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TOEFL Tuesday: Insert Text Practice Question

On your TOEFL, you’re going to see three or four questions that we call “insert text” questions during your reading section. There’s one for every text (you will see three of four texts about different topics).

So they’re not actually high-frequency questions, compared to vocabulary questions, for example, but they are important to learn, because they are unique. You may have never seen a question like this before.

What Are Insert Text Questions?

The best way to show this is by example. Basically, you will have a long text, and then one separate sentence.


Ir is found in high concentrations in some meteorites, which continually bombard Earth, falling on both land and sea. By measuring how many of these meteorites fall to Earth over a given period of time, scientists can estimate how long it might have taken to deposit the observed amount of Ir in the boundary clay. ◼ These calculations suggest that a period of about one million years would have been required. ◼ However, other reliable evidence suggests that the deposition of the boundary clay could not have taken one million years. ◼  So the unusually high concentration of Ir seems to require a special explanation. ◼


Consequently, the idea that the Ir in the boundary clay came from these microscopic meteorites cannot be accepted.

The question is simple: “Where would the sentence best fit?”

You see those four squares in the text? Those are the possible answers. You will choose one place to insert the sentence.


How to Answer the Question

This specific text is a difficult one, but you have hints that you can use! It’s important in particular to notice the transition words. There are two transitions in the text that might help: “however” and “so.” If our new sentence goes before either of those transition words, the transition will need to be logical.

And there’s one more that’s even more important, in the sentence itself: “consequently.” So this new sentence describes the consequence of previous information. It tells us a conclusion from previous sentences. An what is the conclusion? That a specific idea about Ir “cannot be accepted.” So we need some NEGATIVE evidence in the text.

There is nothing negative for the first several sentences. But then at “however,” we see a change. That word shows a shift from neutral to negative: the “calculations” in the middle sentence, after square [A], are neutral. They don’t necessarily link to a negative conclusion, so putting our new sentence in space [A] or [B] is a bit strange. But the sentence starting with “however” tells us more negative information. That makes “consequently” work well after, in location [C].

It can also help to look at reference words. In this sentence, we see “the idea” and “these microscopic meteorites.” Those both refer back to an earlier part of the text. That actually doesn’t help much for this specific example, because the “idea” and the “microscopic meteorites” are the topic of most of the paragraph. But sometimes, those references HAVE TO be next to the ideas they reference. And in those cases, you can place the sentence just by putting “the” and “these” next to the specific ideas they refer back to.

2 Responses to TOEFL Tuesday: Insert Text Practice Question

  1. Win August 4, 2016 at 2:50 am #

    Is this answer NOT “D”?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 11:15 am #

      You’ve got it. (D) doesn’t quite work because the sentence right before spot D mentions the need for “a special explanation.” And the previous sentence talks about an idea/explanation that can’t be accepted— can’t be believed. If one idea or explanation doesn’t make sense and isn’t believable, than a new explanation is needed. So it makes sens that the sentence would go in slot (C), immediately followed by a statement that, since the idea cannot me accepted, additional explanation is needed.

      Does this make sense?

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