Inference based questions are frequently asked in critical reasoning as well as reading comprehensions. It is essential to use the right strategy to tackle such questions. Before discussing the strategy, let's understand the basics.
What is an Inference?
It is a conclusion drawn on the basis of given facts. It is also an ability of a reader or listener to read in between the lines. Inference is always with respect to listener/reader and more than one inference can be drawn on the basis of a given fact. Deriving inferences in reading requires you to grasp the meaning of a passage without being given all the information. Using clues, the author gives information about the plot, characters, setting and time period. The readers have to take the clues and draw conclusions on the basis of the information given.
Most inference questions require an inference not of the kind we typically make in our daily lives. The inferences must be based solely on the passage.
Let us try to understand it by an example:
Fact: Anil has started devoting 15 hrs to study seriously for BPO.
Now what can be said about 'Anil'? These could be as follows:
- Anil is a hard working person.
- Anil is likely to crack BPO.
- Anil is much focused, determined and has lots of patience etc.
All the above three conclusions drawn, on the basis of a given fact, are inferences. So more than one inference can be drawn on the basis of given fact.
Inference based questions are mostly asked in the following format:
A. The question stem has a word/phrase with infer, imply, or suggests
B. Most likely, the passage is a part of . . .
C. The writer would probably agree (or disagree) with which statement?
D. The piece most likely appeared in . . .
E. The author implies that the best way to check crime would be . . .
F. Which one would the author quote as an example of liberalization as described here?
Critical Reasoning: Concepts & Practice
Strategy to approach Inference questions
1. Tackle the Passage
Read the passage thoroughly. Skip the details, focus on the main ideas. Understand the connections among the paragraphs, especially with the main idea. Finally, determine the purpose of writing, and the author’s opinion.
Rephrasing the question in your own words forces you to grasp what it asks. Note the line location, concepts and words like except, but and not as they are crucial to the answer.
Read the choices to see which one the passage supports. Usually, the correct answer is based on the information in two/three sentences.
Eliminate the obviously wrong choices as it makes easier to find the right answer. It’s best not to anticipate an answer in these cases. Simply evaluate the answer choices given.
Avoid the following things while making inferences:
1. Explicit Answers
Remember, an inference is NOT directly given in the passage. It’s important to understand the question type to avoid wrong answers. In inference questions, any answer choice which repeats/ rephrases something from the passage is WRONG. Instead, the inference should be based on one of the lines from the given facts/reading comprehension.
If the fact is 'I am happy', then the inference cannot be that 'I am not sad'. In other words, it is a restatement of the original statement. While answering inference based question, if you find yourself stuck between two choices, then make sure that for the answer to be correct it should have relevant basis in the passage to support the conclusion.
The information in the passage can be distorted to make an answer wrong. Such choices twist the connection of ideas or mis-attribute an idea.
3. Extreme Answers
Extreme words like always, any, all, never, none should alert you. The passages contain qualifying statements and thus, rarely support extreme, broad generalizations.
4. Unrelated Answers
Look out for ideas not addressed by the passage as they make the answer wrong.
Let's discuss some more questions to understand the concept better.
Examples of Inferential questions
Read the given facts/passage and answer the question that follows:
1. People are always less happy to accept scientific data they feel contradicts their preconceived beliefs. No surprise here; no human likes to be wrong. But science isn't supposed to care about preconceived notions. Science, at least good science, tells us about the world as it is, and not as some wish it to be. Sometimes what science finds is consistent with a particular religion's wishes. But usually it is not.
Question: What can be inferred about good science? Select from the given options.
- A good science is well received by the educated people.
- A good science is based on concrete results obtained through testing the hypothesis.
- A good science and religion are same.
- A good science will always prove the general populace wrong.
Solution: Answer to the above question is option 2 and this can be drawn on the basis of the line “But science isn't supposed to care about preconceived notions. Science, at least good science, tells us about the world as it is and not as some wish it to be".
Option 1 is wrong as there is no relevant point in the passage to draw this conclusion.
Option 3 is too farfetched and it may not be always true for science and religion to be same.
Option 4 is wrong as there is no fact in the passage to support this option.
2. The Beirut Law School was a centre for the study of Roman law in ancient days in Beirut. It thrived under the patronage of Roman emperors and was the Roman Empire‘s pre-eminent centre of law until 551 AD. The Roman law schools had repositories of imperial constitutions and formalized the study and practice of law to relieve the busy imperial courts. The archiving of imperial constitutions eased the task of judges in referring to legal precedents.
Question: What can be inferred from the passage?
Solution: Here are two inferences: one based solely on the passage and the other based on the passage and your own knowledge.
A. The Beirut Law School as a repository for imperial constitutions and as a centre of law allowed Roman judges to speed up the cases in imperial courts.
B. With the destruction of the Beirut Law School and no imperial constitutions and formalized laws, the administration of law and justice in Roman Empire suffered.
Statement A: Statement A is supported by the passage as it reveals that the law schools were “to relieve the busy imperial courts.” It says nothing far removed from this idea.
Statement B: Statement B, however, goes far away from it. Though logically, the destruction of the law school would hamper the administration of justice, the passage does not even hint at it. Therefore, we always choose an inference close to the passage.
Verbal Preparation Series