Inside the TOEFL® Test - Reading Prose Summary & Fill in a Table Questions

 

People in this video

Michael

 

Intro

[music playing]

Michael: Hi, I'm Michael from ETS. Today on Inside the TOEFL Test, we're going inside the TOEFL iBT Reading section. Specifically, the Prose Summary questions. And we'll also look at a similar but less common question type, the Fill in a Table questions.

On-screen:
Inside the TOEFL® Test – Reading
Prose Summary
Fill in a Table

Michael: The Prose Summary questions are designed to show that you recognize the major ideas and the relative importance of information in a reading passage.

In a Prose Summary question, there are 6 answer choices, and you will need to select the 3 correct choices that express the most important ideas in the passage.
The incorrect answer choices will misrepresent information in the passage or will discuss minor points.

On-screen: Prose Summary – Major ideas and relative importance of information in a reading passage
6 answer choices
3 correct choices express the most important ideas (green check appears next to statement)
3 incorrect choices misrepresent information or discuss minor points (red x appears next to statement)

Michael: In the real test, you will drag and drop your answers into the box.
Prose Summary questions are worth 2 points toward your raw score. You get 2 points if you choose all 3 correct answers. You get one point if you choose 2 correct answers. And you get zero points for 1 or no correct answers.

On-screen: Drag your choices to the spaces where they belong. To review the passage, click on View Text.

Scholars have wondered about the meaning of the subjects, location and overpainting of Lascaux cave images.
[image of box with three bullets to move answer options to]

Six answer options:

  1. The paintings may have recorded information about animal migrations, and may only have been useful for one migration at a time
  2. The human figures represented in the paintings appear to be less carefully shaped than those of animals.
  3. It is possible that the animals in the paintings were of mythical significance to the tribe, and the paintings reflected an important spiritual practice.
  4. Unlike painters of the recently discovered paintings, other Lascaux cave painters usually printed on rocks near cave entrances or in open spaces outside the caves.
  5. Some scholars believe that the paintings motivated hunters by allowing them to picture a successful hunt.
  6. Scientific analysis suggests that paintings were sprayed on the rock walls with tubes made from animal bones.

Score up to 2 points

Points Correct Answers
2 3
1 2
0 1 or 0

 

Michael: Note that your answers don't have to be in any particular order. And you can change your answers at any point during the allotted time for the reading section.

On-screen: [cursor is dragging answers into the spaces and reordering the selected answers]

Michael: The Fill In A Table questions are similar except that instead of choosing the three most important ideas, you will need to drag and drop your answers into two (or three) categories.

On-screen: Drag your choices to the spaces where they belong. To review the passage, click on View Text.
[Box lists "Opportunists"and 4 answer spaces to drag answer options to]
[Second box lists "Competitors"and 3 answer spaces to drag answer options to]

Answer options

Michael: Each reading passage will have one Prose Summary question, or one Fill In A Table Question, but not both.

On-screen:
Prose summary
Fill in a Table

Sample Questions  - Prose Summary

Michael: Let's look at a sample Prose Summary question. This type of question covers the whole reading passage, not just a single sentence or paragraph. Here's the passage about meteorites and dinosaur extinction.

On-screen: Meteorite Impact and Dinosaur Extinction

There is increasing evidence that the impacts of meteorites have had important effects on Earth, particularly in the field of biological evolution. Such impacts continue to pose a natural hazard to life on Earth. Twice in the twentieth century, large meteorite objects are known to have collided with Earth.

If an impact is large enough, it can disturb the environment of the entire Earth and cause an ecological catastrophe. The best-documented such impact took place 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period of geological history. This break in Earth's history is marked by a mass extinction, when as many as half the species on the planet became extinct. While there are a dozen or more mass extinctions in the geological record, the Cretaceous mass extinction has always intrigued paleontologists because it marks the end of the age of the dinosaurs. For tens of millions of years, those great creatures had flourished. Then, suddenly, they disappeared.

The body that impacted Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period was a meteorite with a mass of more than a trillion tons and a diameter of at least 10 kilometers. Scientists first identified this impact in 1980 from the worldwide layer of sediment deposited from the dust cloud that enveloped the planet after the impact. This sediment layer is enriched in the rare metal iridium and other elements that are relatively abundant in a meteorite but very rare in the crust of Earth. Even diluted by the terrestrial material excavated from the crater, this component of meteorites is easily identified. By 1990 geologists had located the impact site itself in the Yucatán region of Mexico. The crater, now deeply buried in sediment, was originally about 200 kilometers in diameter.

This impact released an enormous amount of energy, excavating a crater about twice as large as the lunar crater Tycho. The explosion lifted about 100 trillion tons of dust into the atmosphere, as can be determined by measuring the thickness of the sediment layer formed when this dust settled to the surface. Such a quantity of material would have blocked the sunlight completely from reaching the surface, plunging Earth into a period of cold and darkness that lasted at least several months. The explosion is also calculated to have produced vast quantities of nitric acid and melted rock that sprayed out over much of Earth, starting widespread fires that must have consumed most terrestrial forests and grassland. Presumably, those environmental disasters could have been responsible for the mass extinction, including the death of the dinosaurs. Several other mass extinctions in the geological record have been tentatively identified with large impacts, but none is so dramatic as the Cretaceous event. But even without such specific documentation, it is clear that impacts of this size do occur and that their results can be catastrophic. What is a catastrophe for one group of living things, however, may create opportunities for another group. Following each mass extinction, there is a sudden evolutionary burst as new species develop to fill the ecological niches opened by the event.

Impacts by meteorites represent one mechanism that could cause global catastrophes and seriously influence the evolution of life all over the planet. According to some estimates, the majority of all extinctions of species may be due to such impacts. Such a perspective fundamentally changes our view of biological evolution. The standard criterion for the survival of a species is its success in competing with other species and adapting to slowly changing environments. Yet an equally important criterion is the ability of a species to survive random global ecological catastrophes due to impacts.

Earth is a target in a cosmic shooting gallery, subject to random violent events that were unsuspected a few decades ago. In 1991 the United States Congress asked NASA to investigate the hazard posed today by large impacts on Earth. The group conducting the study concluded from a detailed analysis that impacts from meteorites can indeed be hazardous. Although there is always some risk that a large impact could occur, careful study shows that this risk is quite small.

Michael: And here's the question.

On-screen: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE (3) answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.

Scientists have linked the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous with a meteorite impact on Earth.



Answer choices

  1. Scientists had believed for centuries that meteorite activity influenced evolution on Earth.
  2. The site of the large meteorite impact at the end of the Cretaceous period was identified in 1990.
  3. There have also been large meteorite impacts on the surface of the Moon, leaving craters like Tycho.
  4. An iridium-enriched sediment layer and a large impact crater in the Yucatán provide evidence that a large meteorite struck Earth about 65 million years ago.
  5. Large meteorite impacts, such as one at the end of the Cretaceous period, can seriously affect climate, ecological niches, plants, and animals.
  6. Meteorite impacts can be advantageous for some species, which thrive, and disastrous for other species, which become extinct.

Michael: Now let's look at each of the answer choices to see which three are correct.
Answer #1 isn't supported by any of the information in the passage, so we know that this one is not correct.

On-screen: [first answer option is highlighted]Scientists had believed for centuries that meteorite activity influenced evolution on Earth. [red x appears next to answer option]
Michael: Answer #2 is a factually correct statement, but identifying the specific date when something happened generally doesn't qualify as one of the most important ideas. So this one is probably not correct, but let's look at the others to make sure.

On-screen: [second answer option is highlighted]The site of the large meteorite impact at the end of the Cretaceous period was identified in 1990. [faded red x appears next to answer option ]
Michael: For answer #3, the reference to the crater Tycho is used to give a sense of the size of the crater that struck the Yucatán. However, the topic of meteorite activity on the moon is not a focus of this passage.

On-screen: [third answer option is highlighted] There have also been large meteorite impacts on the surface of the Moon, leaving craters like Tycho. [red x appears next to answer option]
Michael: Answer #4 combines several facts that together provide a summary of an important idea from the passage. This is supported by information given in paragraphs 2 and 3.

On-screen: [fourth answer option is highlighted] An iridium-enriched sediment layer and a large impact crater in the Yucatán provide evidence that a large meteorite struck Earth about 65 million years ago.  [green check appears next to answer option]

[passage excerpt comes on screen with highlighted text]
If an impact is large enough, it can disturb the environment of the entire Earth and cause an ecological catastrophe. The best-documented such impact took place 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period of geological history. This break in Earth's history is marked by a mass extinction, when as many as half the species on the planet became extinct. While there are a dozen or more mass extinctions in the geological record, the Cretaceous mass extinction has always intrigued paleontologists because it marks the end of the age of the dinosaurs. For tens of millions of years, those great creatures had flourished. Then, suddenly, they disappeared.

The body that impacted Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period was a meteorite with a mass of more than a trillion tons and a diameter of at least 10 kilometers. Scientists first identified this impact in 1980 from the worldwide layer of sediment deposited from the dust cloud that enveloped the planet after the impact. This sediment layer is enriched in the rare metal iridium and other elements that are relatively abundant in a meteorite but very rare in the crust of Earth. Even diluted by the terrestrial material excavated from the crater, this component of meteorites is easily identified. By 1990 geologists had located the impact site itself in the Yucatán region of Mexico. The crater, now deeply buried in sediment, was originally about 200 kilometers in diameter.
Michael: Answer #5 is about the effects of meteorite impacts, which is an important idea of the passage. We can see this in paragraph 4, where it talks about the mass destruction from the cold, darkness and fires. And in paragraph 5 where it talks about the catastrophic results.

On-screen: [fifth answer option is highlighted] Large meteorite impacts, such as one at the end of the Cretaceous period, can seriously affect climate, ecological niches, plants, and animals. [green check appears next to answer option]

[passage excerpt comes on screen with highlighted text]
This impact released an enormous amount of energy, excavating a crater about twice as large as the lunar crater Tycho. The explosion lifted about 100 trillion tons of dust into the atmosphere, as can be determined by measuring the thickness of the sediment layer formed when this dust settled to the surface. Such a quantity of material would have blocked the sunlight completely from reaching the surface, plunging Earth into a period of cold and darkness that lasted at least several months. The explosion is also calculated to have produced vast quantities of nitric acid and melted rock that sprayed out over much of Earth, starting widespread fires that must have consumed most terrestrial forests and grassland. Presumably, those environmental disasters could have been responsible for the mass extinction, including the death of the dinosaurs. Several other mass extinctions in the geological record have been tentatively identified with large impacts, but none is so dramatic as the Cretaceous event. But even without such specific documentation, it is clear that impacts of this size do occur and that their results can be catastrophic. What is a catastrophe for one group of living things, however, may create opportunities for another group. Following each mass extinction, there is a sudden evolutionary burst as new species develop to fill the ecological niches opened by the event.

[passage excerpt comes on screen with highlighted text]
Impacts by meteorites represent one mechanism that could cause global catastrophes and seriously influence the evolution of life all over the planet. According to some estimates, the majority of all extinctions of species may be due to such impacts. Such a perspective fundamentally changes our view of biological evolution. The standard criterion for the survival of a species is its success in competing with other species and adapting to slowly changing environments. Yet an equally important criterion is the ability of a species to survive random global ecological catastrophes due to impacts.
Michael: Answer #6 is another important idea that is stated in a similar sentence in paragraph 5: ‘What is a catastrophe for one group of living things, however, may create opportunities for another group."

On-screen: [sixth answer option is highlighted] Meteorite impacts can be advantageous for some species, which thrive, and disastrous for other species, which become extinct. [green check appears next to answer option]

[passage excerpt comes on screen with highlighted text]
This impact released an enormous amount of energy, excavating a crater about twice as large as the lunar crater Tycho. The explosion lifted about 100 trillion tons of dust into the atmosphere, as can be determined by measuring the thickness of the sediment layer formed when this dust settled to the surface. Such a quantity of material would have blocked the sunlight completely from reaching the surface, plunging Earth into a period of cold and darkness that lasted at least several months. The explosion is also calculated to have produced vast quantities of nitric acid and melted rock that sprayed out over much of Earth, starting widespread fires that must have consumed most terrestrial forests and grassland. Presumably, those environmental disasters could have been responsible for the mass extinction, including the death of the dinosaurs. Several other mass extinctions in the geological record have been tentatively identified with large impacts, but none is so dramatic as the Cretaceous event. But even without such specific documentation, it is clear that impacts of this size do occur and that their results can be catastrophic. What is a catastrophe for one group of living things, however, may create opportunities for another group. Following each mass extinction, there is a sudden evolutionary burst as new species develop to fill the ecological niches opened by the event.

Michael: So for this question, answers 4, 5 and 6 are the correct three choices.

On-screen: [answer options 4, 5 and 6 move to the selected bulleted spots]

Skill building tips – Creating Outlines

Michael: You can work to improve your reading skills by creating your own outlines or charts when you read a passage. Pick a chart format that is helpful for you, like one of these…
…and as you read, identify the main ideas and supporting details. As you practice more, you will be able to take fewer notes to outline the points.

On-screen: [displays different outline forms]
Chart 1: Spider map
Idea
Example
Example
Example
Example

Chart 2: Basic Outline Form

  1. Main Idea
    1. Subsidiary or supporting idea to I
    2. Subsidiary or supporting idea to I
      1. Subsidiary idea to B
      2. Subsidiary idea to B
        1. Subsidiary idea to 2
        2. Subsidiary idea to 2
  2. Main Idea
    1. Subsidiary or supporting idea to II
    2. Subsidiary or supporting idea to II
    3. Subsidiary or supporting idea to II
  3. Main Idea

Chart 3: Graphic Organizer- Main idea chart
Topic
Main Idea
Supporting Detail
Supporting Detail
Supporting Detail
Supporting Detail

Michael: There are lots of ways to improve your English skills. Whatever you do, keep practicing. And good luck on your TOEFL test.

On-screen: For more information about the TOEFL® test and to register, visit the TOEFL® website at www.toeflgoanywhere.org
[END]

Total length of video: 4:37