Reading for Results - Online Practice
Inferring Supporting Details

Copyright 2006 © Laraine Flemming.
The right to copy this material is granted exclusively to instructors and students using textbooks written by Laraine Flemming. General distribution and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

Directions: Select the supporting detail implied in each passage. To complete this exercise, you'll need to evaluate each of the four choices in terms of what the passage actually says.

Note: If you let the cursor rest on a pink word, a brief definition will pop up.


Richard Warren Sears, the founder of the Sears company, is a perfect example of the peculiarly American rags-to-riches story. Born to a rural Minnesota family, Sears knew already as a teenager that he needed a way to support himself and help his parents. To make sure he would have a steady paycheck, he learned to use a telegraph so he could become a railroad agent. In 1886, a package of watches sent by railroad was refused by the addressee, and the owner of the watch company asked Sears if he would like to buy the watches for half price. The watches were gold and worth about twenty-five dollars each. Sears could have them for twelve dollars apiece. But Sears didn't buy the watches. Instead, he offered them to other station agents at fourteen dollars a watch. Since he could use the railroad package service for free, he sent the watches C.O.D. (Cash on Delivery). Then he sat back and waited to get paid, so he, in turn, could pay the watch company. All in all, Sears earned a solid profit having invested absolutely nothing. Jubilant at his success, he started a venture with a wholesale watch company and within six months he made $5,000, a fortune for the time. It was also enough for Sears to quit the railroad, move to Chicago, and start his own lucrative mail-order watch business in 1886. By 1887, he had teamed up with a young watchmaker named Alvah Curtis Roebuck and by 1889, the two were able to sell their watch business for $70,000. By 1893, they had branched from watches into a wide range of merchandise including clothes, furniture and sewing machines. The company Sears founded, (then known as Sears, Roebuck) survives to this day.

To fully understand the passage, readers need to infer which supporting detail?

a. Richard Sears would do anything in order to get ahead in the world.

b. Richard Sears illustrates the American rags-to-riches story because he began his life poor and ended up rich.

c. Typically for a rags-to-riches story, Richard Sears experienced multiple failures before he became a successful merchant.

d. Richard Sears's life illustrates the typically American willingness to work long, hard hours in order to get ahead in the world and become rich.


Stephen M. Case, the former chairman of America Online, is an Internet pioneer, who helped convince the American public that surfing the net was both easy and fun. Now Case has a new and innovative project: He is one of the major forces moving health care to the local shopping mall. Shopping mall clinics are springing up in chain stores as an antidote to the problem of patients with minor ailments waiting an hour in the doctor's office or, even worse, half a day in the emergency room. Close to one hundred shopping mall clinics are currently in operation around the country, and if Stephen Case and Michael Howe, a former executive at Arby's restaurants, have anything to say about it, there are many more to come. According to Case, the idea for the clinics came to him when he rushed his daughter to the emergency room because it was Sunday and she had a painful earache. They waited four hours to see a doctor, and in Case's words, the wait was "crazy" for "a society in which everything is convenient other than what people care most about, which is taking care of their health." Currently, Case has 11 RediClinics up and running. By the end of this year, he will open 90 more in places like Wal-Mart, CVS and Duane Reade pharmacies. According to his three-year plan, he will open 500 more clinics nationwide. Others who have started similar clinics include Dr. Glen D. Nelson, whose Minute Clinic has branches in 73 stores, and former travel executive Hal Rosenbluth. While patients and insurance companies, so far at least, seem excited by the new and readily accessible form of health care, members of the American Medical Association have voiced some doubts about conflict of interest, wondering if pharmacies might be inclined to encourage the use of prescription drugs that weren't necessary. Advocates of the shopping mall concept, however, insist that with proper monitoring, the shopping mall clinics should guarantee cheap, affordable health care that is also completely safe for the patients who use it. (Source of information: Milt Freudenhaim, "Attention Shoppers: Low Prices on Shots in the Clinic Off Aisle 7," The New York Times, Sunday, May 14, 2006, p.1)

To fully understand the passage, readers need to infer which supporting detail?

a. Stephen Case thinks that pharmacies give better care than doctors' offices do.

b. Stephen Case and his daughter had to wait four hours for treatment because doctors don't generally see patients on a Sunday.

c. Everyone in America has a shopping mall nearby, which makes a shopping mall the best place to locate a walk-in clinic.

d. Health care is the only necessity that has never been made convenient for the average consumer.


The majority of American women giving birth nowadays do not have midwives in attendance. The percentage of U.S. births attended by midwives is only five per cent. But things were very different in 1900 when fifty per cent of all babies were midwife-delivered. The decline in the use of midwives has never fully been explained. It doesn't seem that safety was really the issue that caused midwives to all but disappear. According to Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, authors of For Her Own Good, midwives simply got caught up in a power struggle not of their own making and were forced out of their profession. The authors claim that midwives were forced out by a new generation of medical-school-trained doctors who had decided that medicine, from womb to tomb, was men's, rather than women's, sphere. Ehrenreich and English seem to have a point. Consider the 1912 statement by male obstetricians A.B. Edmonds and J.L. Huntington: "It has always been a rule that the more immigrants arriving in a locality, the more midwives flourishing there, but as soon as the immigrant is assimilated and becomes part of our civilization, then the midwife is no longer a factor in his home." At the time the doctors are writing, the very idea of immigration was under attack in the United States, and the association the two men make between midwives and immigrants was meant to send an implicit message: The use of midwives was a foreign practice that was bound to disappear as people became truly Americanized. Huntington and Edmonds were not alone. Their sentiments were echoed by the medical journals, which were even blunter than the good doctors: "Make yourself heard in the land and the ignorant meddlesome midwife will soon be a thing of the past." (Sources of information: Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, For her Own Good, New York: Doubleday Books, 1978, pp. 93-98;

To fully understand the passage, readers need to infer which supporting detail?

a. Midwives did not put up a fight to hold onto their role in helping women give birth.

b. Midwives did have some supporters among the emerging medical establishment.

c. The authors of medical journals supported the doctors' attempt to take over the role of helping women in childbirth.

d. Midwives did fight back, but without the support of newspapers and journals, their battle was doomed to failure.


Thanks to television and movies, many people believe that if you want access to someone's hidden or unconscious thoughts, hypnosis will provide it: Put people into a hypnotic trance and presto, you can unlock their deepest secrets. While this view of hypnosis might make for good televised or cinematic drama, it doesn't have much factual support. For one thing, not everyone can be hypnotized. People who are not suggestible and who aren't highly imaginative are all but impossible to hypnotize. Then, too, hypnosis, instead of unlocking the truth, is likely to distort it. That's because people under hypnosis, who are highly suggestible to begin with, become even more suggestible. Tell them that they have been kidnapped as children and they will end up thinking that they have really experienced a kidnapping. In other words, there's a good reason why the courts look with suspicion on testimony given while a person is hypnotized. Such testimony is likely to be based on memories created by the hypnotist rather than the subject.

To fully understand the passage, readers need to infer which supporting detail?

a. People who are suspicious by nature are not good candidates for hypnosis.

b. People who watch a lot of television are among the easiest to hypnotize because they are used to living in a fantasy world and are ready to believe almost anything, even if the events described are highly unusual, even unbelievable.

c. In movies, crime solvers successfully use hypnosis to make people talk about experiences they want to forget or hide; people who watch these movies then think the same thing can happen in reality.

d. When suggestible people are hypnotized, they are ready to believe what they are told and this is one reason why some people who come out of a hypnosis session suddenly believe that they were kidnapped by aliens.


Not too long ago, two women sat down at a French Roast restaurant on Broadway in New York. The women were not alone. They had their dogs with them. One had a golden retriever, the other a rookie. At one time, the women would have been shown the door by the manager because, except for guide dogs used by the blind, dogs were not allowed in restaurants. Such rules about dogs and other pets, however, may well be becoming a thing of the past as more and more people insist that their dogs are necessary to their emotional well-being. In fact, when the manager at French Roast questioned the dogs' presence, that is exactly what he was told: The dogs were providing their owners with emotional support. One of the women even had a letter from her doctor saying just that: She needed the dog nearby in order to function. Two years before the restaurant episode, tenants had used the same strategy to force their landlords into accepting the presence of dogs in two New York apartment buildings. Dog owners have become bolder about insisting on the presence of their pets ever since a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation (DOT) stating that people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be allowed to have dogs present on airplanes. In short, they should be treated like other disabled people and allowed the company of a service animal. Whatever the DOT's original intentions, the chances are good that the ruling will be abused, and some people will want to bring their dogs to a restaurant or concert simply because of a bad day at work. (Source of information: Beth Landman, "Wagging the Dog, and a Finger," The New York Times, May 14, 2006, section 9, p. 1)

To fully understand the passage, readers need to infer which supporting detail?

a. The Department of Transportation realizes its mistake and is making plans to rectify it.

b. Once they let dogs into restaurants, goats and pigs are sure to follow.

c. People without pets are probably mentally healthier than people who have pets.

d. Dogs display affection and give their owners a feeling of being loved and cared for.

Last change made to this page: 06/05/06

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