Why is the Inference Question So Frustrating?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Sometimes the TOEFL Inference Question can make you crazy! You think you've selected the correct answer, but then you go to check the answer key only to discover that you've selected an incorrect answer.  


You understood the paragraph. You understood the sentence and the question. You even recognized that it was an inference question. How could this have gone wrong?


You are selecting an answer choice that YOU think is possible, rather than selecting the choice that is closest to what the text is saying. Do not select the answer choice that may be true, or might be true, or could be true. Select the answer choice that MUST be true based on the information that is provided in the reading.


When you make the mistake of selecting the answer choice that might be true instead of the one that MUST be true you may do so because of


3 Common Inference Traps:


1. You know outside information on the topic that is true.  It might be true according to outside information you have read or studied, but if it is not mentioned in the reading, you cannot select an answer choice that contains this outside knowledge.  


2. It makes sense to you. However, there is not enough information in the reading to support it.  


3. You did not carefully read the question. The answer choice you've selected could be true according to the text. However, your answer choice does NOT answer the question.  

Let's Practice.

Read the following paragraph. Then, look at the question. Get rid of the 3 Common Inference Traps. What will remain is the correct answer choice.


California's Los Angeles County includes 88 cities including Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Malibu, Los Angeles and Culver City. The tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and North American Plate is the San Andreas Fault Line, which passes within 35 miles of Los Angeles. This makes the area vulnerable to earthquakes. The San Gabriel Mountain Range is located in Northern Los Angeles County and its highest peak is Mount San Antonio.

What can be inferred about the City of Los Angeles?

a. It is likely that the City of Los Angeles will experience a major earthquake soon.

b. Many people who live in the City of Los Angeles visit the San Gabriel Mountain Range.

c. The San Andreas Fault Line runs through California.

d. The City of Los Angeles is part of Los Angeles County.



Correct Answer: D


Explanation:

a. Trap #1. You might have read about how many people in Los Angeles discuss the likelihood of a major earthquake happening soon. This information is NOT mentioned in the text.

b. Trap #2. It might make sense that people who live in Los Angeles would visit the mountain range. But there is NO evidence in the text to support this. We don't know if people go there or not.

c. Trap #3. The San Andreas Fault Line does run through California. This is true. However, the question asks us to select an inference about the City of Los Angeles. It doesn't ask about the San Andreas Fault Line.

d. Correct! Los Angeles County includes the City of Los Angeles among other cities.


To understand this question, check out the Inference Question course listed under TOEFL Land courses here.


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