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Sentence Insertion: Black Box Questions

Introduction

This is a new type of question; you will not see it on the paper test. You will probably see about one to six of these questions on the computer TOEFL. The good news is that these questions are pretty easy to answer, if you know how!

In this type of question, you will have to look at a new sentence and insert it into the passage that you see on your computer screen. You will have to look for clues, both in the new sentence and in the reading passage to figure out where to insert the question. Let’s look at an easy example:

The Great Fire of 1906 in San Francisco was preceded by the worst earthquake in U.S. history, estimated to measure 8.3 on the Richter Scale. To make matters worse, the earthquake caused an enormous fire, which actually caused more damage to the City than did the earthquake. After the fire and the massive destruction that ensued, the City began its long and slow rebuilding process. The citizens of San Francisco pitched in to rebuild the City as quickly as possible, but the thriving city was hobbled nevertheless.

  The following sentence can be added to paragraph 1.

This double disaster would mark the City’s daily life for years to come.

Where would it best fit in the paragraph?

Click on the square ( ) to add the sentence to the paragraph.

Paragraph 1 is marked with an arrow (

You should insert the sentence here:

…earthquake. After the fire…

In other words, the passage would look like this:

The Great Fire of 1906 in San Francisco was preceded by the worst earthquake in U.S. history, estimated to measure 8.3 on the Richter Scale. To make matters worse, the earthquake caused an enormous fire, which actually caused more damage to the City than did the earthquake. This double disaster would mark the City’s daily life for years to come. After the fire, the City began its long and slow rebuilding process. The citizens of San Francisco pitched in to rebuild the City as quickly as possible, but the thriving city was hobbled nevertheless.

We know we should insert the sentence here because this double disaster logically refers to two disasters, the earthquake and the fire, and because the next sentence describes a change that occurred in the city after the earthquake and fire.

Steps

Here are the steps you will need to follow.

1.      Find the clue words. They are usually in the new sentence, but sometimes they are in the reading passage already:

          pronouns: this, she, their, these reasons, such, so, etc.

          transition words: therefore, however, as a result, consequently, etc.

          first mention/second mention: We have a pattern in English: The first time we mention a noun, we use a; the second time, we use the. Here’s an example: A common problem in schools today is student apathy. The problem is a result of many changes in the United States.

          extenders: further, other, additionally, also, as well, too, etc.

          even: even shows surprise, or more than we expect. even should come last in a series: Businesswomen, policemen, college students, even grandmothers are investing in the stock market these days! , etc.

          synonyms: Thousands of Japanese came to the United States last year to study. Many of the students say they want to learn English for their careers.

          structures used in pairs: on the one hand… on the other hand; This doesn’t mean … On the contrary…; This is not to say… In fact…;

2.      Go back to the paragraph to find the word that is referred to.

3.      Remember, TOEFL needs to be able to prove that the answers are correct, not just say that ‘it sounds best’ there.

4.      Make sure the new sentence makes sense in the new location.

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