In contrast to the Supporting Ideas questions, Inference questions will ask you to go beyond what is directly stated in the passage and make a logical conclusion from what is being stated. Even though the information you are being asked to evaluate is not stated explicitly in the passage, your conclusions should be based on information that is presented in the passage.
For instance, if I say that “A fire alarm is going off!” You may make a couple of reasonable inferences from this statement:
All of these statements can be inferred directly from the original statement, but notice that I never said anything about why the fire alarm went off. If you draw any (or all) of these conclusions, then you are already making inferences! The trick is translating this from a concrete, real world example to your Reading Comprehension section.
Many of the questions that ask you to make inferences will require that you compare and contrast ideas, predict further events or outcomes, or interpret statements in the text to make an inference (just like our fire alarm example above).
Consider the following passage:
A potential inference question for this passage could be:
1. We can infer from the passage that the author believes
(A) humor and great stories can be found in a variety of topics if you look for them.
(B) the fish industry is too filthy to write anything worth reading.
(C) geniuses can only be found working as mariners, barkeeps, and clergymen.
(D) the publishing industry and commerce of fish are parallel professions.
On a first reading of the passage and the question, many students think to themselves “what the heck?!? I have no clue how to answer this!” However, breaking down these question types methodically and determining what lines in the passage support your answer are the key to answering these questions correctly.
For this passage in particular, look to the final sentence of the first paragraph (lines 9-13). This sentence states, “Thus has the world lost great literary treasure, as it is highly probable that there is not under the sun any prospect so filled with the scents and colors of story as that presented by the commerce in fish.” To paraphrase this quote, the world has lost many great stories because buying and selling fish has many great stories that have never been told!
We can infer from these lines in particular that if we are missing out on the stories of the fishing trade, then we could easily be missing out on great stories in other specific areas of life. Thus, A is the best answer choice because it directly illustrates this inference about what the author believes.
Note that all of the other answer choices B, C, and D sound pretty good. However, there are no places in the passage which support any of these inferences. For inference questions, you should always find a specific line or quote and then draw your inference from something that is directly stated, not just choose the best sounding answer choice!
Answers to Practice Questions