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TOEFL Reading Question Type - Inference Question

Madison Oster July 25th, 2018

This is part of a series of TOEFL Reading Question Types. In today’s post, we will discuss an "Inference" question. An inference question requires you to make logical assumptions and connections by using the information in the passage to come up with a new conclusion. In other words, an inference question asks you to pick up on information that is indirectly given, rather than being directly stated in the passage. Questions of this type will often contain words like “imply”, “suggest”, or “infer” in the question prompt. 

Let’s see an example of an inference question.

TOEFL Reading Practice: Inference Question

The body that impacted Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period was a meteorite with a mass of more than a trillion tons and a diameter of at least 10 kilometers. Scientists first identified this impact in 1980 from the worldwide layer of sediment deposited from the dust cloud that enveloped the planet after the impact. This sediment layer is enriched in the rare metal iridium and other elements that are relatively abundant in a meteorite but very rare in the crust of Earth. Even diluted by the terrestrial material excavated from the crater, this component of meteorites is easily identified. By 1990 geologists had located the impact site itself in the Yucatán region of Mexico. The crater, now deeply buried in sediment, was originally about 200 kilometers in diameter.

Question: Which of the following can be inferred from the paragraph about the location of the meteorite impact in Mexico? 

  1. The location of the impact site in Mexico was kept secret by geologists from 1980 to 1990.
  2. It was a well-known fact that the impact had occurred in the Yucatán region.
  3. Geologists knew that there had been an impact before they knew where it had occurred.
  4. The Yucatán region was chosen by geologists as the most probable impact site because of its climate.
[C] is the correct answer.
[A] There’s no mention of the geologists keeping this event a secret, so we can eliminate A.
[B] The Yucatan wasn’t discovered as being the location until later in the passage, meaning it wasn’t well-known, so we can eliminate B.
[D] Climate isn’t named as a factor in the discovery, so answer choice D can also be eliminated.
[C] Choice C is the best choice, as we see from our notes under the main ideas, the collision occurred in 1980 and geologists didn’t locate the area until 1990.

TOEFL Reading Tips & Strategies: How to Answer “Inference” Questions

These questions require more than just English skills. They require logical thinking.   Here are 5 tips for answering an inference question:

  1. Read the question carefully and understand what you are being asked
  2. Make sure you understand the main idea of the whole paragraph.
  3. Use the process of elimination. The answer is incorrect if it is beyond the scope of the information in the passage.  In other words, you can't really make this inference based only on the passage. You must use your logical thinking.
  4. Pay attention to answers containing extreme language such as always, forever, never, all, totally, completely or extreme phrases such as "this is the only (x)," or "this is the limit of (y)," and so on. They are used as traps and are often INCORRECT.
  5. Pay attention to answers only repeating words from the passage but don't answer the question. These answers look appealing because they contain technical words that you saw in the passage. But, if you read them carefully, they aren't correct!


If you want to practice more TOEFL reading inference questions, sign up for our TOEFL preparation course to access our 72 complete TOEFL reading practices and 13 extra TOEFL reading inference questions in our TOEFL reading lessons

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