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TOEFL Reading Section Practice Set 1

This TOEFL reading practice set will guide you through the different kinds of comprehension-type reading questions. If you have any questions, you can submit them as comments. Soon I will post the answers, and I will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Read the following excerpt from an American government textbook and answer the questions that follow.

In just this past month, several of the Constitution’s “stupidities” have been revealed. Chief among these is the electoral college. Not only does this feature make it possible to deny the presidency to the candidate who wins the popular vote, it also gives a significant advantage to small states, each of which is guaranteed at least three electoral votes. 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. The electoral college, and the disproportionate power it gives to small states, has rightly been put under the microscope. 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. 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. 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. 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.

If the House ever has to select the president—provided we retain the electoral college and accept its risk of deadlocks—then 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. As it happens, if this year’s election had come down to the House’s choosing, it probably would not have mattered which rule we had, since the Republicans can hold a majority of individual seats and control 29 of the state delegations. 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.

Source: Barbour, Christine and Matthew J. Streb, Ed. Clued in to Politics: A Critical Thinking Reader in American Government, 3rd Ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2010. pp.44-45.


Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

Factual Information Question

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.


Negative Information Question

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 small states.
d) It gives each state one vote.

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


Vocabulary Question

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

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


Reference Question

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


Update: You can find the answers here.

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4 Responses to TOEFL Reading Section Practice Set 1

  1. Amy November 7, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    Hi Kate, I am just wondering how much time should a qualified TOEFL candidate use to finish reading the article and answering these questions? Thanks a lot!

    • Kate Hardin
      Kate Hardin November 7, 2013 at 5:31 am #

      Hi, Amy– I didn’t really intend this as a timed practice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it as one! I’d say this should take you no more than 15 minutes. Thanks for asking!

      • an2016 September 23, 2015 at 10:52 am #

        is this the actual toefl level or a level higher or lower?

        • David Recine September 24, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

          This is basically the same level as the TOEFL, although the writing style of the passage is a little bit different than what you’d usually see in TOEFL Reading.

          This is because TOEFL Reading doesn’t have any political opinion pieces like the one in this reading passage.Certain emotional words and phrases from this reading wouldn’t be seen in an official TOEFL Reading passage. (EX:”dubious,” “deadlocks” “has rightly been…”)

          And of course, TOEFL Readings won’t address the reader in second person (“If you believe…”) and are unlikely to have imperative statements (“consider the situation…”).

          You should know, though, that TOEFL Listening (and Integrated tasks with listening tracks) easily could have emotional language, second person, and imperatives— so this passage is still very valuable practice. This is why it’s good to pursue all kinds of educational reading as you prep for the exam.

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