Sunday, April 10, 2011

To Infer Or Not To Infer, That's The Question!

Dear readers,

This is the revised version of the posting that I made on 9 November 2011 on the subject of inference. I believe that here, in this posting, I am giving a better explanation and I hope readers will understand the topic better.

As for the former posting I shall have deleted it by the time that this posting is published in this blog.
The First 7 Questions of The Reading Paper
The first seven questions of the Reading Paper (MUET 800/3) is a section which requires candidates to answer, in MCQs (multiple choice questions, i.e. objective test).  The text could be purely graphical texts or a composite or mixture of graphical and linear texts.

The question arises where there are three answer choices:-  A. True, B. False and C. Not stated.  At times we can find the relevant information directly in the passage, therefore we can safely answer either TRUE or FALSE.  At times we are sure that the answer cannot found in the passage, so we choose the answer "Not stated".

A Linear Text and a Non-Linear Text
What you are reading now, under the topic “To Infer Or Not To Infer Is The Question” is a good example of a linear text.   A linear text is a piece of finished reading material that is made up of “lines” upon “lines” of sentences in an article.  What you are reading now is made up of rows upon rows of sentences from which you can get information.  They are made up of lines, thus we get the word “linear”.

A graphical text is a text where we get stinuli such as charts, graphs, pictograms and tables in which certain information (such as the sales of certain things over a period of time) are conveyed.  The information portrayed is something that can be analysed and assumptions can be made.

Sometimes you are in a dilemma, choosing between "not stated" and "true/false".  The question arises as to what kind of answer we should give as there is no direct answer in the passage (which can be either purely graphics or a mixture of linear and graphical texts).  At times we can make inferences by referring to the text and come up with either a “true” or a “false” answer.

Many students/candidates find this a problem because they find that "to read between the lines" will be difficult due to their own problems (such as not being able to understand certain words or the sentences in the passage).

We infer when there is no clear cut answer that can be found in the linear and non-linear texts.  So, we make an intelligent guess for what is not explicitly stated in the texts.  We cannot use our “knowledge of the world” even though that “knowledge” is relevant as an answer.  We cannot use that fact as the answer if it is not found or mentioned anywhere in the text.  It may sound logical but it is still not the answer – that is because, it is not found anywhere in the graphical texts.  That makes it irrelevant information and does not help you arrive at a plausible answer.

Choosing "C.  Not stated" option
When we choose the "Not stated" option we are sure that the relevant information is absolutely not found in the text given.  We choose this “Not Stated” option after having considered that the applicable information is not given and we can neither ascertain or infer a true or false answer from the text given.

An Example
This is an example of answering by inference.
The scenario in the graphical texts (or a composite of graphics and facts in tables):

The residents of Diamond Garden keep on buying the new ice cream product.  They are very satisfied, so they recommend it to their neighbours and are not bothered by the higher price.
The following example answer is the one for No. 6:
6. The residents give a positive response to the new ice cream product:

A.  True
B.  False
C.  Not stated
The answer is "A. True" after we have done an inference of the statements made. The inference is accepted as True because the inference is made through the statements found in the passage. Here, no background or knowledge of the world is used.

I hope that will give you a better grasp of this matter. Happy reading and best of luck for your coming Reading 800/3 this week!