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Wrong Answer Trap: Distorted Meanings
This type of wrong answer that we’re going to talk about in this video is a little bit tricky. In fact, I think it’s one of the trickiest kinds of wrong answers that you will see on your TOEFL, and I’ll show you why. So a distorted answer. Let’ say we have a question in the reading section about a detail.
Here’s the question. According to the first paragraph, animals differ from plants in that they okay, so we want animals differ from plants. These are our keywords, and we look in the first paragraph, and I see animals here, and I see plants are talked about many times, actually, and I see more about animals here.
And, here we go. Here’s a comparison. So this animals and comparisons, now we have animals, compared to plants. Our answer is probably in this section. So, let’s read here. There are of course relatively few animals which reproduce in this way.
This way refers back here, to some type of procreation which was here, about cloning. Certain types of fish do it, but most creatures from the animal kingdom have two parents. In comparison, plants often reproduce, frequently reproduce asexually. So we could say that animals differ from plants in that they reproduce by the two parent method, sexual reproduction.
This answer choice here has a lot of the right stuff. It’s about the reproductive methods being different. But this part is not quite right. It’s similar, but look at these words here, vary more greatly. There is a distortion here in these words in particular. And the relationship between animals and plants is a little bit distorted.
In the text, we saw that animals more often have sexual reproduction. And plants sometimes are asexual. But the varying more greatly. So that means there’s more variety, there are more options, different ways. So that might mean that plants have only a couple types of reproduction and animals have many types of reproduction.
That’s not what the text said. This relationship has been changed. So, a wrong answer can look very tempting because it can have the right keywords. It can be about the right part of the text and it can even make sense, but still be wrong. So just finding the right part of the text and the key words is not enough.
You also need to think about the meaning of the sentence based on the relationships between the parts. In particular, relationships between nouns and verbs. The main parts of the sentence. So, how do you avoid this trap? Well, first it helps to break up the sentence.
When I say actor and action, usually I mean the noun and the verb. The subject and the verb. In some sentences, the actor is not the subject. But think about what is the main noun that is doing something, and what are they doing? What is the action, the verb?
If you can find the actor and the action, then you can be careful about distortion, which changes the actor. Say, for example you know? I ate a burger. Well, if we have a burger ate, obviously, this is a problem. Because now, the actor is different.
Originally, the actor was I, but then it was changed to a burger, and a burger ate nothing, right? So this is one type of distortion, changing the subject and the object. So be careful to look for that action. And look at the subject and the verb first. Also be careful about essential and nonessential clauses.
What information is part of the main idea. So here’s an example. In the spring, brown bears awaken and feed largely on carrion. Okay, so let’s take a look here at the actor and action. Brown bears are the actor, and I’ll underline action to show that this is awaken and feed.
These are all the verb, the action. And down here, we have brown bears, which awaken in the spring, feed largely on carrion. This part here is inessential, nonessential, because it is in this comma clause with which. That makes it nonessential, so these have very different meanings.
Let’s think about the meaning difference. This one says all brown bears awaken and feed in the spring. This one says, brown bears, all awaken in the spring and that’s different because after this, we see feed. So now brown bears feed on carrion. That means brown bears all feed on carrion.
It’s different from awakening and feeding on carrion. This one says in the spring they feed on carrion, this one says they always feed on carrion. So that’s different. So be careful about where information is moved to. If it is moved into a non-essential clause like this, it might distort the meaning of the sentence.
There are some other things to beware of, similar to what we already saw. Beware of comparisons, more than, less than. Be aware of cause and effect. If A causes B, one of the answer choices might say that B causes A and that’s going to be wrong. And similarly, order in time, what comes first?
If it’s first A, and then second B, one of the answer choices might have those reversed. It might distort them so it’s B and then A. So be very careful about how the relationships in the sentence work. Right if you see a relationship between two nouns, be sure that the same relationship is in the answer choices.
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