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   IV-C. Inference Questions (Main Point) 
 

These questions ask you to draw conclusions from the passage. While above we analyzed an argument's assumptions, here we analyze its conclusions and implications . The conclusion of an argument in an Inference question is usually not directly stated. To find the conclusion, identify the premises and then identify what conclusion could be drawn from the premises. Inference questions differ from the other critical reasoning questions in that the argument in the passage doesn't usually contain flaws.

  • The main point of the passage is that...
  • Which of the following statements about... is best supported by the statements above?
  • Which of the following best states the author's conclusion in the passage above?
  • Which of the following conclusions can be most properly drawn from the data above?
  • Which of the following is [implied, must be true, implicit, most reasonably drawn] in the passage above?
  • Which of the following conclusions can most properly be drawn if the statements above are true?


How to approach Inference Questions:

  1. Analyze scope: Inference junk answers will typically go outside the direct scope of the passage. Be careful to look directly at the scope of the question. Inference answers must be within the scope of the passage. Your opinions or information outside of the passage are always outside of the scope.
  2. Don't jump into the Assumption Hunt. These questions usually don't carry much in the way of glaring assumptions. Instead, these questions generally test your ability to derive a conclusion from stated premises.
  3. Knock out answers with extreme wording. Inference answers typically do not use only, always, never, best or any strong words that leave little wiggle room. The right answers on Inference questions will generally use more qualifiers and less extreme language.
  4. Try to fully understand what the passage's point is and the exact reasoning so that if the question asks you to extend that reasoning, you are able to accurately do so.
  5. Use the process of elimination. Inference questions typically have two or three good answers that are semi-plausible. The best way to tackle these questions is to gradually eliminate the possible answers until you have one or two and then choose the last one by scope.

Sample Questions

  1. Although Locke has been hailed as a giant figure in European intellectual history, his ideas were largely borrowed from his predecessors, who are now unfairly neglected by historians. Furthermore, Locke never wrote a truly great book; his most widely known works are muddy in style, awkwardly constructed, and often self-contradictory.
    With which of the following would the author most likely agree?

    1. Locke made use of ideas without acknowledging his predecessors as the sources of those ideas.
    2. Current historians are re-evaluating the work of Locke in the light of present-day knowledge.
    3. Locke's contributions to the development of European thought have been greatly exaggerated.
    4. Historians should reexamine Locke's place in European intellectual history.
    5. Although Locke's ideas were important, his way of expressing them in writing was sadly inadequate.

    Explanation: The author makes two assertions about Locke: that his ideas were not original and that his books were not very good. On the basis of these assertions, the author concludes that Locke's reputation as an intellectual giant is undeserved. Choice (C) accurately summarizes this conclusion.
    1. focuses on a subsidiary point, not the main idea; moreover, it makes an assumption unsupported by the passage namely, that Locke did not acknowledge the sources of his ideas.
    2. Is wrong because although the passage clearly indicates that the author is "re-evaluating" Locke's work, it does not suggest that "current historians" in general are doing so.
    3. This choice best expresses the point, that Locke's contributions were not original.
    4. Is tricky because it is a good answer, but it is not the best answer. (D) implies that the author recommends that other historians re-examine Locke. Since no recommendation exists in the argument, Choice (C) is the only option.
    5. Not addressed.



  2. In 2008, Gotsland used three-times as much energy from non-renewable sources as renewable sources. Gotsland's proposed ten-year energy plan would result in the country using as much renewable as non-renewable energy by 2018, while using a larger amount of energy than in 2008.
    Which of the following must happen for Gotsland's plan to work?

    1. By 2018, Gotsland will more than triple its use of energy sources.
    2. Gotsland will have to make a political effort to have a more sustainable energy economy.
    3. By 2018, Gotsland will have to decrease its reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
    4. By 2018, Gotsland will more than triple its use of renewable energy sources over 2008 levels.
    5. New technologies must be developed to make the cost of renewable resources more competitive with renewables.

    Explanation: In questions like these where they start throwing around numbers and you scratch your head…"didn't I already do the quant section?". It might help to use a little Plug In.

    In a quant math problem we would translate words to numbers, so let's do that here. In 2008, Gotsland used three-times as much energy from non-renewable sources as renewable sources. Well, we can substitute 50 megawatts of renewable energy and 150 megawatts of non-renewable for what we have in 2008 (total of 200 megawatts).

    Looking at the next statement Gotsland's proposed ten-year energy plan would result in the country using as much renewable as non-renewable energy by 2018, while using a larger amount of energy than in 2008. Well, this means that in 2018 they will be using more than 200 megawatts AND renewables will be at least 150 (what the current non-renewables are). So it needs to triple its use of renewables.

    Now that we have our facts laid out we can review the answer choices.
    1. Gotsland does not need to triple its energy sources (just renewables).
    2. Isn't relevant.
    3. Gotsland doesn't need to decrease its use of non-renewables. It is mathematically possible for it to increase the total usage of total energy. In this scenario, non-renewables remains at 150 and renewables increases to 150 as well.
    4. Yes, Gotsland MUST at least triple its use of non-renewables (to be at least 150 megawatts).
    5. This may be the case, but there is nothing in the question to make this point.
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Why is there a math question in my Verbal section?
Some inference questions (like the above) use basic number line analysis or proportions. This is just testing your ability to use numbers in the context of critical reasoning.

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