offers hundreds of practice questions and video explanations. Go there now.
Sign up or log in to Magoosh TOEFL Prep.

TOEFL Reading Practice Set 1 – Answers and Discussion

In this post, I’m going to talk about the answers to the reading practice set posted a few days ago. The topic is American government, and in this practice set we only dealt with comprehension-type questions. If you need to review comprehension-type questions, check out the review at TOEFL Reading Section. For this answer key, I’m going to simply mention the sentence or section that provides the clue for each answer choice, and I’ll write the correct answer after each question.

 

Factual Information Question

1. Which of the following is true of the current process of choosing a president in the case of an inconclusive election?
a) It gives states equal influence, regardless of state size or population.
b) It caused great problems in the 2000 election.
c) It allows the Supreme Court to choose the new president.
d) It requires at least a dozen congressional districts to vote for the same candidate to determine
a winner.

This question is pretty straightforward.  If we want to be super thorough (which, at this point, we do), we should go through option by option and find where each one is mentioned in the text. Sometimes an option won’t be specifically mentioned, but at least this will allow you to eliminate one or two answer choices.

a) Paragraph 2: “Even if you believe that the electoral college is a good idea, and that the advantage held there by small states is defensible, there is no defense, in 2000, for allowing Vermont’s single representative to offset the entire 30-member congressional delegation of my home state of Texas in the instance of a House vote for president.”

b) Paragraph 2: “Although this hasn’t happened since 1824…”

c) Paragraph 3: “…it should do so on a one-member, one-vote basis, the theory of representation that the Supreme Court has endorsed now for almost 40 years.”

d) Paragraph 3: “Consider the situation, though, if only a half a dozen congressional districts had gone Democrat instead of Republican…”

Since B clearly states that this situation didn’t occur in 2000, we can rule it out. C states that the Supreme Court has endorsed (supported) this policy for many years, there is no mention of Supreme Court choosing a president. D deals with a hypothetical situation that never occurred. So the correct answer must be A.

 

Negative Information Question

2. Which of the following is NOT mentioned as a flaw in the current system of resolving an electoral deadlock?
a) The electoral college system makes an inconclusive election impossible.
b) This system could have had a dramatic and possibly unfair, effect on the 2000 election.
c) It gives too much power to large states.
d) It gives each state exactly one vote.

a) “It provides that deadlocks over the choice of president in the electoral college may be broken by the U.S. House of Representatives on a one-state, one-vote basis.”

b) “Consider the situation, though, if only half a dozen congressional districts had gone Democrat instead of Republican, giving the Democrats control of the House. In that case, if the election had come to the House, Gore—the choice of the people as well [as] a majority of the people’s representatives—could have been deprived of the presidency due to the happenstance that the Republicans control most state delegations.”

c) “Even if you believe that the electoral college is a good idea, and that the advantage held there by small states is defensible, there is no defense, in 2000, for allowing Vermont’s single representative to offset the entire 30-member congressional delegation of my home state of Texas in the instance of a House vote for president.”

d) “It provides that deadlocks over the choice of president in the electoral college may be broken by the U.S. House of Representatives on a one-state, one-vote basis.”

If there were no deadlocks in the electoral college system, there would be no need for a tie-breaker. So right off the bat, we know A is false. This is what I call a “fluff” answer—one that is obvious if you understand the main idea of the text. Luckily for us, this is a negative information question, so we can be sure that the correct answer is A.

3. Which of these statements is NOT a major idea in the article?
a) The House only rarely has to select a president.
b) Every state receives exactly one vote when breaking a tie.
c) The system that the US uses to vote for a president has many problems.
d) The electoral system used in the US does not reflect population distribution among the
states.

a) “Although this hasn’t happened since 1824…”
b) “It provides that deadlocks over the choice of president in the electoral college may be broken by the U.S. House of Representatives on a one-state, one-vote basis.”
c) “In just this past month, several of the Constitution’s “stupidities” have been revealed…. But a number of other flawed constitutional features also deserve closer scrutiny and discussion.”
d) “This means that a candidate gets significantly more benefit from carrying, say, Wyoming and the two Dakotas, which a total of nine electoral votes, than New Mexico, which has roughly the same population as the three states  combined but only five electoral votes.”

Uh-oh. All of these points are mentioned in the text. If the test-writers are nice, they’ll give you three points from the text and one that’s made up or clearly false. But here we have four true statements. So our task is not to find the correct ones, but the most important ones. What is the author trying to tell us in this article? He wants us to know about a problem in the Constitution that he believes gives unfair advantage to small states. He believes that this could have serious repercussions for us, so he wants the problem fixed. Knowing that, it’s clear that the correct answer is A. Although it is true that a tie only rarely occurs in an election, the author is concerned with what happens when this does occur.

4. Which of the following is closest in meaning to the word “dubious” in Paragraph 2?
a) skeptical
b) doubtful
c) unconvinced
d) questionable

All of these words are synonyms for “dubious”, but in different contexts. Let’s look at the context of the word: “But a number of other flawed constitutional features also deserve closer scrutiny and discussion. [The House’s ability to pick a president in case of a tie] is my choice for the most dubious feature of the Constitution.” Before you look at the answer choices, try to replace the word “dubious” with something else that makes sense in context. You might say “ridiculous” or “unreasonable” or, if you’re lucky, “questionable.” Skeptical, doubtful, and unconvinced all refer to people who are showing disbelief. Only “questionable” can refer to a thing that seems unfair, unsafe, or illegitimate, so the correct answer is D.

5. Which of these words could replace the word “happenstance” in the last paragraph?
a) fact
b) coincidence
c) position
d) tradition

Let’s try the same tactic here. “In that case, if the election had come to the House, Gore—the choice of the people as well [as] a majority of the people’s representatives—could have been deprived of the presidency due to the happenstance that the Republicans control most state delegations.”

What words can replace “happenstance” here? Maybe “chance”, “event”, or “occurrence.” We’re definitely looking for a word that simply has to do with something happening. If we look at our answer choices, this knowledge allows us to rule out C and D. To decide between A and B, look back at the context. This shows us that Republican control of most state delegations is a hypothetical or unreal situation, which is the opposite of fact. So the correct answer must be B.

6. Paragraph 2: Although this hasn’t happened since 1824, when the House picked John Quincy Adams as president over Andrew Jackson, it loomed as a possibility in 1938 and 1968, when third-party presidential candidates in those years each won more than 20 votes.

What does the word “this” refer to in this sentence?

 a) The presidency of John Quincy Adams

b) A small state’s overruling a larger state’s votes
c) The use of the electoral college system
d) The House choosing a president

Reference questions usually require us to take a broader view of the context of the question. Most of the time, the necessary information will be immediately before the sentence in question. So our gut reaction should be to choose D, the topic of the paragraph and subject of the preceding sentence. Just to be sure, let’s make sure that none of the other answer choices make sense.  A doesn’t even make sense—it’s just mentioned as a historical example, which logically could not be repeated. A small state’s overruling a larger state’s votes could have been part of the 1894 election, but there is no mention of it in the paragraph. In Paragraph 2, we are not talking about the electoral college, but about what happens if the electoral college fails to find a clear winner, so C doesn’t make sense. D does turn out to be the best answer.

How did you do? If you have any questions about this set or about strategies for similar questions, feel free to comment, and we’ll figure it out.

 

Get at higher TOEFL score with your free Magoosh trial

3 Responses to TOEFL Reading Practice Set 1 – Answers and Discussion

  1. Apurva October 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Thank you Kate 🙂

  2. Lumy October 24, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    Spent a surprisingly long time on the fact vs happenstance choice. I know that happenstance’s definition is closer to “coincidence” than “fact”, but since the question wanted “replace the word”, and somehow I got the impression that the Republicans DID control most of the delegations (missed the word “can”!)

    I feel like these passages seem harder than they should be since I don’t have much idea of how the US government works (what congressional districts?!!). These passages, unlike the science ones, seems to assume some sort of reader familiarity with the topic.

    • Kate October 25, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      Luma,

      The question you refer to was tricky. The sentence that tipped me off was this one: “Consider the situation, though, if only half a dozen congressional districts had gone Democrat instead of Republican…” Even without prior knowledge of the US government, we know that half a dozen is probably very few when you’re talking about an entire nation’s government, and the authors’ “only” reinforces this. I did make the question more difficult by including synonyms of the word, so well done on identifying the better options!


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Share
Tweet
Share
Pin