inference based Questions on reading comprehension

How to solve inference based reading comprehension questions in CAT Exam ?

How to solve inference based reading comprehension questions in CAT Exam ?
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Inference based CAT Reading Comprehension questions are one of the most challenging kinds of RC questions. To better understand the nuances of inference based problems, the aspirant must realize how inference based reading comprehension questions are different from other types of CAT reading comprehension questions.

Different types of CAT Reading Comprehension Questions:

For each CAT Reading Comprehension passage, you will be asked questions about the various ideas conveyed by the passage. These questions can be:

  • Very basic and straightforward (what does the passage say, literally?)
  • More sophisticated (what does the author imply without saying it explicitly?)
  • Quite complex and advanced (what can be inferred from the evidence presented in the passage, independently of whether or not the author intended the implication?).

We will discuss all of these types of questions, starting with those at the necessary end of the spectrum.

Very basic and straightforward RC questions:

Perhaps the most basic component of CAT Reading Comprehension is simply that of grasping what the text says on a literal level. Some Reading Comprehension questions are designed to make sure that you have processed the passage accurately at this fundamental level.

Questions that assess this skill might ask:

  • “Which one of the following is stated in the passage?”
  • “The author says which one of the following about X?”
  • “The passage asserts which one of the following regarding X?”
  • “According to the passage, what is true about X?”, or something similar.

Even though these questions are relatively straightforward, the correct answer will not be an exact word-for-word repetition of something stated in the passage. It will, however, typically consist of a very close paraphrase of some part of the passage.

Examples of basic and straightforward RC questions:

The idea is that you should be able to identify not the exact wording of something said in the passage/ but rather the gist of it. For example, one of the questions following a passage about muralism, a Mexican artistic movement, reads

Which one of the following does the author explicitly identify as a characteristic of Mexican mural art?

  1. Its subject matter consisted primarily of current events.
  2. It could be viewed outdoors only …
  3. It used the same techniques as are used in easel painting.
  4. It exhibited remarkable stylistic uniformity.
  5. It was intended to be viewed from more than one angle

In the passage, the author asserts that the muralists’ works “were designed to be viewable from many different vantage points.” The correct answer is, therefore (E), “It was intended to be viewed from more than one angle.” Notice that the correct answer is a fairly close paraphrase of what the author had stated in the passage.

A similar example occurs after a passage that says at one point, “the lower regions of the Earth’s mantle have roughly the same composition as meteorites.” The question reads,

According to the passage, the lower regions of the Earth’s mantle are characterized by

  1. a composition similar to that of meteorites
  2. the absence of elements found in rocks on the Earth’s crust
  3. a greater stability than that of the upper regions
  4. the presence of large amounts of carbon dioxide
  5. a uniformly lower density than that of the upper regions

The correct answer is (A), “a composition similar to that of meteorites.” Again, the phrase “similar to” is a straightforward equivalent of “roughly the same as.” Recognition of what the author says is all that is required in this question; there is no need for any significant interpretation. Questions like this one might seem unexpectedly easy, but it is precisely these kinds of questions in which one must not go wrong.

Inference kind of questions

There are many other types of information that a writer leaves out and relies on the reader to supply. There are a variety of CAT Reading Comprehension questions that assess this ability. For example, you might be asked:

  • What can be inferred from a passage or from some specific portion of the passage
  • What the passage suggests or indicates about some particular matter addressed explicitly in the passage
  • What, according to the passage, is true of some particular matter.

The first that an aspirant must keep in mind is that the answers to inference based RC questions are not directly stated in the passage. The word inference suggests that it is something derived from what is already given to us. But the passage will have a very strong evidence in favor of the right answer. Thus, the correct answers are justified by something that is explicitly stated in the passage. Sometimes this may be no more than a single sentence; on the other hand, sometimes you may have to pull together information from various parts of the passage to identify the correct answer. In some cases, locating the part of the passage that justifies an inference is straightforward. In other cases, the relevant justifying information might not be where one would most naturally expect to find it. In still other cases, there is no single part of the passage that contains all the relevant justifying information.

Example of a RC question based on inference:

For example, after a passage concerning harmful bacteria that attack crops, one question reads:

It can be inferred from the passage that crop rotation can increase yields in part because

  1. moving crop plants around makes them hardier and more resistant to disease.
  2. the number of Pseudomonas fluorescent bacteria in the soil usually increases when crops are rotated
  3. the roots of many crop plants produce compounds that are antagonistic to phytopathogens harmful to other crop plants
  4. the presence of phytopathogenic bacteria is responsible for the majority of plant diseases
  5. phytopathogens typically attack some plant species but find other species to be unsuitable host

The correct answer is (E), “phytopathogens typically attack some plant species but find other species to be unsuitable hosts.” The support for this answer is found in the first paragraph, where the author states:

Cultivation of a single crop on a given tract of land leads eventually to decreased yields. One reason for this is that harmful bacterial phytopathogens, organisms parasitic on plant hosts, increase in the soil surrounding plant roots. The problem can be cured by crop rotation, denying the pathogens a suitable host for a period of time.

Note that the passage says that crop rotation denies pathogens a suitable host for a period of time, but it does not provide an explanation as to why that strategy would work. It is left to the reader to fill in the gap by inferring what the relevant explanation is-namely because crop rotation involves planting different crops in succession, and because pathogens that attack particular plants typically find other plants to be unsuitable hosts. This idea is not actually stated in the passage. In other words, this is a case in which the reader has to supply missing information in order to fully understand what the author says.

Final notes of caution for getting inference based reading comprehension questions correct

The important thing to remember is that whatever form the relationship between the passage and the correct answer takes, the correct answer is always the only answer choice that is truly supported by the passage. The incorrect answer choices might appear to be right at first glance, but they will always be found on closer inspection to have something about them that is wrong. Perhaps they are not really supported by the passage, or perhaps they even contradict the passage. As with all CAT Reading Comprehension questions, you should judge the answer choices in questions about what the passage says or implies only by whether or not they are supported by the passage.

To understand the above logic, you can go through the below video:


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