Inference: A Critical Assumption

Students reading in a school library.
Students reading in a school library. Hero Images/Getty Images

When evaluating a student's reading comprehension, his or her ability to make an inference based on the assigned critical reading section will greatly influence overall performance. This critical reading comprehension skill is necessary to grasp concepts related to the main idea, the author's purpose, and the writer's tone.

An inference is an assumption made based on specific evidence, and though students make inferences in their lives every day, it may be difficult for some to demonstrate an ability to make assumptions on a piece of writing, such as defining a word by examing the vocabulary term in context.

Allowing students to observe real-life examples of making inferences and routinely asking practice questions that require them to make educated guesses using specific examples will help improve their ability to make inferences, which can go a long way to ensuring they pass standardized reading comprehension tests.

Explaining Inferences in Real Life

In order to develop this critical reading comprehension skill, teachers should help students understand the concept by explaining it in a "real world" context, then applying it to testing questions which require students to make inferences given a set of facts and information.

All sorts of people use inferences in both their daily and professional lives all the time. Doctors make inferences when they diagnose conditions by looking at X-rays, MRIs, and communication with the patient; crime scene investigators make inferences when they follow clues like fingerprints, DNA, and footprints to find out how and when the crime was committed; mechanics make inferences when they run diagnostics, tinker around in the engine, and chat with you about how your car is acting to figure out what's wrong under the hood.

Presenting students with a situation without giving them the full story then asking them to guess what happens next is a good way to practice making inferences on given information. Students will have to use your tone, character and action descriptions, and language style and usage to determine what could possibly happen, which is exactly what they'll need to do on a test of their reading comprehension skills.

Inferences on Standardized Tests

Most standardized tests for reading comprehension and vocabulary include a multitude of inference questions that challenge students to use context clues to answer questions based on either the vocabulary used or the events that happened in the passage. Common questions on reading comprehension tests include:

  • "According to the passage, we can reasonably infer..."
  • "Based on the passage, it could be suggested that..."
  • "Which of the following statements is best supported by the passage?"
  • "The passage suggests that this primary problem..."

An inference question will often use the words "suggest" or "infer" right in the tag, and since your students will be educated about what an inference is and what it is not, they will understand that in order to come to a conclusion, they must use evidence or support presented in the passage. Once they are able to process this, they can then choose the best answer on multiple choice tests or write in a brief explanation on open-ended quizzes.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "Inference: A Critical Assumption." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-is-an-inference-3211727. Roell, Kelly. (2017, December 6). Inference: A Critical Assumption. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-inference-3211727 Roell, Kelly. "Inference: A Critical Assumption." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-inference-3211727 (accessed January 24, 2018).