TOEFL : Cause and effect

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TOEFL

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Toefl

Adapted from "Taking a Second Look: An Analysis of Genetic Markers in Species Relatedness" by Joseph Ritchie (2014)

Phylogenetics is the study of genetic composition in various species and is used by evolutionary biologists to investigate similarities in the molecular sequences of proteins in varying organisms. The amino acid sequences that build proteins are used to construct mathematical matrices that aid in determining evolutionary ties through the investigation of percentage similarities. The study of these matrices helps to expose evolutionary relationships between species that may not have the same overt characteristics.

Species adapt and evolve based on the pressures that exist in their environment. Climate, food source, and habitat availability are only a few factors that act on species adaptation. These stressors can alter the physical characteristics of organisms. This divergence in evolution has made it difficult to determine the interrelatedness of organisms by analyzing their physical characteristics alone.

For instance, looking only at physical characteristics, the ghost bat resembles a pigeon more than a spider monkey; however, phylogenetics has found that the amino acid sequences that construct the beta hemoglobin molecules of bats are twenty percent more similar to those of mammalian primates than those of birds. This helps reject the assumption that common physical characteristics between species are all that is needed to determine relatedness. 

The differences produced by divergent evolution observed in the forest-dwelling, arboreal spider monkey and the nocturnal, airborne ghost bat can be reconciled through homology. Homologous characteristics are anatomical traits that are similar in two or more different species. For instance, the bone structure of a spider monkey’s wrist and fingers greatly resembles that of a bat’s wing or even a whale’s fin. These similarities are reinforced by phylogenetic evidence that supports the idea that physically dissimilar species can be evolutionarily related through anatomical and genetic similarities.

The anatomical similarities between a horse's legs and a seal's flippers are best explained by which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Homology

Evolutionary adaptation

Coincidence

Collusion

Correct answer:

Homology

Explanation:

Paragraph four states that homology explains the anatomical similarities between a bat's wing and a whale's flipper. It would be reasonable to assume that homology could also explain the anatomical similarities between a horse's legs and a seal's flippers.

Example Question #2 : Toefl

The following is an excerpt from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813):

“From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” 

In the passage above, which of the following cause and effect relationships are evident?

Possible Answers:

Since the speaker observed arrogant and selfish behaviors in the listener, the speaker believes that they can help the listener become a better person.

Since the speaker observed humble and selfless behaviors in the listener, the speaker does not want to marry the listener.

Since the speaker observed humble and selfless behaviors in the listener, the speaker wants to marry the listener.

Since the speaker observed arrogant and selfish behaviors in the listener, the speaker does not want to marry the listener.

Since the speaker observed arrogant and selfish behaviors in the listener, the speaker wants to marry the listener.

Correct answer:

Since the speaker observed arrogant and selfish behaviors in the listener, the speaker does not want to marry the listener.

Explanation:

The speaker lists the reasons they do not like the listener, including the listener's arrogance and selfishness. The speaker then asserts that they definitely do not want to marry the listener, implying that this distaste is thanks to these negative qualities.

Example Question #3 : Toefl

Adapted from The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf (1915).

"[... Rachel] had been educated as the majority of well-to-do girls in the last part of the nineteenth century were educated. Kindly doctors and gentle old professors had taught her the rudiments of about ten different branches of knowledge, but they would as soon have forced her to go through one piece of drudgery thoroughly as they would have told her that her hands were dirty. The one hour or the two hours weekly passed very pleasantly, partly owing to the other pupils, partly to the fact that the window looked upon the back of a shop, where figures appeared against the red windows in winter, partly to the accidents that are bound to happen when more than two people are in the same room together. But there was no subject in the world which she knew accurately. Her mind was in the state of an intelligent man's in the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth; she would believe practically anything she was told, invent reasons for anything she said. The shape of the earth, the history of the world, how trains worked, or money was invested, what laws were in force, which people wanted what, and why they wanted it, the most elementary idea of a system in modern life—none of this had been imparted to her by any of her professors or mistresses. But this system of education had one great advantage. It did not teach anything, but it put no obstacle in the way of any real talent that the pupil might chance to have. Rachel, being musical, was allowed to learn nothing but music; she became a fanatic about music. All the energies that might have gone into languages, science, or literature, that might have made her friends, or shown her the world, poured straight into music. Finding her teachers inadequate, she had practically taught herself. At the age of twenty-four she knew as much about music as most people do when they are thirty; and could play as well as nature allowed her to, which, as became daily more obvious, was a really generous allowance. If this one definite gift was surrounded by dreams and ideas of the most extravagant and foolish description, no one was any the wiser."

Which of the following quotes from the passage is an example of a cause and effect relationship?

Possible Answers:

"Finding her teachers inadequate, she had practically taught herself."

"It did not teach anything, but it put no obstacle in the way of any real talent that the pupil might chance to have." 

"Her mind was in the state of an intelligent man's in the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth; she would believe practically anything she was told, invent reasons for anything she said."

"All the energies that might have gone into languages, science, or literature, that might have made her friends, or shown her the world, poured straight into music."

Correct answer:

"Finding her teachers inadequate, she had practically taught herself."

Explanation:

The sentence "Finding her teachers inadequate, she had practically taught herself" could be rephrased as "Because she found her teachers inadequate, she had practically taught herself" and is thus an example of a cause and effect relationship. None of the other answers can be rephrased in this way.

Example Question #4 : Toefl

Passage adapted from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845).

        The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm, for the monthly allowance for themselves and their fellow-slaves, were peculiarly enthusiastic. While on their way, they would make the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberate with their wild songs, revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest sadness. [...]

     I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd's plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul,--and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because "there is no flesh in his obdurate heart."

        I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.

The author argues that singing does which of the following?

Possible Answers:

It makes the listeners feel happy and encouraged

It alleviates some of the pain the slaves feel

It makes the singer feel even more upset

It angers the slaveholders

Correct answer:

It alleviates some of the pain the slaves feel

Explanation:

The author says that the slaves feel "relieved by" the songs they sing. Therefore, we can say that the author believes singing helps to heal some of their pain, at least momentarily.

Example Question #5 : Toefl

Passage adapted from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845).

        The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm, for the monthly allowance for themselves and their fellow-slaves, were peculiarly enthusiastic. While on their way, they would make the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberate with their wild songs, revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest sadness. [...]

     I did not, when a slave, understand the deep meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. I was myself within the circle; so that I neither saw nor heard as those without might see and hear. They told a tale of woe which was then altogether beyond my feeble comprehension; they were tones loud, long, and deep; they breathed the prayer and complaint of souls boiling over with the bitterest anguish. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains. The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. I have frequently found myself in tears while hearing them. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd's plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul,--and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because "there is no flesh in his obdurate heart."

        I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.

The narrator explains that he first began to consciously hate slavery when __________________.

Possible Answers:

He traveled to Colonel Lloyd's plantation

He heard or sang slaves' songs

Other slaves taught him that slavery is wrong

He encountered an abolitionist

Correct answer:

He heard or sang slaves' songs

Explanation:

The author says that it was the songs sung by slaves that first gave him a "conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery." Thus, his first conscious understanding of the evils of slavery came from listening to or singing these songs.

Example Question #6 : Toefl

Adapted from Women and Economics by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1898)

In spite of the power of the individual will to struggle against conditions, to resist them for a while, and sometimes to overcome them, it remains true that the human creature is affected by his environment, as is every other living thing. The power of the individual will to resist natural law is well proven by the life and death of the ascetic. In any one of those suicidal martyrs may be seen the will, misdirected by the ill-informed intelligence, forcing the body to defy every natural impulse,–even to the door of death, and through it.

But, while these exceptions show what the human will can do, the general course of life shows the inexorable effect of conditions upon humanity. Of these conditions we share with other living things the environment of the material universe. We are affected by climate and locality, by physical, chemical, electrical forces, as are all animals and plants. With the animals, we farther share the effect of our own activity, the reactionary force of exercise. What we do, as well as what is done to us, makes us what we are. But, beyond these forces, we come under the effect of a third set of conditions peculiar to our human status; namely, social conditions. In the organic interchanges which constitute social life, we are affected by each other to a degree beyond what is found even among the most gregarious of animals. This third factor, the social environment, is of enormous force as a modifier of human life. Throughout all these environing conditions, those which affect us through our economic necessities are most marked in their influence.

According to the author, which cause for change and adaptation are only humans subject to at such an extent?

Possible Answers:

Humans must understand how to survive on their own, without the help of others

Humans are uniquely held subject to the pressures of the social world

Humans must defend against the dangers of the natural world, like animal predators

Human beings must adapt to harsh climates and changes in weather

Human beings often must learn to abstain from certain pleasures in order to survive

Correct answer:

Humans are uniquely held subject to the pressures of the social world

Explanation:

The author claims that only humans are subject to the conditions of "the social environment" to strong degrees, even among the most social of species. 

Example Question #7 : Toefl

Adapted from Women and Economics by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1898)

Away back in that early beginning, by dividing the economic conditions of women and men, we have divided their psychic development, and built into the constitution of the race the irreconcilable elements of these diverse characters. The incongruous behavior of this cross-bred product is the riddle of human life. We ourselves, by maintaining this artificial diversity between the genders, have constantly kept before us the enigma which we found so hard to solve, and have preserved in our own characters the confusion and contradiction which is our greatest difficulty in life.

The largest and most radical effect of restoring women to economic independence will be in its result in clarifying and harmonizing the human soul. With a homogeneous nature bred of two parents in the same degree of social development, we shall be able to feel simply, to see clearly, to agree with ourselves, to be one person and master of our own lives, instead of wrestling in such hopeless perplexity with what we have called "man's dual nature." Marry a civilized man to a primitive savage, and their child will naturally have a dual nature. Marry an Anglo-Saxon to an African or Oriental, and their child has a dual nature. Marry any man of a highly developed nation, full of the specialized activities of his race and their accompanying moral qualities, to the carefully preserved, rudimentary female creature he has so religiously maintained by his side, and you have as result what we all know so well,–the human soul in its pitiful, well-meaning efforts, its cross-eyed, purblind errors, its baby fits of passion, and its beautiful and ceaseless upward impulse through all this wavering.

According to the author, what will be the central effect of giving women full autonomy over their professional lives?

Possible Answers:

The author argues that female autonomy will allow women to earn more money than men

The author argues that female economic independence will allow women to seek their revenge on men for centuries of oppression

The author argues that female economic autonomy will fundamentally alter the fabric of our social environment

The author argues that female economic autonomy will bring a new generation of powerful women

The author argues that female independence will bring true balance to society

Correct answer:

The author argues that female independence will bring true balance to society

Explanation:

The author writes, "The largest and most radical effect of restoring women to economic independence will be in its result in clarifying and harmonizing the human soul." By allowing women to control their own professional lives, the author believes that, more than anything else, it will create a more harmonious society.

Example Question #8 : Toefl

Adapted from “Greenhouses: Their Construction and Equipment” by W.J. Wright (1917)

“Generally speaking, there are only two satisfactory methods of greenhouse heating: Steam and hot water. Direct heating by stoves is not satisfactory even in small houses, and no satisfactory system has yet been devised for the use of hot-air furnaces. The only method aside from steam or hot water which deserves mention is heating by flues. They are wasteful of fuel, and their use is not justified, except in cheaply constructed houses which are used only for a few months in the spring or fall.

The principles pertaining to greenhouse heating are much the same as those involved in heating other buildings, except that the loss of heat is greater from glass than from wood or brick walls, and a higher and more constant night temperature is required than is necessary in dwellings. For this reason, relatively more radiating surface is required and boilers of larger capacity are needed.

In heating with flues the equipment consists simply of a furnace at one end of the house and a chimney at the other, the two being connected by a flue, carried underneath the bench or buried just underneath the soil, through which the heat and smoke are carried. This may be made of brick, but large-size drain or sewer tile are more commonly used. These withstand the heat and are easily and cheaply put in place. It is best to have the flue slope upward slightly toward the chimney. As has already been stated, this method is wasteful of fuel. It is also difficult to regulate. It is still employed to some extent by gardeners in cheap houses, used only in late winter or early spring for the starting of early vegetable plants, sweet potatoes, etc.”

According to the passage, why do greenhouses need a higher and more constant night temperature than do dwellings?

Possible Answers:

Because glass loses heat more than wood or brick

Because greenhouses are wasteful of fuel

Because people like to be warm when they sleep

Because they are only used in the winter

Correct answer:

Because glass loses heat more than wood or brick

Explanation:

The author says that greenhouses need a higher and more constant night temperature than do dwellings because "the loss of heat is greater from glass than from wood or brick walls." He never mentions any of the other three choices. 

Example Question #9 : Toefl

Passage adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, 1883.

1 "Well, then," said he, "this is the berth for me. 2 Here you, matey," he cried to the man who trundled the barrow; "bring up alongside and help up my chest. 3 I'll stay here a bit," he continued. 4 "I'm a plain man; rum and bacon and eggs is what I want, and that head up there for to watch ships off. 5 What you mought call me? 6 You mought call me captain. 7 Oh, I see what you're at—there"; and he threw down three or four gold pieces on the threshold. 8 "You can tell me when I've worked through that," says he, looking as fierce as a commander.

9 And indeed bad as his clothes were and coarsely as he spoke, he had none of the appearance of a man who sailed before the mast, but seemed like a mate or skipper accustomed to be obeyed or to strike. 10 The man who came with the barrow told us the mail had set him down the morning before at the Royal George, that he had inquired what inns there were along the coast, and hearing ours well spoken of, I suppose, and described as lonely, had chosen it from the others for his place of residence. 11 And that was all we could learn of our guest.

In Sentence 7, the phrase “and he threw down three or four gold pieces on the threshold” is an effect of something. What is the cause?

Possible Answers:

The fellow travelers provoking the speaker into showing his worth

The fellow travelers asking about the speaker’s provenance

The speaker accusing his fellow travelers of being stingy

The wheelbarrow man accusing the speaker of being stingy

The inn owner tacitly asking the speaker for money

Correct answer:

The inn owner tacitly asking the speaker for money

Explanation:

Immediately before the phrase in question, the speaker says “Oh, I see what you're at—there” and throws down the coins, as if he’s just realized that someone is asking him for money. Since the preceding sentences are concerned with the speaker’s accommodations, it stands to reason that the person he’d be paying is the innkeeper himself. All of the other choices lack textual support.

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