1. Information about Sentence Insertion Questions
TOEFL Reading Sentence Insertion questions ask the test taker where a sentence would best fit in a paragraph in the passage. They test a person’s comprehension of logic and grammar.
There is always one Sentence Insertion question per passage. There are four black squares in the paragraph where the sentence could be inserted. If a paragraph is properly written, there should only be one place where the sentence can logically fit.
The grammatical connections between sentences may also determine where the sentence can or cannot fit. They are also always written in the same way:
Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage. Where would the sentence best fit?
2. Question Example
Here is an excerpt from a passage and its Sentence Insertion question:
■ Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that regulates the absorption of glucose into the body. The inability to generate or respond properly to insulin causes symptoms like increased thirst and appetite and frequent urination, which are commonly associated with a group of metabolic disorders called Diabetes mellitus. ■ Without proper treatment, diabetes can result in cardiovascular disease, foot ulcers, damage to the nervous system, and death. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the pancreas’s inability to produce sufficient insulin and must be treated with injections of insulin. Type 2 diabetes results from cells being unable to respond properly to insulin, and may be treated by carefully controlling diet and exercising or taking oral medication. ■ Gestational diabetes occurs in some pregnant women, but it usually resolves itself after they give birth. 436 million people suffer from diabetes worldwide, and 10 percent of cases are Type 1 diabetes. ■
Q: Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence can be added to the passage.
Until 1921, diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes was basically a death sentence, and diabetes remains the seventh most common cause of death globally.
Where would the sentence best fit?
(D) is the correct answer. This is the logical place to insert the sentence because it expands upon the previous sentence. The previous sentence talks about the frequency of Type 1 diabetes, while the inserted sentence explains how serious Type 1 diabetes was and is for patients.
The sentence cannot be inserted at (A) or (B) because those spaces come before the explanation of the types of diabetes. And it can’t be placed at (C) because it would disrupt the description of diabetes types.
3. Notes from the Test Developer
Every reading passage has one Sentence Insertion question. These questions ask where a sentence would most logically and/or grammatically fit. Sentence Insertion questions can be somewhat tricky to write. When I am writing a passage I may notice that a particular sentence would be well suited to this question type, and I will mark it for when I make the question later. However, that doesn’t happen often.
Most of the time, I finish writing a passage, and then I try to find a medium-length sentence that logically and/or grammatically only fits where it is. If it could logically and/or grammatically fit in more than one place within a paragraph, I will alter the sentence and/or paragraph until it can only fit in one place. In my experience, locations that are ruled out due to grammar are much less common than ones that are ruled out by logic.
4. Advice to Test Takers
I would advise test takers to do a few things when they need to solve a Sentence Insertion question.
First, keep in mind that there is only one place where the sentence will fit.
Second, if you cannot rule out a location logically, then it may be grammar that disqualifies that spot. You should read the passage with the answer choice in each location. Some of the wrong choices should become immediately apparent, but others may take more careful consideration.
Finally, you have limited time, and the reasons why a location is not logically or grammatically correct may be difficult to see, so you may be unable to decide between two answer choices. In that case, guess. Remember that you do not get points deducted for wrong answers in TOEFL. This is true for all questions so if you don’t know the answer or if you don’t have time to actually solve the question, guess.