Insert Text Questions in TOEFL Reading

Learn about Insert text questions in TOEFL reading with an overview, recommended strategy and practice question.

by Tim Martyn

a robot


Insert text questions test your ability to understand the logical order of ideas in a reading passage.

Here are some key points about Insert text questions:

  • You’ll be given a sentence and be asked to decide where it would best fit in the passage. There will be 4 possible positions for the sentence.
  • In the real TOEFL test, you’ll have to click on black squares [ ■ ] to show where the sentence fits best. These will appear at the beginnings or ends of sentences.
  • You’ll have to answer one Insert text question in every question set – there will never be more than one in a single question set.

Example question

Here’s an example Insert text question from a passage about automation in the workplace.

You can try this question in the practice section.

Look at the four letters – (A), (B), (C) and (D) – that indicate where the following sentence can be added to the passage.

The effects could be even more pronounced in wealthy industrialized nations, where researchers expect that up to one third of the workforce will be affected.

Where would the sentence best fit?

Practice question

Now it’s your turn to practise. Answer the Insert text question below.

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Robotics and Automation in the Workplace

Advances in the field of robotics—a combination of computer science, mechanical and electronics engineering, and science—have meant that machines or related forms of automation now do the work of humans in a wide variety of settings, such as medicine, where robots perform surgeries previously done by the surgeon’s hand. Robots have made it easier and cheaper for employers to get work done. The downside, however, is that some reasonably well-paying jobs that provided middle-class employment for humans have become the province of machines.

A McKinsey Global Institute study of eight hundred occupations in nearly fifty countries showed that more than 800 million jobs, or 20 percent of the global workforce, could be lost to robotics by the year 2030. (A) By 2030, the report estimates that 39 million to 73 million jobs may be eliminated in the United States. (B) Given that the level of employment in the United States in mid-2018 is approaching 150 million workers, this potential loss of jobs represents roughly one quarter to one half of total current employment. (C) However, this will be a smaller share of employment in 2030 because of future population and employment growth. (D)

The big question, then, is what will happen to all these displaced workers. The McKinsey report estimates that about twenty million of them will be able to transfer easily to other industries for employment. But this still leaves between twenty million and more than fifty million displaced workers who will need new employment. Occupational retraining is likely to be a path taken by some, but older workers, as well as geographically immobile workers, are unlikely to opt for such training and may endure job loss for protracted periods.

In developing countries, the report predicts that the number of jobs requiring less education will shrink. Furthermore, robotics will have less impact in poorer countries because these nations’ workers are already paid so little that employers will save less on labor costs by automating. According to the report, for example, by the same date of 2030, India is expected to lose only about 9 percent of its jobs to emerging technology.

Which occupations will be most heavily affected? Not surprisingly, the McKinsey report concludes that machine operators, factory workers, and food workers will be hit hardest, because robots can do their jobs more precisely and efficiently. “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficiently making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” said a former McDonald’s CEO in another article about the consequences of robots in the labor market. He estimated that automation has already cut the number of people working in a McDonald’s by half since the 1960s and that this trend will continue. Other hard-hit jobs will include mortgage brokers, paralegals, accountants, some office staff, cashiers, toll booth operators, and car and truck drivers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that eighty thousand fast-food jobs will disappear by 2024. As growing numbers of retail stores like Walmart, CVS, and McDonald’s provide automated self-checkout options, it has been estimated that 7.5 million retail jobs are at risk over the course of the next decade. Furthermore, it has been estimated that as self-driving cars and trucks replace automobile and truck drivers, five million jobs will be lost in the early 2020s.

Jobs requiring human interaction are typically at low risk for being replaced by automation. These include nurses and most physicians, lawyers, teachers, and bartenders, as well as social workers (estimated by the BLS to grow by 19 percent by 2024), hairstylists and cosmetologists, youth sports coaches, and songwriters. McKinsey also anticipates that specialized lower-wage jobs like gardening, plumbing, and care work will be less affected by automation.

The challenge to the economy, then, will be how to address the prospect of substantial job loss; about twenty million to fifty million people will not be able to easily find new jobs. The McKinsey report notes that new technology, as in the past, will generate new types of jobs. But this is unlikely to help more than a small fraction of those confronting unemployment. So the United States will likely face some combination of rapidly rising unemployment, an urgent need to retrain twenty million or more workers, and recourse to policies whereby the government serves as an employer of last resort.

“Business Ethics” by OpenStax is licensed under CC BY 4.0. A small excerpt was extracted from Chapter 10 and edited. This textbook can be downloaded free from

Look at the four letters – (A), (B), (C) and (D) – that indicate where the following sentence can be added to the passage.

The effects could be even more pronounced in wealthy industrialized nations, where researchers expect that up to one third of the workforce will be affected.

Where would the sentence best fit?


Click below for the answer.

The correct position for the sentence is at (A).

Some of the key words/phrases in the sentence are “The effects”, “even more”, “wealthy industrialized nations” and “up to one third”.

The use of “The effects” and “even more” means that we’d expect to find some kind of negative effect in the preceding sentence, and because of “up to one third”, we’d expect that negative effect not to be as bad as one third of workers losing their jobs. Indeed, if we look at the sentence before (A), we can see that the writer refers to global job losses of 20%, which is less than one third.

What’s more, it’s unlikely that the writer would introduce the idea of “wealthy industrialized nations” if they had already referred to the United States, which is an example of a wealthy industrialized nation. This gives us further clues that (A) is the correct position for the sentence.