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TOEFL Listening Practice: Answers to Sample Questions

How can you score high on the TOEFL listening section? If there’s one thing you take away from this blog, it should be: practice! In my previous post, we went over a few questions based on an art history lesson. Today, let’s take a look at those answers and explanations.



1. What is the main point of the professor’s lecture?

a. People today should know more about the different styles that Botticelli used.

b. Botticelli’s career exemplifies certain historical tendencies of the art world.

c. We can never know the artists who might be popular in the future.

d. Botticelli’s religious paintings were more important than his paintings that depicted non-religious subjects.

Answer: B. The professor’s main point is that Botticelli’s work shows that some artists fall in and out of popularity over time. If you missed this, it might have been because you stopped listening towards the end of the lecture—a good reminder to stay alert (though it may be hard!) for the whole thing.


2. According to the professor’s lecture, what does “his reputation again began to blossom” mean?

a. Botticelli became popular again.

b. Many rumors circulated about Botticelli.

c. Nobody knew what to think of Botticelli.

d. Botticelli was well known among other artists.

Answer: A. You may not know the expression “began to blossom,” but use the context to work out its meaning. Here, the professor tells us, immediately after using this expression, that the Pre-Raphaelites brought Botticelli back to popularity.


3. What is the professor’s attitude toward Botticelli?

a. She enjoys some of his work, but not all of it.

b. She sees him as an obscure yet important artist.

c. She believes his career teaches us about larger social structures.

d. She does not know why students don’t know more about him.

Answer: C. If you got question 1 right, you probably go this one right, as well. The professor’s attitude towards Botticelli is generally pretty objective. She does use him as an example of shifting artistic tastes, which are themselves part of society.


4. The professor describes several features of Botticelli’s non-religious works compared to his religious works. For each of the following, indicate whether it is a feature of his non-religious or religious paintings. (For each item, check the appropriate box—three boxes).


Answer: all non-religious. Listen carefully for the details and jot them down when necessary. Here, the professor says that the non-religious works, including The Birth of Venus, demonstrate “the extensive use of nature as a metaphor.” The trickiest question here is “Departed from Botticelli’s earlier work.” We need to make that inference from the professor telling us that there was some, though not much, holdover and overlap in the religious and non-religious paintings.


5. Listen again to part of the lecture. Then answer the question. What does the professor mean when she says “Botticelli had the last laugh”?

a. Botticelli found art historians ridiculous.

b. Botticelli’s work was less important in the sixteenth century than in the twentieth.

c. Botticelli did not care about his reputation as an artist.

d. Botticelli succeeded in the end.

Answer: D. Because the time period is so different, so much later, the professor is commenting that it took a long time, but Botticelli finally came back into popularity.


6. Listen again to part of the lecture. Then answer the question. Why does the professor say “It just goes to show you—the art world is ruled by trends”?

a. To demonstrate that Botticelli changed the subjects of his work according to trends.

b. To explain the larger significance of Botticelli’s work and what students can learn from it.

c. To show that art can be a good investment if we are wise about the paintings we purchase.

d. To argue that no artists are objectively good or bad, but only judged by society to be so.

Answer: B. The professor is returning to her larger point, that the point of this example is to show how the art world has different trends, or cycles of popularity, through the study of one artist’s career.