Inference and Vocabulary Questions for Firefighter Exam Study Guide
Questions that ask you about the meaning of vocabulary words in the passage and those that ask what the passage suggests or implies (inference questions) are different from detail or main idea questions. In vocabulary and inference questions, you usually have to pull ideas from the passage, sometimes from more than one place in the passage.
Inference questions can be difficult to answer because they require you to draw meaning from the text when that meaning is implied rather than directly stated. Inferences are conclusions that you draw based on the clues the writer has given you. When you draw inferences, you have to be something of a detective, looking for such clues as word choice, tone, and specific details that suggest a certain conclusion, attitude, or point of view. You have to read between the lines to make a judgment about what an author was implying in the passage.
A good way to test whether you have drawn an acceptable inference is to ask, "What evidence do I have for this inference?" If you can't find any, you probably have the wrong answer. You need to be sure that your inference is logical. It should be based on something that is suggested or implied in the passage itself—not on something you or others might think. Like a good detective, you need to base your conclusions on evidence—facts, details, and other information—not on random hunches or guesses.
Questions designed to test vocabulary are really trying to measure how well you can figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word from its context. Context refers to the words and ideas surrounding a vocabulary word. If the context is clear enough, you should be able to substitute a nonsense word for the one being sought, and you would still make the right choice because you could determine meaning strictly from the sense of the sentence. For example, you should be able to determine the meaning of the italicized nonsense word below based on its context:
The speaker noted that it gave him great terivinix to announce the winner of the Outstanding Leadership Award.
In this sentence, terivinix most likely means
The context of an award makes c, pleasure, the best choice. Awards don't usually bring pain, sympathy, or anxiety.
When confronted with an unfamiliar word, try substituting a nonsense word and see if the context gives you the clue. If you are familiar with prefixes, suf- fixes, and word roots, you can also use this knowledge to help you determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
You should be careful not to guess at the answer to a vocabulary question based on how you may have seen the word used before or what you think it means. Many words have more than one possible meaning, depending on the context in which they are used, and a word you have seen used one way may mean something else in a test passage. Also, if you don't look at the context carefully, you may make the mistake of confusing the vocabulary word with a similar word. For example, the vocabulary word may be taut (meaning tight), but if you read too quickly or don't check the context, you might think the word is tout (meaning publicize or praise) or taunt (meaning tease). Always make sure that you read carefully and that what you think the word means fits into the context of the passage you are being tested on.
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