3.07 Reading Inference Questions

Here’s a word that might be new for you, inference. What are inference questions? They ask you to figure something out. To infer means to take information, and from that information, come to a conclusion. They’re very similar to detail questions in that you look at a specific part of the text, and then answer the question based on that information.

There are one or two of these per passage, so they’re a medium frequency question. Now, there’s a phrase in English, read between the lines. If you read between the lines, it means that there is some information that is communicated by text, but it is not in the text. Say, this is text, this is writing. And in that writing, there is direct clear information.

But if you think, and you look carefully, you find more information. Information that’s not stated specifically but is implied. That’s reading between the lines. It’s an idiom. Now, does this mean that you’re reading between the lines on the TOEFL? Not exactly.

The inferences here are very, very small. You don’t have to figure out very much. Say, for example, I tell you that I have one apple. And then I also tell you that I have two oranges. And I tell you that I have no other fruit. Now, if I ask you how many pieces of fruit do I have, is that really reading between the lines?

I told you, I have one apple, two oranges, and no others. So clearly, I have three pieces of fruit. I didn’t say I have three pieces of fruit, but my information that I gave you gives you that conclusion. Now, of course, this is over simple. The TOEFL is more difficult than 1 plus 2 equals 3.

But you understand the idea, this information is definitely unarguably true. So let’s take a look at a sample question to see it. The sample question is about the passage that is linked under this video, as all the other sample questions in the reading section are. Okay. What can be inferred from the first three paragraphs about how clonal colonies are created?

This is big, the first three paragraphs. That’s a lot of information, so it’s a little bit hard to guess about the inference here. Because we can’t go to one specific sentence and find our answer, we’re going to need to find our answer from a few different sentences. Before we see our answer choices, let’s go back and look through those first three paragraphs.

You can pause the video to read through or you can just watch, and I will go through quickly. Okay, so what can we infer from those three paragraphs? Well, here’s our first possibility. They cannot exist in plants with smaller root systems.

Now, here’s our keyword. Can we find that in the passage? This whole paragraph is about root systems. So that makes it a little bit difficult, and we don’t see many words about size. But if you look carefully, you find this sentence which says, an extensive root system.

Extensive means it must be large. So, can we infer from this sentence that these plant colonies cannot exist with small root systems? We cannot. We know that they do exist with large root systems, but it’s possible that they also exist with small root systems.

The passage does not say clearly, so let’s look at our next answer choice. Plants will only begin vegetative reproduction when sexual reproduction is not an option. Okay, if sexual reproduction is not an option, that means it’s not possible. Then, and only in that case, plants will clone, will create clonal colonies. If we look in the passage, we’ll find this in paragraph two, or something related.

Here, we have sexual reproduction and vegetative reproduction compared. In clonal colonies, we know that the plants are all vegetative, that is they come from asexual reproduction. We also know that those plants may re, reproduce sexually. But does that tell us that vegetative reproduction only happens when there is no sexual reproduction?

It does not. This is not in the passage. There is more than one method of cloning which can be used. Okay. If we want to find this in the passage, we might have to look at more than one paragraph.

First, let’s look at paragraph three, in which we find this sentence. In many cases, a colony is formed by an extensive root system, blah blah blah. In many cases is key here. It says often, but not always. Now, if we take a look at paragraph one, we also find this sentence. Vegetative reproduction, which includes a number of different processes.

So, vegetative reproduction creates clonal colonies, and there’s more than one type of vegetative reproduction. From this, we can infer that there is more than one method of cloning. That is, we could create a clonal colony in a way other than rhizomes and root systems. The passage doesn’t describe those ways, but it does tell us that, in many cases, there are rhizomes and root systems, and there are other types of vegetative reproduction.

That sounds like there are other possibilities. Okay, let’s take a look at our last answer choice just to be sure. The presence of plant from seeds can stop a colony from forming. Well, in this case, we are looking again at asexual reproduction versus sexual reproduction, which means paragraph two. And we know here that plants produced by seeds are possible, and those plants are not part of the colony.

Does that mean that it stops the colony? No, it’s just not part of the colony. So we cannot infer D, and C is our correct answer.