Specific Skills Exercise:
Drawing the Appropriate Inference

Copyright 2004 © Laraine Flemming.
Copyright is granted exclusively to instructors and students using textbooks written by Laraine Flemming. General distribution and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

Directions: Read each paragraph. Then write a sentence that sums up the implied main idea of the paragraph.


Those who insist that every teenager should have a part-time job argue that working while in school helps young people gain valuable job skills. In particular, it's supposed to develop character traits such as a sense of responsibility, high self-esteem, a strong work ethic, and financial savvy. Yet research conducted throughout the 1980s and 1990s indicates that most jobs open to teens provide no training in skills useful in the job market. Nor does the part-time work available to teenagers provide opportunity for growth or advancement. The fact is that most teenagers today work in unchallenging, low-paying, entry-level jobs totally unrelated to their career goals. Furthermore, several studies found that teenagers who work do less well in school than do teens who don't have a job. Working teens spend less time on their homework, cut more classes, and earn lower grades. They are also less likely than non-working teens to participate in extracurricular or other school activities. Studies reveal that teens who work are also more likely to smoke, drink, and use other drugs. They're also more likely to skip school, and they face an increased risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. (Source of information: Paul S. Kaplan, Adolescence, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004, pp. 420-421)

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At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, athletes in a number of sports, from swimming to weight lifting, set 28 new world records. They also tied two world records. During the same Games, 40 Olympic records were broken, and two were tied. The race times that won Olympian Mark Spitz seven gold medals in 1972 are regularly achieved by today's swimmers during practice. In fact, world records in swimming are now recorded in erasable marker because they are broken so often. Outside the Olympics, cyclist Lance Armstrong won a record sixth consecutive Tour de France race in 2004, surpassing everything ever achieved in that sport. Similarly football players in 2004 were also larger, stronger, and faster than ever before. In the late 1960s for example, the average offensive lineman of the champion Green Bay Packers weighed 245 pounds. Today's offensive lineman averages almost 100 pounds more. Things have also changed in the world of baseball. When Hank Aaron hit his 755th career home run in 1976, he was 6 feet tall and weighed 180 pounds. Nowadays we have record-breaking players such as Barry Bonds, 6 feet 2 inches tall and 230 pounds, and Mark McGwire, 6 feet 5 inches tall and 250 pounds. In the world of figure skating, skaters routinely perform triple and even quadruple jumps, feats that skaters thirty years ago wouldn't have even dreamed possible. (Source of information: Tim Povtak, "Bigger, Faster, Stronger (With No Limit in Sight)," Orlando Sentinel, August 13, 2004, www.orlandosentinel.com)

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People buy lottery tickets in hopes of becoming lucky and striking it rich. But does winning $1 million or more in a lottery really solve a person's problems and make him or her better off? H. Roy Kaplan, author of several books on lottery winners, has interviewed more than 600 people, each of whom won more than a million dollars. According to Kaplan, "You can catapult people from one economic status to another overnight, but a lifetime of beliefs and experiences changes more slowly." As one study showed, instant millionaires reported being no happier than people who had been recent victims of accidents. Indeed, psychologists point out that people's level of happiness tends to be unaffected by money. Plus, recent lottery winners often find themselves bombarded with requests for money from family, friends, and even strangers. The result is that many of the newly rich become suspicious about the sincerity of their friends and with good reason. Quite a few lottery winners have been slapped with lawsuits brought by former friends who hoped to come away with some of the lottery prize money. Other winners have gotten hooked on drugs like cocaine and spent their fortunes on drugs; some even went to jail for using or selling drugs. The spouses of many winners have divorced them. And more than a few instant millionaires not only spent every dime within a few years and but also ended up having to declare bankruptcy when the money ran out. (Source of information: Ron French, "$325 Million: Big Win, Big Problems?" The Detroit News, April 16, 2002, www.detnews.com/2002/metro/0204/16/b01-466437.htm)

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All fifty states in America prohibit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. The legal age for smoking is 18 in all states but Alabama, Alaska, and Utah, where it is 19. Other states, such as California, are considering raising the age to 19. The minimum drinking age is even higher. In the United States, one must be 21 years of age to drink legally. And marijuana is totally illegal except in a handful of states that allow its use when prescribed by a doctor for medicinal purposes. In several European countries, however, the legal smoking age is lower. The minimum age is 16 in counties like England, Finland, and Ireland. In Italy, the minimum age is only 14, and in other countries, such as Belgium, Portugal, and Denmark, there is no minimum age at all. The legal drinking age, too, is lower in many European countries. In Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, for instance, the legal drinking age is 16. It's only 14 in Switzerland, and there is no minimum age at all in Portugal and Sweden. What's more, marijuana use has been decriminalized in several European countries, including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

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Parents usually assume that their teenaged children would learn more and make better grades if they didn't listen to music while doing their homework. To test this assumption, 40 students in a study at Minnesota State University were given a list of 50 words randomly selected from a dictionary. They were given 6½ minutes to study the list of words and then 6½ more minutes to write down as many of the words as they could remember. The experiment was conducted under four different testing conditions. Some of the subjects were tested while they listened to popular music. This group recalled an average of 12.4 words from the list. Other students studied with the music playing but tested without it. They remembered an average of 12.9 words. Still others studied with no music but were tested with music playing. They recalled an average of 12.8 words. The last group, which was tested without any music at all, remembered an average of about 15 words. A similar study conducted at Ohio University compared students who studied with and without music. The results of the Ohio study were similar in that the presence of music did not have a profound effect on students' scores. (Sources of information: Kristin Sandberg and Sarah Harmon, "Effects of Popular Music on Memorization Tasks," http://www.mnsu.edu/research/URC/OnlinePublications/URC2003OnlinePublication/SandbergHarmon.doc; Robert Wallace, "Listening to Music Won't Hurt Study," The Charlotte Observer, September 12, 2004, p. 2E)

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Last change made to this page: December 1, 2004

Answer key

Reading for Thinking: Additional Material