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Inferences | Lesson

A guide to "inferences" questions on the digital SAT

What are "inferences" questions?

On the Reading and Writing section of your SAT, some questions will provide an unfinished passage that introduces information about an unfamiliar topic. Based on that information, you'll be asked to select the choice that most logically completes the text.
Inferences questions will look like this:

Inferences: Example
Adaptations to cold temperatures have high metabolic costs. It is expensive, in terms of energy use, for land plants and animals to withstand very cold temperatures, and it gets more expensive the colder it gets, which means that the lower the air temperature, the fewer species have evolved to survive it. This factor, in conjunction with the decline in air temperature with increasing elevation, explains the distribution of species diversity in mountain ecosystems: you find fewer species high up a mountain than at the mountain’s base because ______
Which choice most logically completes the text?
Choose 1 answer:

How should we think about inferences questions?

Inferences questions are all about how we connect information and ideas to create arguments.
Some SAT preppers find it helpful to think about the components of the argument. We can break arguments into two basic parts: premises and conclusions.
Premises are the facts on which an argument is based. When premises are connected, they should provide strong evidence for the argument's conclusion.
The conclusion is the heart of the argument. It's the overall claim that the argument's author is trying to support.
Others prefer not to distinguish between premises and conclusions: we can also think of the points and information in the text as simply "clues" to the blank.
Either way, the basic task is the same: you need to identify what is missing from the argument, and fill that gap with one of the choices.

How to approach inferences questions

To solve an inferences question, consider following these steps:
Step 1: Separate the text into bullet points
Everything you need to successfully answer an inferences question is contained within the provided passage. Therefore, to find the answer, you'll need to read closely and carefully consider the information contained in the text.
A great way to do this is to take each idea in the passage and turn it into its own bullet point. This will create a step by step progression for the argument being made and allow you to see where any gaps might exist.
Step 2: Examine the argument
Consider each piece of information offered in the passage. Then consider how those pieces fit together. Do they add up to something? What's the connection between them?
Each inferences question is like a mystery. Everything you need to solve that mystery is provided for you. You just need to be a detective and piece the clues together!
By the end of this step, you should have a solid understanding of the argument being made. This should give you some idea of what might fit in the blank. At the very least, you'll be better prepared to recognize what doesn't fit in the blank.
Step 3: Explore the choices
Look at the choices one by one. Ask yourself if the information contained in the choice completes the argument in the passage.
Be wary of choices that broaden the discussion or introduce ideas not explicitly mentioned in the rest of the passage. The arguments made in inferences passages are often highly specific. Eliminate any choices that stray from or disagree with the points made in the passage.
Step 4: Select the choice that strengthens the argument
The choice you select should fit in fairly obviously with the information provided in the passage. But even further, the choice you select, when combined with the rest of the passage, should make the argument both clearer and stronger. Once you find such a choice, you can select it with confidence!

Top tips

Stay specific

Don't stray beyond what can be inferred. Be cautious with words like "most" or "many" when a passage only discusses one thing in particular. And look out for small twists and turns that make a choice seem relevant when it actually changes the focus of the argument.

Lean on transitions

Pay close attention to the transition words used throughout an inferences passage. These transitions will show you how the ideas in the passage are related. In particular, the transition words used before the blank at the end of the passage will provide a useful clue to what information you're looking for.

Let the punctuation help

Similar to transitions, punctuation marks give shape to the ideas in the passage and show how those details are connected. Colons, semicolons, and dashes can all be used to inject conclusions, examples, and exceptions. Take a closer look at these punctuation marks to see what type of information they signal within the text.

Your turn!

Many animals, including humans, must sleep, and sleep is known to have a role in everything from healing injuries to encoding information in long-term memory. But some scientists claim that, from an evolutionary standpoint, deep sleep for hours at a time leaves an animal so vulnerable that the known benefits of sleeping seem insufficient to explain why it became so widespread in the animal kingdom. These scientists therefore imply that ______
Which choice most logically completes the text?
Choose 1 answer:

Companies whose products are similar to competing products often pursue a marketing strategy of brand differentiation, trying to get consumers to associate their brand with unique attributes (e.g., to think of their brand of rice as the healthy brand, when in fact there is little difference among brands of the same type of rice). Jaywant Singh and Francesca Dall’Olmo Riley investigated consumer perceptions of such products, finding that consumers view competing brands as having largely the same attributes and that any differences in the strength of consumers’ associations of brands with attributes are explained by differences in market share—the more popular a brand is, the stronger people’s associations with it are—suggesting that ______
Which choice most logically completes the text?
Choose 1 answer:

Want to join the conversation?

  • blobby green style avatar for user kishore
    I always became distracted in solving inferences i dont know but these question are somehow tricky? Please tell me what to do if i lost my focus in the mid of reading
    (127 votes)
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    • piceratops seed style avatar for user Intrer
      Yeah it’s very easy to get distracted. I think something that could help is reading more? I’ve found that when I read books on my spare time, I start to be able to focus a lot better on these questions.
      Also, you could try looking at meditation - it has been proven beneficial for your capacity to focus
      (185 votes)
  • male robot donald style avatar for user Brian Wang
    Do people really make bullet points? It seems inefficient for me. I would rather read it and make the main claim in my head.
    (45 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user ishanakil7
    These questions are a nightmare for me:( please suggest some tips
    (36 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user rewankg
      First: Focus on the topic and the idea of the text, try to find what is the main focus in the text.

      Pay attention to the few sentences in the end of the text, that is what you need to support.
      Restate the claim in your own word, and then write with your own word what can fill the blank.
      Then look at the choices that match your prediction.
      Remember, do not watch the answer choices before you came up with your prediction, otherwise you end up doing lots of mistakes in such questions.
      (41 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user bostiaid000
    The last one doesnt seem like it should fit, the text even says "the more popular the brand is, the more people's associatio with it". So why would the answer say that it doesnt change people's perception?
    (14 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user StudyBuddy
      I think what they're saying is that what the brands try to do to differientiate themselves from other brands doesn't change the customer's perception. The only thing that would cause them to buy it over another brand is that it's more popular.
      Let me use Smuckers jam versus janie's jam (I just made that brand up) to illustrate.
      So, Smuckers may try to get customers to think that they have healthier jam than janie jam. But customers don't buy Smuckers jam because they think it's healthier than janie jam. They just buy it because it's more popular.
      Does that make sense?
      (29 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user 24gargaa
    Does anyone know what some common mistakes made with inference questions are? The main problem I have with these types of questions is finding a solution based on having to use knowledge from the text.
    (13 votes)
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  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user mariakellerman99
    I don't really know how to answer this properly. Can someone help?
    (3 votes)
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    • piceratops tree style avatar for user Ану Отгонжаргал
      Okay, you have to read the text thoroughly, and as khan academy mentioned above try to separate ideas into bullet points. And you should determine what you look for in the blank: either it is a conclusion or supporting detail (premise.) After seeing your bullet points and understanding what you look for, you should find the gap in the logic. And test your prediction with answer choices. I even struggle with this questions many times, and I hope my little advice will help you at some degree :)
      (18 votes)
  • hopper cool style avatar for user CHARLIE LEE
    do anybody have the way to solve this kind of question ,it so hard for me,I think it let me lose the self-confidence for SAT
    (7 votes)
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  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Bilol Urunov
    Isn't the theory for all three levels same? Is medium and advanced level just for practicing questions?
    (6 votes)
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  • stelly orange style avatar for user That Soviet player
    How do you find out what the main focus of the text is when different view points and factores are shared?
    (8 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user katrina Aftab
      Recognizing the text's main focus or idea is much easier than you think...the language makes it obvious. or if you are getting confused a lot just think about how the various factors or points discussed are interconnected. I mean just think about what the narrator/author/writer is trying to tell you. idk that is just how I do it, I can just tell you the way but u yourself have to think with your brain. hope it helpsss...
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Anas
    This type of question is the hardest question that I have studied so far. It's really confusing which one to choose cause more than one makes sense in the choice list. Has anyone got a proper way to solve this?
    (9 votes)
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