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TOEFL Listening Question Type: Inference

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

Inference questions ask you to use context clues and implied information to make educated guesses about the subject matter. Usually, the question will include a word like “imply” or “infer”, which should be a hint that the speaker will not directly state the answer.

Inference questions will usually look very similar to one of these examples:

– What can be inferred from the Professor’s discussion of X?

– What will the student probably do next?

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– What is implied when the speaker says this? (replay a short segment)

Sometimes, the question will replay a sentence from the recording for you; other times, you will need to rely on your notes and memory to answer the question. Unfortunately, your notes may not always be much help, since you can’t take notes on information that isn’t there. So when you’re answering inference questions, keep these pointers in mind.

– Never pick an answer that contradicts a main idea from the passage.

– As you’re listening, pay attention to the speaker’s tone.

– The correct answer will probably use some key words not found in the recording.

– The implication is very similar to what’s directly said. You do not need to make a large logical jump.

That last point is the most important one. Even though we call these questions “inference” questions, they’re very, very similar to detail questions. The information is in the recording—never draw from your own thoughts or experiences if they’re not also spoken about in the recording.

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