Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Reading Comprehension Inferences

mel_emm8mel_emm8 Free Trial Member

I finally feel like I have the Memory Method for Reading Comp down and I have seen an improvement in my RC scores, but I continue to have trouble with any author inference questions or anything RC inference related. Any tips for how to overcome this?


  • danielznelsondanielznelson Alum Inactive Sage Inactive ⭐
    4181 karma

    Much of the work of gaining inferences can be done "upfront" - that is, while actually reading the passage. From my experience, there are three ways to gather inferences:

    Tone: This can either be of the author's or of a subject's. The author's tone can clue you in, not just of the author's perspective (which can sometimes be otherwise hidden), but of the author's purpose. Does the author want to argue for something? Is what the author discussing something new and not thoroughly understood? What does the author think of the subject? If it's an artist, does the subject appreciate the art and not necessarily the artist (as weird as that seems, I've seen it). Understanding and pinpointing the tone can really help with tricky author's attitude questions, for example, where the correct AC is actually stronger in its wording than an incorrect AC.

    Purpose: Understanding the purpose of the passage's "chunks" is absolutely crucial. When the direction changes, ask yourself why the author is telling you this. Is it a claim? Support for a claim? If the passage is an argument, identify the premises and conclusion just as you would in LR. This will help with Inference-type Questions. When confused, ask yourself "why tell me this?" Often, that alone can help make sense of what's going on. For example, if the answer is that the piece is a claim, there may not be any support or clarification for it yet. If so, keep reading! If it hasn't yet been explained, of course you're going to be confused. Identifying the purpose also really helps to identify relationships, which may be the most important tool for inference-building...

    Relationships: The passage, and even the ACs, are loaded with referential phrasing, but not in a very obvious sense. "Legitimacy" and "moral authority" are effectively synonymous, for example, and even that isn't too much of a stretch. Relationship-building can come from identifying companions, contrasts, sets/subsets, before/after, referential phrasing, analogies, examples, claims (conclusions)/support (premises), et cetera. Often, pieces of the passage won't make sense until you've established a relationship, and this is where identifying purpose and relationships overlap. Why tell me this? Where did this new idea come from??? Oh! It's support for this former idea? Or it's expounding upon and linking back to what was just stated? Once you've made the connection, you can "infer" meaning from the relationship. A great example is where one side of a contrast doesn't make sense, but the other side does. Use the other side's "opposite" to make sense of what exactly (or perhaps just generally) the other side is. You now better understand why there's a contrast, as opposed to merely understanding that there is a contrast. The latter, however, will generally be enough but can make your life a bit harder.

    From this, you can genuinely expect certain pieces to be addressed in the questions. When in the questions, I do something of an anticipation for Specific Inference-type Questions (i.e. “The most likely reason the geometers would have been skeptical of Morris’s claim is that”) by collecting what I'm limited to. This makes the question easier, as I'm not tempted by information that isn't relevant to the question, even if it is true or mentioned in the passage. If an AC is waaaay out of left field - in other words, if I can't remember where the topic was in the passage - I'll table it, because I may have missed this while anticipating what information I need/can use.

    Possible/plausible does not equal MSS or something that can be inferred. If it can completely go either way, how is there support for one OVER the other?

    The ACs will suck. As with all ACs, there not there as obvious choices. Even if you understand the passage fully, you still have to critically analyze the ACs before making sense of plenty of them. Key in on referential phrasing. Where words are iffy (i.e. descriptive content), be a bit more hesitant with eliminating. Underline that word, move on to the other ACs. If nothing seems very obviously right, and if you have to go back to that AC, attack that AC by eliminating it or verifying it according to that iffy word. Provide synonyms for it or link it back to see if it works.

    Don't freak out if all the ACs seem daunting. If unsure, move on, as you should be doing with all questions in RC. And many ACs aren't that significant, so be ready for that. For example, if two people disagree about a certain topic, and if a question asks what both may agree on, there isn't much! Expect the AC to not be that substantive in what it's stating.

    In MSS questions, the author may not have stated something that is in fact the right AC. The author doesn't have to. So if you're saying, "The author never states this," in order to eliminate an AC in that question type, you're eliminating it for the wrong reason. An author could give a correlation and an MSS correct AC could give you a causal claim. It's never mentioned in the stimulus but there's support for it. That's what you have to care about.

Sign In or Register to comment.