[Originally posted: Feb. 22, 2022]

When you think of the word “football,” which sport would you associate it with?

While most countries refer to football as a type of sport where the rules are limited to kicking, did you know that “football” in American English refers to a completely different sport?

Here’s a free TOEFL Reading Quiz based on the sport of American football.

See if you can get these 10 questions right!
All answers are revealed at the bottom.

  • Please note that this reading passage set and the related questions were created based on the format of TOEFL® reading passages. However, such topics (Halloween, Christmas, Diwali etc.) do not normally appear on the TOEFL®.


The Super Bowl

The largest single sporting event in the United States by far is the American football championship game: the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl matches the champions of the American Football Conference against the best team from the National Football Conference. The Super Bowl was first played in 1967, and its popularity has grown steadily ever since. Tickets to the game have sold out every year since 1968, and recent prices for a single seat were well in excess of three thousand dollars. Despite the high cost, over seventy thousand fans attended the 2022 Super Bowl in person, and an additional 100 million people watched the game on television. The Super Bowl is typically the most-watched sporting event of the year in the US, and it has often been among the most-watched TV programs of the year worldwide. The game is always held on a Sunday, and “Super Bowl Sunday” has become an unofficial national holiday for many American football fans. Super Bowl parties, featuring large TVs to watch the game and spreads of food and drink, are wildly popular in the US. In recent years, Americans have spent more on food and drink in preparation for Super Bowl Sunday than for any other celebration of the year, except for Thanksgiving.

The origins of this cultural phenomenon are complex. ■ Even the very name of the game, the “Super Bowl” has its own backstory. ■ In 1902, the city of Pasadena, California, wanted to draw more visitors to the city’s annual festival, the Tournament of Roses. ■ The Tournament of Roses had previously featured entertainments such as a parade of flower-covered wagons, polo games, races, and individual athletic competitions. ■ But, in 1902, the tournament organizers decided to add a football game between two top college teams to the schedule of events. They invited the University of Michigan team to represent the eastern U.S. colleges and the nearby Stanford University team to represent the western U.S schools. The University of Michigan players were by far the better team, and when the score reached 49-0 in the third quarter, the Stanford team walked off the field. The game was such a terrible disappointment that the organizers of the Tournament of Roses did not include a football game in their festival again for over a decade. However, that first game is often considered to be the first bowl game played in America because of the developments that followed it.

Football was reinstated to the annual Tournament of Roses schedule of events in 1916, and it quickly became the most popular event of the tournament. Crowds of over 40,000 people were common, and it became obvious that a permanent venue for the games was needed. In 1923, the city of Pasadena completed construction of a huge new football stadium. The new stadium was named “Rose Bowl Stadium” because of its shape and its association with the Tournament of Roses. Soon, the annual football game played there as part of the Tournament of Roses was being called “the Rose Bowl game” or just, “the Rose Bowl.” From then on, the practice of referring to important football games between top teams as “bowl” games started to gain popularity. Three popular bowl games, The Orange Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, and The Sun Bowl, began in 1935, and many more followed.

As football became more popular at the college level, amateur and professional football leagues sprouted up around the country. The most successful league for many years was the National Football League (NFL), founded in 1920. This league was made up of teams that were based in large cities and owned by wealthy individuals or groups of businessmen. A second major professional league, the American Football League (AFL), was launched in 1960 by a rival group of businessmen. . Before the official merger, the owners decided to hold an overall championship game between the two leagues. They called this first game the “AFL-NFL Championship Game.” But one owner, Lamar Hunt, jokingly suggested calling it the “Super Bowl.” That name wasn’t initially popular among the other owners, but newspaper sports writers soon began to use it in their articles. After two years as the AFL-NFL Championship Game, the game’s name was officially changed to the Super Bowl, and America’s greatest sporting event was born.


  1. In paragraph 1, the author’s primary purpose is to
    (A) explain why Americans spend so much money on Super Bowl Sunday
    (B) describe how important the Super Bowl is in America
    (C) show that television plays an important part in American sporting events
    (D) give an analysis of the effects of high ticket prices on Super Bowl fans
  2. The word “lavish” in the passage is closest in meaning to
    (A) layered
    (B) grand
    (C) rare
    (D) common
  3. According to paragraph 2, why did the organizers of the Tournament of Roses decide to add a football game to the schedule of events?
    (A) They believed that Stanford University would defeat the University of Michigan.
    (B) They hoped that more people would come to the festival.
    (C) They wanted to replace other less popular events.
    (D) Football was the most popular college sport at the time.
  4. Why does the author mention “flower-covered wagons, polo games, races, and individual athletic competitions?”
    (A) To point out how these entertainments failed to attract foreign tourists
    (B) To demonstrate that the festival was very costly
    (C) To provide specific examples of events at a yearly celebration
    (D) To illustrate how exciting the city of Pasadena was for university students.
  5. According to paragraph 3, which of the following is NOT mentioned about the football game played as part of the Tournament of Roses?
    (A) It is played in a very large stadium
    (B) It is no longer an important football game.
    (C) The name of the game is sometimes shortened to Rose Bowl.
    (D) The game is played every year.
  6. In paragraph 4, why does the author mention The Orange Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, and The Sun Bowl?
    (A) To explain the reason why football became more popular.
    (B) To illustrate how football games take the names of famous stadiums.
    (C) To demonstrate that football fans are not very creative.
    (D) To show specific examples of a general trend.
  7. Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in paragraph 4? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
    (A) To defeat an opposing group of buyers, the AFL bought the teams of the NFL and formed a single league.
    (B) The cost of competing for the same locations and athletes forced two football leagues to become allies.
    (C) The leaders of the two major professional football leagues were replaced after disagreements with players.
    (D) Team owners from the two leagues decided to end years of competition and create one league.
  8. According to paragraph 4, which of the following is NOT mentioned about the name, “Super Bowl?”
    (A) The name was popular among journalists.
    (B) One team owner encouraged the others to use the name.
    (C) Many team owners did not like the name at first.
    (D) It was not intended to be the name of the championship game.
  9. Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence can be added to the passage.

The event was intended to show off the city’s beautiful weather and help the city to grow.

Where would the sentence best fit?
(A) 1st
(B) 2nd
(C) 3rd
(D) 4th

10. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor details in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.

The Super Bowl is the most popular championship game in the United States, and its name has an interesting history

(A) Pasadena, California held the first “bowl” game as part of an annual celebration.
(B) Stanford University lost very badly in the first ever Rose Bowl.
(C) Rose Bowl Stadium was constructed to host some of the most popular bowl games in America.
(D) Conflict between football team owners led to the creation of the American Football League.
(E) The name “bowl” was inspired by the shape of a huge stadium and began to be used as part of the name for important football games.
(F) The name, “Super Bowl” was given to the championship game of the top professional football leagues.

That’s it for the questions!

⬇️ If you’re done answering all of them, scroll down to see the answers. ⬇️

Answers & Question Type:

  1. B. Rhetorical Purpose question.
  2. B. Vocabulary question.
  3. B. Factual Information question.
  4. C. Rhetorical Purpose question.
  5. B. Negative Factual Information question.
  6. D. Rhetorical Purpose question.
  7. D. Sentence Simplification question.
  8. B. Negative Factual Information question.
  9. C. Insert Text question.
  10. A, E, F. Summary question.

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