Lesson - Critical Reading Skill: Making Inferences

GRE Critical Reading: Making Inferences

     Mia would never forget the day that James visited her.  He walked in with his nose planted in the bouquet of flowers that he was about to give her and explained that they had helped him survive the trek down the hall, what with the smell of cleaning solution and broth all around.  She tried to ask him questions about the chemistry class that they both took, but his face grew pale.  "I probably shouldn't try to be a doctor," he said, "is there a button you can press to call for help?"

Mia and James are most likely in a --

A)    restaurant
B)    doctor's office
C)    lab
D)    hospital room
E)    cafeteria

The correct answer is D.

    Even though the passage does not directly state that Mia and James are in a hospital room, the passage gives readers the details needed to guess where they could be.  When you use facts to make an educated guess, you are making an inference.  Inferences are not directly stated by the author; instead, they are implied, or indirectly stated.

    To make inferences, consider the author's intent and the implications of what is stated.  Read with an active mind that considers how all the information presented fits together.  Note that inferences are not opinions.  Likewise, they are not new information that strays far from the given text.  Rather they may represent a re-wording or more direct stating of what is already presented.  An inference needs to be supported by the details in the text; it is not a wild guess that has no connection to the passage.



Consider the passages below and answer the questions that follow.

Passage 1

Excerpted from a 2003 book examining the famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, 1963.
     The ability of the "I Have a Dream" speech to highlight King's early career at the expense of his later career accounts for the tone of impatience and betrayal that often appears when modern-day supporters of King's agenda talk about the speech.  Former Georgia state legislator Julian Bond said in 1986 that commemorations of King seemed to "focus almost entirely on Martin Luther King the dreamer, not on Martin King the antiwar activist, not on Martin King the challenger of the economic order, not on Martin King the opponent of apartheid, not on the complete Martin Luther King."  One King scholar has proposed a ten-year moratorium on reading or listening to the "I Have a Dream" speech in the hopes that America will then discover the rest of King's legacy.

1.  It can be inferred that, for Julian Bond, a portrait of "the complete Martin Luther King" would --

A.  celebrate King's influence both within and outside the United States.
B.  acknowledge the logical lapses in some of King's later work.
C.  compare King with other significant figures of his era.
D.  achieve a balance between King's earlier concerns and his later ones.
E.  reveal information about King's personal as well as his public life.

2.  Which may best be implied concerning the scholar's motivation for suggesting a ten-year moratorium on reading the "I Have a Dream" speech?

A.  Reading the same thing over and over makes it lose its meaning.
B.  The speech was not King's best literary work.
C.  The speech could incite riots and should be avoided.
D.  The speech did not accurately represent King's viewpoints later in life.
E.  By eliminating focus on a single speech, King's other contributions would be discovered. 

Passage 2

     The ability to see the situation as your opponents see it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills that you can possess as a negotiator.  You must know more than simply that they see things differently.  It is not enough to study them like beetles under a microscope; you need to know what it feels like to be a beetle.  To accomplish this you should be prepared to withhold judgment as you "try on" their views.  Your opponents may well believe that their views are right as strongly as you believe yours are.

The reference to beetles in the paragraph serves to suggest that --

A.  people need to be more attuned to their surroundings.
B.  effective negotiation is more of a science than an art.
C.  people can be made to do what they would prefer not to do.
D.  effective negotiation requires identifying with a different viewpoint.
E.  people feel uncomfortable when their actions are under scrutiny.

Passage 3

Adapted from: Coming of Age in Samoa, written by pioneering sociologist, Margaret Mead (1928)
    By the time a child is six or seven she has all the essential avoidances well enough by heart to be trusted with the care of a younger child.  And she also develops a number of simple techniques.  She learns to weave firm square balls from palm leaves, to make pinwheels of palm leaves or frangipani blossoms, to climb a coconut tree by walking up the trunk on flexible little feet, to break open a coconut with one firm well-directed blow of a knife as long as she is tall, to play a number of group games and sing the songs which go with them, to tidy the house by picking up the litter on the stony floor, to bring water from the sea, to spread out the copra to dry and to help gather it in when rain threatens, to go to a neighboring house and bring back a lighted faggot for the chief's pipe or the cook-house fire.
     But in the case of the little girls all these tasks are merely supplementary to the main business of baby-tending.  Very small boys also have some care of the younger children, but at eight or nine years of age they are usually relieved of it.  Whatever rough edges have not been smoothed off by this responsibility for younger children are worn off by their contact with older boys.
   For little boys are admitted to interesting and important activities only so long as their behavior is circumspect and helpful.  Where small girls are brusquely pushed aside, small boys will be patiently tolerated and they become adept at making themselves useful.  The four or five little boys who all wish to assist at the important, business of helping a grown youth lasso reef eels, organize themselves into a highly efficient working team; one boy holds the bait, another holds an extra lasso, others poke eagerly about in holes in the reef looking for prey, while still another tucks the captured eels into his lava.
     The small girls, burdened with heavy babies or the care of little staggerers who are too small to adventure on the reef, discouraged by the hostility of the small boys and the scorn of the older ones, have little opportunity for learning the more adventurous forms of work and play.  So while the little boys first undergo the chastening effects of baby-tending and then have many opportunities to learn effective cooperation under the supervision of older boys, the girls' education is less comprehensive.  They have a high standard of individual responsibility, but the community provides them with no lessons in cooperation with one another.  This is particularly apparent in the activities of young people: the boys organize quickly; the girls waste hours in bickering, innocent of any technique for quick and efficient cooperation.

1.  It can be inferred that the 'high standard of individual responsibility' mentioned in the last paragraph is --

A.  developed mainly through child-care duties. 
B.  only present in girls.
C.  taught to the girl before she is entrusted with babies.
D.  actually counterproductive.
E.  weakened as the girl grows older.

2.  The expression "innocent of" in the final sentence of the passage is best taken to mean --

A.  "not guilty of"
B.  "unskilled in" 
C.  "unsuited for"
D.  "uninvolved in"
E.  "uninterested in"

3.  It can be inferred that in the community under discussion, all of the following are important except --

A.  domestic handicrafts
B.  a well-defined social structure
C.  fishing skills
D.  formal education 
E.  division of labor 

Answer Key

Passage 1
1. D
2. E

Passage 2

Correct answer: D

Passage 3

1. A
2. B
3. D