46. Inference Questions and Purpose Questions

A) Inference Questions

Just like in the Listening Comprehension section, some questions in the Reading Comprehension section require you to make inferences. The answers to these questions are not directly provided in the passage–you must “read between the lines.” In other words, you must make conclusions based indirectly on information in the passage. Many test-takers find these questions the most difficult type of Reading question.

Inference questions may be phrased in a number of ways. Many of these questions contain some form of the words infer or imply.

  • Which of the following can be inferred from the passage?
  • It can be inferred from the passage that . . .
  • The author implies that . . .
    Which of the following does the passage imply?
  • Which of the following would be the most reasonable guess about _______
  • The author suggests that . . .
  • It is probable that . . .

There will probably be from five to eight of these questions per Reading section.

Sample Item

A star very similar to the Sun is one of the nearest stars to Earth. That star is Alpha Centauri, just 4.3 light-years away. Other than our own Sun, the nearest star to the Earth is a tiny red star, not visible without a telescope, called Proxima Centauri.

It can be inferred from this passage that

(A) Proxima Centauri is similar to the Earth’s Sun.
(B) Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Earth.
(C) Alpha Centauri is invisible from the Earth.
(D) Proxima Centauri is less than 4.3 light-years from the Earth.

The answer is (D), for the following reasons. Choice (A) is not a valid inference; Alpha Centauri is similar to the Sun, but Proxima Centauri is “a tiny red star.” Choice (B) also cannot be inferred; the closest star to the Earth is our own Sun. Nor can (C) be inferred; Proxima Centauri is invisible, but there is no information as to whether Alpha Centauri is. Since Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light-years away, it can be inferred that Alpha Centauri, the closest star, is less than that.

B) Purpose Questions

These questions ask why the author of a passage mentions some piece of information, includes a quotation from a person or a study, or uses some particular word or phrase.

Sample Questions

  • Why does the author mention ________________
  • The author refers to to indicate that . . .
  • The author quotes in order to show . . .
  • The phrase in line is mentioned to illustrate the effect of . . .

Sample Answer Choices

  • To strengthen the argument that _______________
  • To provide an example of _________________
  • To challenge the idea that ____________________
  • To contradict _____________________
  • To support the proposal to __________________

There are usually between one and four purpose questions per Reading section.

Exercise 46.2

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