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Traps in the TOEFL Inference Question Part 1

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Watch out where you walk in TOEFL because this test loves traps!

TOEFL traps are answer choices that are meant to trick you. They look like they could be true, but they are distracting you from the correct answer. It is important to recognize common traps so that you can eliminate them. This will help you to save time and guide you to the correct answer.

The following is a list of common TOEFL traps in the Inference Question. Remember, in an Inference Question you are making a conclusion based on the information in the text. This conclusion should be 99% probably true. It is the MOST likely conclusion. When you look at the answer choices for this question, you will eliminate the following traps:



  1. An answer choice that is not mentioned. The text didn’t even talk about this.

  2. An answer choice that cannot be inferred because there is not enough information in the reading or not enough evidence provided to make this conclusion.

  3. An answer choice that is possible, but not probable.

  4. An answer choice that uses EXTREME words such as NEVER, ALWAYS, ALL, ONLY, the BEST, the WORST. Most of the time these kinds of words will not be stated in the reading and therefore, cannot be inferred.

  5. An answer choice that is a false statement. It usually contains a word, phrase or even a wrong letter that makes it incorrect.

Let's Practice. Read the following text. Notice the different traps in the answer choices.

The woman went to the store to buy snacks for the trip. She saw that there were bananas on sale. She put them in her basket. She also selected two bottles of water, organic granola bars and dark chocolate. She placed all of her selected items on the checkout counter and asked the man behind her if he would save her place in line. He agreed. She ran down the aisle and picked up a jar of mustard. She was glad she remembered. The mustard would go well with what she had previously packed in her car.

What can be inferred about the woman's selection of the bananas?

1. The fact that the bananas were on sale reflects the surplus of bananas.

Trap #1. A banana surplus wasn't mentioned at all in the text.

2. The woman is interested in healthy eating.

Trap #2. It is not mentioned in the text that the woman is interested in healthy eating. Just because she also buys water, organic granola bars and dark chocolate on this particular shopping trip, doesn't mean she is interested in healthy eating. It is possible that she might eat french fries at a fast food restaurant in a few hours. There is not enough information in the text to make the conclusion that she is interested in healthy eating.

3. The woman likes bananas.

Trap #3. This is possible. However, it is also possible that she is buying snacks for other people who will also be going on the trip and she may be buying the bananas for them, not for her own enjoyment.

4. The woman will only buy bananas when they are on sale.

Trap #4. The word "ONLY" is extreme. We cannot draw this conclusion.

5. The woman selected bananas for the first snack of the trip.

Trap #5. This is a false statement because we do not know bananas will be the first food item eaten (or first snack) on the trip. Bananas are the first food item mentioned in the text, but we cannot conclude that bananas will be the first eaten.

Correct Inference: The selected bananas will be part of the food supply for the woman's road trip.

Now, it's your turn. Eliminate the TOEFL traps in the question below. Select the correct answer choice.

What can be inferred about what the woman had previously packed? a. She previously packed a sandwich and the mustard will go well with that.

b. The food previously packed is in a cooler in her car.

c. She packed edibles in her car beforehand.

d. The food she previously packed tastes best with mustard. Correct Answer: C


a. Trap #2 and #3. We don't know if it's a sandwich!

b. Trap #1. There is no mention of a cooler!

c. Correct inference!

d. Trap #4. The text doesn't say mustard is the best item to use. This is extreme! When you know the traps, they are easy to spot. Keep your eyes out! Don't fall into a TOEFL trap! The better you become at avoiding traps, the faster you can make it through the Reading section!

If you'd like to learn more about TOEFL Inference Traps click here and get more practice with Part 2!


To learn more about this question type, check out the Inference course here.

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