TOEFL : Inferences

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TOEFL

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Example Questions

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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:

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

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

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 #1 : Inferences

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

Elizabeth is unhappy with how things have turned out

the couple will be married

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 #1 : 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 proud man

is a humble 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 #1 : Inferences

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:

himself to be in a higher class than Elizabeth

he and Elizabeth are incompatible

Elizabeth is too good for him

he and Elizabeth are equals in every way

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 #2 : 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 highly critical of others

is an accurate judge of character

has low self-esteem

is frequently wrong about people

has many close friends

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 #81 : 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.” 

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

Possible Answers:

The speaker is a harsh and outspoken judge of character.

The speaker is a generous, forgiving judge of character.

The speaker enjoys offending people.

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

The speaker is afraid of offending people.

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 #1 : Inferences

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:

Steam and hot water

Wood or brick walls

Flues

He would not heat his greenhouse

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. 

Example Question #1 : Inferences

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."

Based on this passage, what can be inferred about the author's attitude toward the education of women?

Possible Answers:

The author wishes that she could have received the kind of education Rachel did, even though it was flawed

The author implies that Rachel, and women in general, could achieve even more if they received a more rigorous education

The author is impressed with the quality of women's education, using Rachel as an example of what female students could achieve thanks to this educational system

The author is disdainful of Rachel's education because she does not approve of education for women in general

Correct answer:

The author implies that Rachel, and women in general, could achieve even more if they received a more rigorous education

Explanation:

Although the author is critical of Rachel's education (and thus the kind of education most wealthy women in the late nineteenth century would receive), she is not disdainful of education for women in general. Her attitude toward education is generally positive, even if she finds flaws in the system that she describes.

Example Question #2 : Inferences

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.

It can be inferred from the passage that _______________.

Possible Answers:

The author hopes that some people might be moved to oppose slavery if they understood why slaves sing

The author is disdainful of Northerners

The author believes that slaves' songs should be performed in major music venues

The author believes that slaves should have the right to sing whenever they want

Correct answer:

The author hopes that some people might be moved to oppose slavery if they understood why slaves sing

Explanation:

This passage is both about the slaves' songs and about the injustice of slavery. By explaining that the slaves sing to alleviate their pain, he aims to convince the reader that slavery is unjust-- a fact that would be further underscored if the reader listened to these songs.

Example Question #1 : Inferences

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

After days and nights of incredible labor and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.

The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painful labor, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires was the most gratifying consummation of my toils. But this discovery was so great and overwhelming that all the steps by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated, and I beheld only the result. What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene, it all opened upon me at once: the information I had obtained was of a nature rather to direct my endeavors so soon as I should point them towards the object of my search than to exhibit that object already accomplished. I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering and seemingly ineffectual light.

I see by your eagerness and the wonder and hope which your eyes express, my friend, that you expect to be informed of the secret with which I am acquainted; that cannot be; listen patiently until the end of my story, and you will easily perceive why I am reserved upon that subject. I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.

According to the passage above, which of the following statements most likely reflects the author's belief about knowledge?

Possible Answers:

Achieving knowledge is an aspiration that every man and woman should aspire to

Of all of the painful, difficult tasks, the most honorable is the pursuit of scientific knowledge

There are some types of information that are unimportant for everyday people, and should only be known by scientists

Knowledge does not bring happiness, but rather, ignorance is bliss

Human intelligence is infinite in its ability to grow and evolve

Correct answer:

Knowledge does not bring happiness, but rather, ignorance is bliss

Explanation:

The final paragraph of the passage brings the author's warning: while knowledge can be powerful, some information is dangerous and bring undesirable consequences. Knowledge does not necessarily bring joy. 

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