English Language Proficiency Test : Making inferences based on the passage

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Example Question #1 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

Since its discovery and classification as the ninth planet in our solar system in 1930, Pluto has been the subject of much controversy in the scientific community.  Its small size and extreme distance from Earth have made gathering specific data about its characteristics difficult, and no real consensus exists amongst astronomers about the information that is known about Pluto.  In 2006, the International Astronomical Union created an official definition for the term "planet" which listed three criteria for classification:

  1. The object must be in orbit around the sun.
  2. The object must be massive enough to be rounded into a sphere by its own gravity.
  3. The object must have "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit.

Because Pluto is much smaller than the other objects in its orbit, it fails to meet the third condition and has since been known as a "dwarf planet".  Some scientists have gone so far as to suggest that Pluto may actually be one of the many moons of its neighboring planet, Neptune.

When Pluto was first discovered in 1930, astronomers estimated that it may be as large as earth and thus were confident that it was, in fact, a planet.  As our ability to gather information about outer space continues to improve through more powerful telescopes and space probes, scientists are now able to use the new, more accurate information they receive to accurately classify objects in space.  While some still argue that Pluto meets the accepted criteria to be known as a planet, for the time being, conventional scientific thinking will hold that our solar system only has eight planets.

How were scientists able to estimate Pluto's size in 1930?

Possible Answers:

Though the use of telescopes

Using data gathered from primitive space probes

By reading ancient astrological charts

By reading and interpreting folk tales about the creation of the universe

Correct answer:

Though the use of telescopes

Explanation:

The last paragraph mentions "improved telescopes," thus implying that the ones available in 1930 were more primitive in nature. Since no mention is made of space probes or any other type of data gathering devices being used in 1930, we can conclude that scientists relied on telescopes as their primary source of data.

Example Question #2 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

Since its discovery and classification as the ninth planet in our solar system in 1930, Pluto has been the subject of much controversy in the scientific community.  Its small size and extreme distance from Earth have made gathering specific data about its characteristics difficult, and no real consensus exists amongst astronomers about the information that is known about Pluto.  In 2006, the International Astronomical Union created an official definition for the term "planet" which listed three criteria for classification:

  1. The object must be in orbit around the sun.
  2. The object must be massive enough to be rounded into a sphere by its own gravity.
  3. The object must have "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit.

Because Pluto is much smaller than the other objects in its orbit, it fails to meet the third condition and has since been known as a "dwarf planet".  Some scientists have gone so far as to suggest that Pluto may actually be one of the many moons of its neighboring planet, Neptune.

When Pluto was first discovered in 1930, astronomers estimated that it may be as large as earth and thus were confident that it was, in fact, a planet.  As our ability to gather information about outer space continues to improve through more powerful telescopes and space probes, scientists are now able to use the new, more accurate information they receive to accurately classify objects in space.  While some still argue that Pluto meets the accepted criteria to be known as a planet, for the time being, conventional scientific thinking will hold that our solar system only has eight planets.

Based on the passage, it can be inferred that ________________.

Possible Answers:

scientists have finally agreed upon a definition of the term "planet" that they can all agree upon

other planets may be in danger of being reclassified

the other eight planets in our solar system meet all three of the criteria established by the International Astronomical Association

astronomers knew the true size of Pluto in 1930 and classified it as a planet anyway

Correct answer:

the other eight planets in our solar system meet all three of the criteria established by the International Astronomical Association

Explanation:

Since Pluto was the only one of nine "planets" to be reclassified, we can reasonably infer that the other eight meet the criteria established by the International Astronomical Association. No evidence is provided to suggest that other planets are being considered for reclassification. No mention is made of the criteria used to classify Pluto as a planet in 1930.

Example Question #3 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

Passage adapted from The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Again Hal's whip fell upon the dogs. They threw themselves against the breast-bands, dug their feet into the packed snow, got down low to it, and put forth all their strength. The sled held as though it were an anchor. After two efforts, they stood still, panting. The whip was whistling savagely, when once more Mercedes interfered. She dropped on her knees before Buck, with tears in her eyes, and put her arms around his neck.

"You poor, poor dears," she cried sympathetically, "why don't you pull hard?--then you wouldn't be whipped." Buck did not like her, but he was feeling too miserable to resist her, taking it as part of the day's miserable work.

 One of the onlookers, who had been clenching his teeth to suppress hot speech, now spoke up:--

 "It's not that I care a whoop what becomes of you, but for the dogs' sakes I just want to tell you, you can help them a mighty lot by breaking out that sled. The runners are froze fast. Throw your weight against the gee-pole, right and left, and break it out."

 A third time the attempt was made, but this time, following the advice, Hal broke out the runners which had been frozen to the snow. The overloaded and unwieldy sled forged ahead, Buck and his mates struggling frantically under the rain of blows. A hundred yards ahead the path turned and sloped steeply into the main street. It would have required an experienced man to keep the top-heavy sled upright, and Hal was not such a man. As they swung on the turn the sled went over, spilling half its load through the loose lashings. The dogs never stopped. The lightened sled bounded on its side behind them. They were angry because of the ill treatment they had received and the unjust load. Buck was raging. He broke into a run, the team following his lead. Hal cried "Whoa! whoa!" but they gave no heed. He tripped and was pulled off his feet. The capsized sled ground over him, and the dogs dashed on up the street, adding to the gayety of Skaguay as they scattered the remainder of the outfit along its chief thoroughfare. 

Based on the passage, it can be inferred that ________________.

Possible Answers:

Hal has mistreated the dogs in the past

Mercedes feels responsible for the sled being stuck in the snow

Buck is Hal's assistant

The townspeople of Skaguay encouraged Hal to beat his dogs

Correct answer:

Hal has mistreated the dogs in the past

Explanation:

The lines "taking it as part of the day's miserable work" and "they were angry because of the ill treatment they had received" indicate that the dogs had been mistreated in the past.

Example Question #4 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

Passage adapted from The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)

Again Hal's whip fell upon the dogs. They threw themselves against the breast-bands, dug their feet into the packed snow, got down low to it, and put forth all their strength. The sled held as though it were an anchor. After two efforts, they stood still, panting. The whip was whistling savagely, when once more Mercedes interfered. She dropped on her knees before Buck, with tears in her eyes, and put her arms around his neck.

"You poor, poor dears," she cried sympathetically, "why don't you pull hard?--then you wouldn't be whipped." Buck did not like her, but he was feeling too miserable to resist her, taking it as part of the day's miserable work.

 One of the onlookers, who had been clenching his teeth to suppress hot speech, now spoke up:--

 "It's not that I care a whoop what becomes of you, but for the dogs' sakes I just want to tell you, you can help them a mighty lot by breaking out that sled. The runners are froze fast. Throw your weight against the gee-pole, right and left, and break it out."

 A third time the attempt was made, but this time, following the advice, Hal broke out the runners which had been frozen to the snow. The overloaded and unwieldy sled forged ahead, Buck and his mates struggling frantically under the rain of blows. A hundred yards ahead the path turned and sloped steeply into the main street. It would have required an experienced man to keep the top-heavy sled upright, and Hal was not such a man. As they swung on the turn the sled went over, spilling half its load through the loose lashings. The dogs never stopped. The lightened sled bounded on its side behind them. They were angry because of the ill treatment they had received and the unjust load. Buck was raging. He broke into a run, the team following his lead. Hal cried "Whoa! whoa!" but they gave no heed. He tripped and was pulled off his feet. The capsized sled ground over him, and the dogs dashed on up the street, adding to the gayety of Skaguay as they scattered the remainder of the outfit along its chief thoroughfare. 

Based on the passage, it can be inferred that __________________.

Possible Answers:

Mercedes tried to keep Hal from being injured

Hal made no attempt to stop the dogs from running off down the street

the townspeople enjoyed seeing the dogs run the sled over Hal

the dogs had intentionally gotten the sled stuck in the snow in order to avoid further work

Correct answer:

the townspeople enjoyed seeing the dogs run the sled over Hal

Explanation:

The phrase "adding to the gayety of Skaguay" at the end of the passage implies that the onlookers felt that Hal was being punished for his earlier mistreatment of the dogs.

Example Question #5 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

This passage is an adapted from Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington (1901)

To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted I would repeat what I say to my own race, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your firesides. Cast down your bucket among these people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South. Casting down your bucket among my people, helping and encouraging them as you are doing on these grounds, and to education of head, hand, and heart, you will find that they will buy your surplus land, make blossom the waste places in your fields, and run your factories. While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past, that you and your families will be surrounded by the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen. As we have proved our loyalty to you in the past, in nursing your children, watching by the sick-bed of your mothers and fathers, and often following them with tear-dimmed eyes to their graves, so in the future, in our humble way, we shall stand by you with a devotion that no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down our lives, if need be, in defence of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests of both races one. In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.

From the passage, we can infer that the speaker uses the bolded and underlined word "unresentful" in order to _______________.

Possible Answers:

reinforce the idea that African-Americans will not blame white Southerners for the horrors of slavery inflicted by past generations

introduce the irony of former slaves now being asked to work for their former masters

point out that African-Americans will still be given low-paying jobs in the South

demonstrate that African-Americans are more likely to be forgiving than members of other races

Correct answer:

reinforce the idea that African-Americans will not blame white Southerners for the horrors of slavery inflicted by past generations

Explanation:

The title, Up From Slavery implies that the speaker is addressing the condition of former slaves in the American South. Thus, we can infer that the slavery would be the main cause of any possible resentment that African-Americans feel towards white Southerners.

Example Question #6 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

This passage is adapted from President Woodrow Wilson's Speech to Congress (1917) asking for a Declaration of War against Germany.

It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts -- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other.

From the passage, the reader can infer that President Wilson ________________.

Possible Answers:

believes that America and achieve a quick and easy victory by its entry into World War I

believes that America's participation in World War I will be costly

opposes America's entry into World War I, but is being forced into asking for a Declaration of War by Congress

believest that American's entry into World War I is long overdue

Correct answer:

believes that America's participation in World War I will be costly

Explanation:

President Wilson states that America faces, "many months of fiery trial and sacrifice" by entering "the most terrible and disastrous of wars." His speech gives reasons why the American people must undergo such sacrifice to defend the liberties upon which our nation was founded.

Example Question #7 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

This passage is adapted from Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (1901)

The nature of these vast retail combinations, should they ever permanently disappear, will form an interesting chapter in the commercial history of our nation. Such a flowering out of a modest trade principle the world had never witnessed up to that time. They were along the line of the most effective retail organization, with hundreds of stores coordinated into one, and laid out upon the most imposing and economic basis. They were handsome, bustling, successful affairs, with a host of clerks and a swarm of patrons. Carrie passed along the busy aisles, much affected by the remarkable displays of trinkets, dress goods, shoes, stationery, jewelry. Each separate counter was a show place of dazzling interest and attraction. She could not help feeling the claim of each trinket and valuable upon her personally and yet she did not stop. There was nothing there which she could not have used—nothing which she did not long to own. The dainty slippers and stockings, the delicately frilled skirts and petticoats, the laces, ribbons, hair-combs, purses, all touched her with individual desire, and she felt keenly the fact that not any of these things were in the range of her purchase. She was a work-seeker, an outcast without employment, one whom the average employé could tell at a glance was poor and in need of a situation.

From the passage, we can infer that Carrie __________________.

Possible Answers:

came from a impoverished background

was not impressed by the quality of the goods at the store

was planning to steal something from the store

could not decide what she should buy

Correct answer:

came from a impoverished background

Explanation:

The author states that Carrie is, "a work seeker, an outcast without employment" and that she, "felt keenly the fact that not any of these things were in the range of her purchase." Thus we can infer that she does not have the money to buy anything in the store.

Example Question #8 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

1 All her life Miss Elizabeth Dwarris had been a sore trial to her relations. 2 A woman of means, she ruled tyrannously over a large number of impecunious cousins, using her bank-balance like the scorpions of Rehoboam to chastise them, and, like many another pious creature, for their soul’s good making all and sundry excessively miserable. 3 Nurtured in the evangelical ways current in her youth, she insisted that her connections should seek salvation according to her own lights; and, with harsh tongue and with bitter gibe, made it her constant business to persuade them of their extreme unworthiness. 4 She arranged lives as she thought fit, and ventured not only to order the costume and habits, but even the inner thought of those about her: the Last Judgment could have no terrors for any that had faced her searching examination. 5 She invited to stay with her in succession various poor ladies who presumed on a distant tie to call her Aunt Eliza, and they accepted her summons, more imperious than a royal command, with gratitude by no means unmixed with fear, bearing the servitude meekly as a cross which in the future would meet due testamentary reward.

According to the passage, how could one describe Miss Dwarris’s religious views?

Possible Answers:

Uncertain

Contemptuous

Domineering

Ecstatic

Benevolent

Correct answer:

Domineering

Explanation:

In Sentence 3, we learn that Miss Dwarris “insisted that her connections should seek salvation according to her own lights; and, with harsh tongue and with bitter gibe, made it her constant business to persuade them of their extreme unworthiness.” In other words, she controls other people in order to force them to adopt her religious views. This attitude could best be described as bullying or domineering.

Passage adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Merry-Go-Round (1904)

Example Question #9 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

1 With one of her relations only, Miss Dwarris found it needful to observe a certain restraint, for Miss Ley, perhaps the most distant of her cousins, was as plain-spoken as herself, and had, besides, a far keener wit whereby she could turn rash statements to the utter ridicule of the speaker. 2 Nor did Miss Dwarris precisely dislike this independent spirit; she looked upon her in fact with a certain degree of affection and not a little fear. 3 Miss Ley, seldom lacking a repartee, appeared really to enjoy the verbal contests, from which, by her greater urbanity, readiness, and knowledge, she usually emerged victorious: it confounded, but at the same time almost amused, the elder lady that a woman so much poorer than herself, with no smaller claims than others to the coveted inheritance, should venture not only to be facetious at her expense, but even to carry war into her very camp. 4 …No cherished opinion of Miss Dwarris was safe from satire—even her evangelicism was laughed at, and the rich old woman, unused to argument, was easily driven into self-contradiction; and then—for the victor took no pains to conceal her triumph—she grew pale and speechless with rage.

5 … Miss Ley, accustomed, when she went abroad in the winter, to let her little flat in Chelsea, had been obliged by unforeseen circumstances to return to England while her tenants were still in possession; and had asked Miss Dwarris whether she might stay with her in Old Queen Street. 6 The old tyrant, much as she hated her relations, hated still more to live alone; she needed some one on whom to vent her temper, and through the illness of a niece, due to spend March and April with her, had been forced to pass a month of solitude; she wrote back, in the peremptory fashion which, even with Miss Ley, she could not refrain from using, that she expected her on such and such a day by such and such a train. 7 It is not clear whether there was in the letter anything to excite in Miss Ley a contradictory spirit, or whether her engagements really prevented it; but, at all events, she answered that her plans made it more convenient to arrive on the day following and by a different train.

In Sentence 6, to whom does “tyrant” refer?

Possible Answers:

Miss Ley

Miss Ley’s traveling companion

Miss Dwarris

An old woman who lives near Miss Ley and Miss Dwarris

One of Miss Dwarris’s other relatives

Correct answer:

Miss Dwarris

Explanation:

The use of the modifier “old” might help indicate that Miss Dwarris is the tyrant in questions. You could also look elsewhere in the passage to see other descriptions of Miss Dwarris’ tyranny and match the epithet with the correct character.

Passage adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Merry-Go-Round (1904)

Example Question #10 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

1 Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow, attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia.

2 … According to the custom which has descended from age to age among the monarchs of the torrid zone, Rasselas was confined in a private palace, with the other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty, till the order of succession should call him to the throne.

3 The place which the wisdom or policy of antiquity had destined for the residence of the Abyssinian princes was a spacious valley in the kingdom of Amhara, surrounded on every side by mountains, of which the summits overhang the middle part. 4 The only passage by which it could be entered was a cavern that passed under a rock, [and the] outlet of the cavern was concealed by a thick wood, and the mouth which opened into the valley was closed with gates of iron, forged by the artificers of ancient days, so massive that no man, without the help of engines, could open or shut them.

5 From the mountains on every side rivulets descended that filled all the valley with verdure and fertility, and formed a lake in the middle, inhabited by fish of every species, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water. 6 This lake discharged its superfluities by a stream, which entered a dark cleft of the mountain on the northern side, and fell with dreadful noise from precipice to precipice till it was heard no more.

In Sentence 1, what kind of reader is the speaker addressing?

Possible Answers:

Crass ones

Optimistic ones

Foreign ones

Civilized, cultured ones

Weary ones

Correct answer:

Optimistic ones

Explanation:

Sentence 1 addresses people who “listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope.” These people also “expect… that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow.” In other words, the people the speaker is addressing are hopeful, optimistic ones.

Passage adapted from Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia (1759)

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