How to Draw Inferences for the GED RLA

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

To infer means to conclude, deduce, suppose, hypothesize, or speculate. The GED Reasoning Through Language Arts test will ask questions that expect you to be able to infer. An inference is a conjecture, an assumption, a suspicion, an extrapolation, or a guess. When you infer, you read between the lines, deriving information that’s not directly stated.

Writers don’t always tell readers everything about their characters, the plots, or other aspects of the story. They provide clues and hints, making the reader do some of the work. As a reader, you need to combine what the author states with your own knowledge and logic to fill in the details. Read the following passage.

The sound of the pull-tab was followed by a flurry of soft footsteps. First, Helga greeted Midnight, a big, black tom. Immediately behind him was Merlin, rubbing his black and tan body against her legs while talking to her, as Siamese are wont to do, never taking his blue eyes off the counter, where the food dishes were being filled.

Not to be left out, Tristan and Isolde, the yellow tom and his sister, ran in, impatiently waiting for their food. Mildly exasperated, Helga portioned out the food and put the appropriate dish in front of each cat. A pill mixed into the food for this one, a special diet for that one, other meds here and there; it all needed care.

What does this passage suggest about Helga?

  • (A) She has an astronomical cat food bill.

  • (B) She needs to get rid of a few cats.

  • (C) She loves cats.

  • (D) She is allergic to dogs.

All the listed choices are possible deductions or inferences. On the GED test, your task is to select the most correct answer from the choices given based on the given text. Choice (A) is a possibility. The text does suggest that at least one cat needs a special diet, which is potentially more costly. Feeding four cats is in itself possibly expensive.

The text also states that others need medication and pills, but that has nothing to do with food bills. Getting rid of a few cats, Choice (B), is a possible deduction, but nothing in the passage suggests that she thinks in those terms; that conclusion would be the reader’s value judgment. Choice (D) isn’t a valid answer option; she may or may not be allergic to dogs, but the passage provides no clue to allow such a deduction. It mentions neither dogs nor allergies.

Choice (C), She loves cats, is the only choice that is strongly supported. Consider the expense of feeding and medicating four cats and the effort in keeping all their individual needs straight. Choice (C) is the only strong and logical conclusion.