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"Such" is the clue: TOEFL sentence insertion questions

TOEFL reading sentence insertion
 Dr. Byrnes' TOEFL Reading Self-study Course: Sample Lecture

‘Such’ is a versatile word. As a determiner, it has two main functions. One is to add  emphasis. ‘Such’ can be used with countable nouns and uncountable nouns. When used with a singular countable noun, ‘such’ comes before the indefinite article, a/an.

She has such lovely hair. 

They are such happy people.

He is such a kind person.

The other function of ‘such’ is to mean ‘of this or that kind.’ This use of such is employed mainly in a formal setting, like academic or business situations.  

While protesting in the street, people may not resort to violence. Such a protest will not be condoned. 

In December 1901, Marconi successfully transmitted the letter S from England to Newfoundland, defeating Tesla in the race to be first to complete such a transmission. 

Like many other determiners, ‘such’ can be used as an indefinite pronoun. When used in this way, ‘such’ means something (or things) of the type previously mentioned or exemplified.

Such was the result.

It is a serious problem and should be treated as such. 

If such is the decision, nothing further should be done.

Let’s consider sentence-insertion questions where ‘such’ is the clue word.


Question 1 (medium)

  • Tesla was critical of theories about the conversion of matter into energy and Einstein's theory of relativity. In his letter, he stated as follows:

  1.  I hold that space cannot be curved, for the simple reason that it can have no properties.

  2.  Of properties we can only speak when dealing with matter filling the space. 

  3. To say that in the presence of large bodies space becomes curved is equivalent to stating that something can act upon nothing.   D

Target sentence:  

I, for one, refuse to subscribe to such a view.


“Such a view” indicates that the view is already mentioned. Based on the context (in his letter), we know that ‘I’ refers to Tesla. So the target sentence  talks about a view that Tesla rejects.

The dot sentence is a general statement. 

A  talks about a view that Tesla believes. But we are looking for a view that Tesla rejects.

B follows directly from A as B further explains the view presented in A.

C. talks about a view which Tesla thinks absurd.  So C is the sentence we are looking for. 

Answer: D

Question 2 (hard)

  1. Previously, units of grain had been represented by direct one-to-one correspondence―by repeating the token or symbol for a unit of grain the required number of times. 

  2. The accountants, however, devised numeral signs distinct from commodity signs, so that eighteen units of grain could be indicated by preceding a single grain symbol with a symbol denoting “18.” 

  3. Their invention of abstract numerals and abstract counting was one of the most revolutionary advances in the history of mathematics. D

Target sentence:

Such a system was clearly awkward for large inventories.


‘Such a system’ indicates that (a description of) a system was mentioned earlier. The sentence also says the system was inadequate for large inventories. So, the target sentence should come after a description of an inadequate system.

A talks about a system that was cumbersome  So after A is  a good candidate. With this in mind, let’s skim the rest of the choices.

B talks about an efficient system (but clearly not a decimal system given that ‘18’ can be denoted by a single symbol). 

C says that the new system was revolutionary.

Since B and C talk about an efficient system, after A is the best option. This question can be viewed as a hard question since the antecedent of ‘such’ is implicit, instead of being explicit.



Question 3 (medium) 

  1. In the deeper waters of the oceans, there is a much greater tendency for animals to await the arrival of food particles or prey rather than to search them out actively (thus minimizing energy expenditure). 

  2. This has resulted in a more stealthy style of feeding, with the consequent emphasis on lures and/or the evolution of elongated appendages that increase the active volume of water controlled or monitored by the animal. 

  3. Another consequence of the limited availability of prey is that many animals have developed ways of coping with much larger food particles, relative to their own body size, than the equivalent shallower species can process. D

Target sentence:

Such a passive approach requires those animals to develop specialized methods of acquiring food.


“Such a passive approach” is the clue word. We need to look for a sentence that describes a passive approach. Sentences that follow the target sentences should be specialized methods of acquiring food.

A talks about animals waiting for the arrival of prey, which is passive. So after A is a good candidate. 

Target sentence: the manner of waiting for prey led to some specialized methods.

B talks about examples of specialized methods. 

C also talks about a specialized adaptation. So after A is the only option logically.



Question 4 (medium) 

  1. Firefighters became much more successful at achieving that goal after 1945, thanks to improved firefighting technology. 

  2. For a few decades the amount of land burnt annually decreased by 80 percent. 

  3. That happy situation began to change in the 1980s, due to the increasing frequency of large forest fires that were essentially impossible to extinguish unless rain and low winds combined to help. D

Target sentence:

Such a reduction seemed to demonstrate that the program of fire suppression was having its desired effect.


‘Such a reduction’ indicates that the sentence before the target sentence should be about reduction. So we should look for a sentence that contains a synonym of ‘reduction’ or a description of a phenomenon relating to reduction. 

A says firefighting became more successful with new technology.

B says the amount of land burnt decreased by 80 percent. ‘Decrease’ is a reduction. So B is what we are looking for. So place the target sentence after B, and check the logical flow of ideas.

Target sentence: The reduction of the burnt land seemed to show that the program seemed to work.

C says that the optimistic situation changed due to large, practically inextinguishable forest fires. Ideas flow naturally.


Question 5 (easy)

  1. Not long after settling with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk issued a tweet, stating that Tesla would build half a million cars in 2019.

  2. The case was eventually settled by a joint agreement between Musk and the SEC clarifying the previous agreement details. 

  3. The agreement included a list of topics that Musk would need preclearance before tweeting about.  D

Target sentence:

The SEC filed in court, asking the court to hold him in contempt for violating the terms of a settlement agreement with such a tweet. 


‘Such a tweet’ indicates that the sentence before the target sentence should mention a tweet. A talks about a tweet. So A is the answer.

Answer: A