Identifying main ideas and supporting details
A main idea is THE most important idea in a paragraph or passage. The main
idea may be directly stated, or it may be implied (meaning you have to use
your brain and figure it out on your own).
**If you could tell another person only one idea about a passage to help
them understand the content, what would that one idea be?
A topic sentence directly states the main idea in a paragraph.
Supporting details explain, describe, prove, or give examples about the main
idea and topic sentence.
**Note-You are most likely to be asked about details that support the
main idea. Keep in mind, if the answer choice doesn‟t give you more
information about the main idea itself, it is probably not the answer.
A thesis statement is a sentence that contains the main points of a nonfiction
Instead of having a true topic, a work of fiction may teach a lesson or a
Determining sequence of events
Chronological order is the sequence (or order) in which things happen.
Chronological order tells which event happened first, next, and last. This type
of order is used for narrating a story and in explaining a process step by step.
**Look for words that show sequence (ex. before, after, then, while,
lastly, finally, in the end). Also look for words that show time (ex. now,
today, soon, next week/month, a year later, overt time).
Some directions are clear and tell you exactly what to do, and some will be
implicit or embedded (not directly stated) in the material. If directions are
implicit, use the context to determine what you are meant to do.
If specific directions are given and stated explicitly (directly), make sure to
read one step at a time and take note of (1) the order of the directions (2) the
specific details of the directions.
An inference is a determination a reader makes based on the information
provided in a passage. When you read, you draw conclusions by combining
information from the text with what you already know. You have to think!
** You are not going to immediately know every answer on the grad exam
(and that‟s ok). Take the time to think and figure out the best answer. You
will not be able to find all the answers stated directly in the passages. Many
of them will be implied. Use your brain!
A generalization is a specific type of inference in which you apply
knowledge in a passage to new situations that are related. Making a
generalization requires you to come to a broad conclusion on specific
information already given.
Determining cause and effect
A cause makes you react in a cartain way, or makes something happen.
An effect is the reaction or other result of the cause.
A single cause may lead to multiple effects, and a single effect may be the
result of multiple causes.
Look for words like: therefore, because, as a result, since, consequently, and
for this reason to alert you to the author‟s use of cause and effect.
Passages about cause/effect relationships may center on stories, science,
history, or news events.
Propaganda: Fact from opinion
Propaganda displays extreme bias, or prejudice, for or against an issue or
cause. The goal of it is to spread information and to persuade readers.
Propaganda works hard to sell the reader on a product, an idea, or an opinion.
** Advertisers and politicians love the use of propaganda!
**Propaganda is used to get the reader to react emotionally instead of
A fact can be proven in a reference source (an encyclopedia, a dictionary, a
map, or a history book).
An opinion is a statement that shows a personal belief or viewpoint.
**Statements that express something is good or bad in some way are usually
**Opinions are beliefs that may or may not be shared by others.
**Opinions are often stated using extreme words that suggest something is
true all the time (ex. all, everyone, never, and nobody).
**Opinions often use comparative and superlative terminology (ex.
better/best, nicer/nicest, easier/easiest).
Keep in mind that fact and opinion are not the same as asking if something is
true or false. A statement presented as fact may be false (or disproved), and
an opinion is often a true statement.
Recognizing summary statements
A summary is a short retelling of a passage that includes the main idea and
most important details.
Keep in mind, if you were writing a summary, you would include information
from the beginning, middle, and end of the passage. **It only makes sense
that the best answer choice for a summarizing question is going to be one that
contains the most information from all through-out the passage. A summary
does NOT just cover one, short section.
Recognizing logic and arguments
A fallacy is a false argument. It contains poor logic, weak evidence, or
A valid argument contains good logic, solid evidence, and clear reasons
Types of fallacies:
Ad Hominem – attacking the person rather than his/her ideas
Circular Argument – stating the same thing over again in different words
Testimonial – using a famous person to endorse a product or idea
Either – Or – presenting an issue as only having two sides/opions
Cause/Effect – implying that one thing happened because of another
Name Calling – just what it says…‟name calling‟
Red Herring – distracting the audience from the main issue
Band Wagon – doing something because „everyone‟ else is doing it
Analyzing literary elements
Setting – place and time where a story takes place
Plot – sequence of events in a story
Climax – turning point in a story
Conflict – struggle in the story (can be with nature, one‟s self, others, or
Foreshadowing – clues or hints of events to come
Suspense – anticipation about what will happen in a story
Antagonist – an opponent of the hero in the story; usually causes
Protagonist – the hero or main character
Dialogue – conversation between characters
Point of view – perspective from which a writer tells a story
1st person point of view – told from the “I” point of view
3rd person point of view – writer tells the story using “he,” “she,” or
“they” (narrator is not a character in the story)
Mood – atmosphere created through details in the setting and plot
Tone – feeling or attitude conveyed th the reader
Theme – the message or meaning in the work
Understanding figurative language
Figurative language does not mean what it actually says.
**simile – a comparison between 2 unlike things like or as
**metaphor – a comparison between 2 unlike things that does not use like
**hyperbole – an extreme exaggeration
**idiom – a phrase that means something different from its literal
**personification – gives human characteristics to a nonhuman thing
Determining meaning of words
Definitions or synonyms within text can be used to determine word
meaning. Look for indicator words such as also, or, and which are. (ex.
Some people have multiple ailments or medical problems.)
Antonyms can often be found within text. Look for indicator words such
Comparison (similarities) and contrast (differences) can also be used to
determine word meaning. Make use of the information within the text.
(ex. The plan was disclosed to a number of people, but they did not tell it
Break down the word. Look at the meaning of the (1) prefix (2) suffix
and/or (3) base word. Put the meaning of each part together to determine
the total meaning .
Previewing means scanning or skimming through it quickly to see what
major ideas it contains before you spend time reading or studying it.
**Look for: titles/subtitles, heading/subheading, topic sentences, key
words, captions, illustrations and graphic displays, and footnotes
Previewing enables the reader to get a general idea of the content of a
passage. This can improve comprehension when the reader uses these
previewed elements as a guide while reading.
Predicting is deciding what will probably happen next. Even if your
prediction is wrong, it will help keep you more focused on the massage
you are reading.
Discerning organizational patterns
Authors organize ideas in multiple ways depending on the purpose and
style of the work.
Chronological order – see above (sequencing)
Spatial order – describes things according to location and in relationship
to each other.
Order of importance – lists main points or reasons in order of importance
from least to most important, or from most to least important.
Comparison and contrast – see above (determining word meanings)
Cause and effect – see above
Main idea with examples and anecdotes – see above
Demonstrate reference material usage
Dictionary – meanings, pronunciations, origins of words
Thesaurus – lists synonyms and antonyms
Periodical – a regular publication, such as a newspaper, magazine, or
journal; gives current information
Almanac – a book published yearly that contains facts about weather and
Atlas – a book of maps
Encyclopedia – a collection of articles that gives general information
about a variety of topics
Reader’s Guide – an index to periodical literature, which lists articles
alphabetically by author and topic
Appendix – additional information collected at the end of a book related
to the book‟s subject
Glossary – list of important terms in a book, with definitions
Index – an alphabetical listing of topics in a book with page references,
usually found at the end of a book.