article are not very TOEFL like—they’re slow and unnatural in comparison to the exam.

But there’s a good reason for this. The audio for each article really focuses on showing students the correct pronunciation of individual words. Each word is spoken slowly, carefully and clearly. So this is an excellent resource for learning the proper pronunciations for many individual words. The individual words at Level-3 are the most TOEFL-like. But TOEFL preppers who particularly struggle with word pronunciation may also benefit from the more basic pronunciation examples at Levels 1 and 2.

News in Levels as a TOEFL Speaking resource.

Although the main content on News in Levels is written, and not spoken, the grammar and sentence structure of the articles a more like speech than like academic writing (especially for Levels 1 and 2). This means the sentences are well-structured for speaking practice. When practicing your TOEFL pronunciation, intonation, pace, and so on, you can read these articles out loud.

The simplicity of the articles also helps you keep your focus on TOEFL Speaking skills when you practice. You’ll find little or no distracting, difficult vocabulary in level three. With the simple sentences and vocabulary that ranges from easy to medium difficulty by TOEFL standards, you’ll find the readings interesting. But they won’t be so challenging that you get distracted by new vocabulary. You’ll be able to concentrate just on your speech as your read the articles aloud.

News in Levels as a TOEFL Reading Resource

High-intermediate to advanced TOEFL readers likely won’t have use for News in Levels as a reading resource. However, beginner and low intermediate learners can use this site as a way to build their skills and become more TOEFL-ready. The second-level articles are a step in the direction of TOEFL-level reading. And once students are able to read the Level 3 articles, they’ll be nearly ready to read TOEFL passages successfully. News in Level’s third-level articles are almost at the same difficulty level as the TOEFL. TOEFL Reading passages have a little bit more academic English and slightly longer sentences. But Level 3 News in Levels articles really are just one small step below the level found in the TOEFL Reading section.

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