TOEFL : Making inferences based on the passage

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TOEFL

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

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.

A scientist studied the relatedness of several reptilian species solely by investigating fossil evidence and has concluded that physical characteristics alone are enough to determine species relatedness. Would this scientist agree with the claims made by phylogenetic research?

Possible Answers:

No, because phylogenetics is an unreliable and new technique that has yet to prove itself in major scientific arenas

Yes, because phylogenetics is second to physical comparisons and thus supports the archaeologist's position

No, because phylogenetics assumes that physical traits and characteristics are not the only objective and reliable markers in the study of species relatedness

Yes, because a great deal of research is based on physical comparisons

Correct answer:

No, because phylogenetics assumes that physical traits and characteristics are not the only objective and reliable markers in the study of species relatedness

Explanation:

The scientist studied relatedness based on the fossil record of physical traits. He would not agree with the notion that phylogenetics may better explain relatedness via genetic factors. The rest of the choices are incorrect because they are not supported by the passage.

Example Question #2 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

Passage adapted from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

"'If you will thank me,' he replied, 'let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.'"

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'you are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.'

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eyes, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight diffused over his face became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects. ..."

From the above passage, we can infer that _________________.

Possible Answers:

the first speaker wants Elizabeth for her money

the couple will be married

Elizabeth is unhappy with how things have turned out

the couple will soon break up

Correct answer:

the couple will be married

Explanation:

Everything in the final two paragraphs indicates that the two characters are in love and delighted with each other. In this state, it is reasonable to expect that they will soon be married.

Example Question #3 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

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

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.

He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. His doing so drew her notice.

 

From this passage, we may infer that Mr. Darcy __________.

Possible Answers:

is a steadfast man

does not have any friends

does not know how to talk to women

is a humble man

is a proud man

Correct answer:

is a proud man

Explanation:

Mr. Darcy evidently made snap judgments about Elizabeth the first time he met her. He believed himself to be too good, and good looking, for her. Then, when he changed his mind, he felt embarrassed to have to tell his friends that he had been wrong. Thus, he is a proud man.

Example Question #4 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

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

Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend. Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware; to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.

He began to wish to know more of her, and as a step towards conversing with her himself, attended to her conversation with others. His doing so drew her notice.

Based on the entire passage above, we can infer that Mr. Darcy believes __________.

Possible Answers:

he and Elizabeth are equals in every way

Elizabeth is too good for him

himself to be in a higher class than Elizabeth

he and Elizabeth are incompatible

Elizabeth is not pretty enough for him

Correct answer:

himself to be in a higher class than Elizabeth

Explanation:

Even after Mr. Darcy realizes that Elizabeth has some positive physical and mental qualities, he notes that "her manners were not those of the fashionable world." This implies that he sees her as of a lower class than he is.

Example Question #5 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

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

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” 

Based on the passage above, we can infer that the speaker __________.

Possible Answers:

is frequently wrong about people

has low self-esteem

is an accurate judge of character

has many close friends

is highly critical of others

Correct answer:

is highly critical of others

Explanation:

In this passage, the speaker insults their fellow humans in multiple ways. The speaker believes they are mostly 'inconsistent,' and 'lack merit and sense.' Thus, the speaker is highly critical of others.

Example Question #6 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

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.” 

Which of the following may be inferred about the speaker in the passage above?

Possible Answers:

The speaker is a generous, forgiving judge of character.

The speaker is afraid of offending people.

The speaker is a harsh and outspoken judge of character.

The speaker enjoys offending people.

The speaker is unafraid to speak their mind on any topic.

Correct answer:

The speaker is a harsh and outspoken judge of character.

Explanation:

The speaker notes that they did not approve of their listener's behavior from the very first moment that the two met. The speaker lists specific reasons for this disapproval, and then asserts that they still and will dislike the listener. The speaker is, notably, sharing this unfavorable opinion with the very person they dislike. Thus, the speaker is a harsh judge of character, and is outspoken (unafraid of offending others).

Example Question #7 : Making Inferences Based On The Passage

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.”

Based on the passage, which heating method would the author most likely use if he were to heat his own greenhouse?

Possible Answers:

Wood or brick walls

He would not heat his greenhouse

Flues

Steam and hot water

Correct answer:

Steam and hot water

Explanation:

The correct answer is that he would most likely use steam and hot water. He mentions in the passage that heating by flues is wasteful of fuel. Because he has this opinion, he would most likely not use heating by flues. He never mentions wood or brick walls as a heating method, and he never says anything to suggest that he would not heat his greenhouse. 

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