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TOEFL Reading Skill 3: Simplify Meanings of Sentences

In the Reading section of the iBT TOEFL test, you may be asked to simplify the meaning of a long and complex sentence. In this type of question, you must choose the one answer that is closest to the meaning of a sentence that is highlighted in the passage.

The following chart outlines the key information that you should remember about questions testing the simplified meanings of sentences.

QUESTIONS ABOUT SIMPLIFYING THE MEANINGS OF SENTENCES
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE QUESTION Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information ... ?
HOW TO FIND THE ANSWER 
The targeted sentence is highlighted in the passage. Information to answer question is in the highlighted sentence and may also be in the context around highlighted sentence. 
 
 HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION
1. Study the highlighted sentence carefully.

2. Break the sentence down into meaningful parts by looking for punctuation transition expressions.
3. If the highlighted sentence makes references to information outside of the highlighted sentence, read the context around the highlighted sentence.
 4. Study the answer choices, and eliminate definitely wrong answers.
5. Choose the best answer from the remaining choices. 
 


Look at an example from the TOEFL test that asks how to simplify the meaning of a highlighted sentence.

Example 1: The Great Red Spot

One distinctive feature of the planet Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a massive oval of swirling reddish-brown clouds. Were Earth to be juxtaposed with the Great Red Spot, our planet would be dwarfed in comparison, with a diameter less than half that of the Great Red Spot. The Spot's clouds, most likely tinted red as a result of the phosphorus that they contain, circulate in a counterclockwise direction. The outer winds require six Earth days to complete the circumference of the Great Red Spot, a length of time indicative of the vastness of the Great Red Spot.

Question 1: Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.

aThe density of the Great Red Spot is much higher than that of the Earth.
b. If the diameter of the Great Red Spot were doubled, it would equal that of the Earth.
cBy placing the Earth next to the Great Red Spot, one could see that the Earth has a much smaller diameter.
dBecause the Earth is close to the Great Red Spot, Earth is influenced by its huge size.

This question asks about the essential meaning of a complex sentence. To answer this question, you should break the complex sentence down into parts. The first part of the sentence says Ivere Earth to be juxtaposed with the Great Red Spot, which means by placing the Earth next to the Great Red Spot. The next part of the sentence states that our planer would be dwarfed in comparison, with a diameter less than half that of the Great Red Spot, which means that the Earth has a milch smaller diameter. To answer this question, you should click on the third answer.


Now look at another example that asks how to simplify the meaning of a highlighted sentence.

Example 2: The Great Red Spot

One distinctive feature of the planet Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a massive oval of swirling reddish-brown clouds. Were Earth to be juxtaposed with the Great Red Spot, our planet would be dwarfed in comparison, with a diameter less than half that of the Great Red Spot. The Spot's clouds, most likely tinted red as a result of the phosphorus that they contain, circulate in a counterclockwise direction. The outer winds require six Earth daystocompfetethe circumference of the Great Red Spot, a length of time indicative of the vastness of the Great Red Spot.

Question 2: Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.

a. The Earth's outer winds move a distance equal to the circumference of the Great Red Spot.
b. The outer winds of the Great Red Spot move more quickly than do those on Earth.
c. The winds moving across the Great Red Spot finally change direction every six Earth days.
d. The fact that the winds take so long to move around the Great Red Spot proves how big it is.

This question asks about the essential information in the highlighted sentence. To answer this question, you should break the highlighted sentence down into meaningful parts. The first part of the highlighted' sentence states that the outer winds require six Earth days to complete the circumference of the Great Red Spot, which means that the winds take so long to move around the Great Red Spot. The second part of the highlighted sentence states that this is a length of time indicative of the vastness of the Great Red Spot, which means that this proves how big it is. To answer this question, you should click on the last answer.