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English > Reading Comprehensions > Gathering Information and Inference
Reading Comprehensions

Gathering Information and Inference

Reading comprehension is an important section of all English tests. The main aim of reading comprehension is to test your logical ability. The intent of reading comprehension is to test understanding and reasoning. Let us see one type of question asked about comprehension, inference questions.

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Reading Comprehension

Now, as you progress through each grade, the passage or text in the reading comprehension section will get more difficult. Consequently, the questions will also get more difficult. In fact, English proficiency tests contain the most difficult reading comprehension passages. So cracking the reading comprehension section at the grade level eventually preps you up for proficiency tests.

As you may already know, reading comprehension has several kinds of questions that include factual questions, contextual vocabulary questions, topical questions, inference questions, and sequencing or fill-in-the-blanks questions.

Factual questions are simple questions that cover the basic facts of the. Fill-in-the-blanks and sequencing questions will require you to gather information from the passage and then solve the questions. Topical questions cover a specific topic within the passage. Finally, inference questions will require you to draw your inference based on the passage.

Inference Questions

In this article, we will discuss how to crack inference questions in the reading comprehension section. Now, inference questions are the most complex of all reading comprehension questions. These questions will require you to understand the writer’s point of view or his/her thought process. Then, based on your inference, you may have to suggest an appropriate title or explain what you think the writer’s intent is. At times, you may also be required to write an alternate conclusion or suggest a different line of thought.

Inference Questions – Strategy

Let us now understand how to solve these questions. In most cases, inference questions will quote a statement or a phrase used by the author. In such a case, you should first identify the paragraph or section the quote or phrase belongs to. Once you identify the paragraph, you can then read that specific paragraph again and solve the question.

What you can also do is understand the main idea of the passage. Now, this where creating a short summary of each paragraph in the passage helps. The flow between each summary will help you get the main idea of what the author is trying to say.

In addition to identifying the right paragraph and creating summaries, another very important tip for solving inference questions is to follow the process of elimination. Sometimes, the options are quite irrelevant to the main idea. You can eliminate those answers and then concentrate on finding the right answer.

Finally, try not to answer questions based on prior knowledge or personal assumption of the text or the passage. Sometimes, we may tend to form an opinion based on a passage. Alternatively, you may have already read the passage in a book or a magazine. Now, that opinion or prior knowledge can influence how we answer the question. Although inference questions are all about our inference and understanding the writer’s point of view, a biased opinion will not help in answering the question objectively.

Solved Example for You

Given below is an excerpt from the classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne. Read the passage carefully and answer the question below.

Gathering Information and Inference

Question

Given below is a phrase from the passage. Based on the phrase, write a brief note about what you feel the author is thinking about.

“Did he obtain air using chemical methods, releasing the oxygen contained in potassium chlorate by heating it, meanwhile absorbing the carbon dioxide with potassium hydroxide? If so, he would have to keep up some kind of relationship with the shore, to come by the materials needed for such an operation.”

Strategy

As mentioned earlier, inference questions will usually have a phrase or a quote. Now, to answer this question, all you need to do is identify the relevant paragraph. In the passage, the phrase is from the sixth paragraph. The author is here is thinking about how to renew the oxygen supply in his current situation.

Now, if you have made short notes or summarized the essence of this passage, you would know that the author has been imprisoned with his mates in a cell within an aquatic vessel of some sort. And as he is mulling over his conundrum, he suddenly starts thinking about how the vessel’s captain solves the oxygen problem. Now, considering these observations, you can answer the question as follows:

Answer

The author is thinking about how the captain and the crew sources oxygen within the vessel. Is it through chemical means by releasing the oxygen contained in the potassium chlorate or is it by storing air in high-pressure tanks. Alternatively, does the captain return the vessel to the ocean’s surface every twenty-four hours like a cetacean? The latter seems to be the most resourceful and convenient way.

Now, here we discussed a fairly simple example relating to inference questions regarding the author’s thought process. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes, you may also have to interpret a poem or decode a dialogue. In such cases, make as many notes as possible and follow the rule of elimination.

You may also have to suggest a title for a passage or write an alternate conclusion. Now, these kinds of questions are subjective. However, what’s important is that you understand the intent, the key concepts, and the main idea. While your answer might be different from others, the logic and intent should be the same.

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