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Learn the use of purpose and inference in English grammar.

The TOEFL IBT will include certain questions testing your ability to read between the lines of a text and pick out more understated information from the passage.

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On the TOEFL IBT, Purpose questions will test your ability to understand why a certain idea or argument has been used in the text. They will ask you to draw conclusions about information that has been stated in the passage.


The screenshot below gives us an example of a Purpose question. As we can see, it begins with “why” and asks us the author’s purpose for mentioning countries other than Britain in the first paragraph.

After reading the question and the four answers, circle back to the first paragraph of the text, as stated in the question. Next, reread this paragraph until you come across the place where the author mentions countries other than Britain.

The corresponding sentence is:

How, then, did Britain come to dominate global production of a cloth made entirely from material imported from the Southern United States, India, and Egypt?

Now reread the answer choices and choose the one that makes the most sense based on the italicized sentence above. It seems the answer that makes the most sense is (D). The italicized sentence talks about the origins of cotton coming from other countries, namely the United States, India, and Egypt. We can use this information to lead us to answer choice (D).


  • The Purpose questions will usually begin with “why.”
  • Always read all four answers before jumping to select an answer, and even before going back to the passage!
  • Make sure you know the definition of words such as to contrast, to insist on, to compare, and to provide. This will help you better understand Purpose questions.



The Inference questions on the TOEFL IBT exam test your ability to understand the reading passage as a whole and all the concepts within it. Like in Purpose questions, you will need to recognize the underlying meanings of a paragraph or idea.


The example below shows us what an Inference question would look like on the exam. These questions ask you to find the information that is suggested by the test but not directly stated.

After reading the question and the four answer choices, go back to Paragraph 3 and reread it. Since the question is asking what can be inferred by the whole paragraph, you will want to reread the whole paragraph.

After reading the answer choices and rereading the paragraph, we can say that the correct answer is (B) because the paragraph mentions that a weaver is usually a man. We can use this information to infer that very few women were weavers, as said in answer choice (B).


  • The Inference questions will usually have the word “infer” in them.
  • If the question asks you what can be inferred by a paragraph as a whole, reread the whole paragraph.
  • Be sure you can find information in the passage to support your answer.

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