Beyond Practice Tests: Inference Questions
Inference questions are hard. You can’t read the answer. You can’t hear the answer. You just have to know it. But how is it possible? How can you know something that no one writes or says?
Well, it’s not so hard as all that. We do it every day. For example, imagine that you’re at a party and the time is 1:00a.m. Your friend says to you, “Wow, I’m so tired. I woke up at 6:00a.m. today and drinking makes me sleepy.” You can guess that your friend wants to go home. You infer that your friend wants to go home.
This is inference. Inference is when you guess something because of other things.
Other things: Your friend is tired. Your friend woke up at 6:00a.m. It’s 1:00a.m. now. Your friend has been drinking.
Inference: Your friend wants to go home.
Let’s look at another example.
Milwaukee is a city in Wisconsin, USA. It’s not a very big city, but there are many activities. There are lots of concerts by the lake in the summer. In the winter, you can enjoy ice-skating downtown. At anytime of year, you’ll find friendly people who will welcome you into bars and restaurants, parks and museums with a friendly smile.
From this reading, we can infer that the author…
- a. thinks you would enjoy a visit to Milwaukee.
- has lived in Milwaukee for many years.
- often goes ice skating in the winter.
- think Milwaukee is the best city in America.
The answer is A because the author gives many reasons you might enjoy Milwaukee. It’s not B because the author might have learned these things from just visiting. We don’t know how often the author goes ice skating (C) and the author doesn’t compare Milwaukee to any other cities (D).
Here are seven strategies for studying inference questions:
20 Questions Do this one with a friend. Think of a person, place, or thing. Your friend should ask you questions in order to guess what you’re thinking of. They can ask at most 20 questions. For example:
Is it big or small? It’s medium sized.
Is it hard or soft? It’s hard.
What’s it made of? It can be made of wood or metal.
Is there one in the room now? Yes, there are many in this room.
Is it a chair? Yes, it’s a chair!
20 Hints Just like the 20 Questions, but a little easier. One person just says things until the other person can guess. For example:
It’s usually blue, but it can also be black, red, or gray. It’s really big, and it’s everywhere. The sky!
Pay attention During the day to try to spot things you infer. It’ll keep you practicing all day long. What can you infer from the guy who smiled at you? Your teacher asked you to come answer the question? What can you infer? Why did she ask you?
Lists of Inferences After you read something, make a list of ten inferences and the reasons for them.
Just the first paragraph Read just the first paragraph of something and make a list of inferences/guesses about the rest of the article. Then, finish reading the article and see if you were right.
Scavenger Hunt Think of different beliefs and try to find articles with someone who believes them. For example, try to find an article about someone who believes in aliens, someone who loves France, or someone who likes to swim. You might not find the exact support you want, but can you find good inference material?
Using Practice Test Answers Take a practice test and remember which questions were inference questions. Learn which answers are wrong and write sentences to make them right. What is missing in an article so that you could infer the wrong answers?
For the example above about Milwaukee. (B) would be right if you added “Since I was a young girl, I’ve loved my city.” (C) would be right if you added “Like many people in Milwaukee, I love ice-skating.” (D) would be right if you added “No place in America offers as many nice things as Milwaukee.”
Don’t waste your hard work (TOEFL Prep)
Some things to do in addition to studying
You need to do many things to get a good score on the TOEFL. Of course you should study hard. You need to learn more words. You need to read faster and understand more. You should be able to listen and talk about lectures and conversations on lots of different topics. And, of course, you have to be able to write quickly and clearly.
But, there’s more. Make sure you do these things too. Then, you’ll really get your best score.
Sleep right: How can you do your best work if you’re yawning? How can you focus for four hours if you need a nap? You can’t. So, make sure you’re rested. You need to make sure that you wake up at least three hours before you start taking your exam. Your body needs about one week to get used to a sleep pattern. So, you need to make sure that you’re awake three hours before your exam time for a whole week. For example, let’s say your exam is at 9:00am on March 7th. On March 1st, you should start waking up at 6:00am. That way, on March 7th, you definitely won’t be tired.
Eat right: The TOEFL is like a marathon. Basically, you need to concentrate for more than four hours without a break. That’s a lot. It’s important to eat food that will continue to give you energy during the exam. For example, if you eat a candy bar or something with a lot of sugar before the test, you’ll only have energy at the beginning of the test. By the time you start writing your essays, you won’t be able to do a good job. Your mind will be tired, and you won’t have any energy. However, if you eat bread or pasta the night before the exam, then you’ll keep getting energy throughout the test.
Also, get into a good eating pattern. Eat at the same times for one week before the test. Don’t eat during or right after the time that you’ll be taking the test. You don’t want to be hungry while you’re taking the test.
Study right: As much as you can, study during the times that you’ll be taking the test. And study for four hours with only a ten minute break after two hours. It can be difficult to concentrate for the entire test, so you need to train yourself. Lock yourself in your room and don’t leave for four hours. Take practice tests during this time.
Also, when you’re studying for the Speaking portion of the test, make sure you turn on the radio or television. Other people are going to be speaking while you are answering the speaking questions. You need to be used to ignoring other sounds.
Visit the Test Site: You absolutely don’t want to get lost on the day of the test, so make sure you know exactly where the test is. This means you should go to the building, walk inside, and, if possible, visit the room where you’ll take the test. This is important for two reasons. First, you shouldn’t worry about anything but the test on your test day. Second, people do better on tests in familiar environments. Don’t waste brain energy learning about a new environment.
* * *
Sleep right + Eat right + Study right + Don’t get lost = Better TOEFL score.
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