Examination Strategies - Main Ideas
The main idea of a passage is a general
statement that highlights the major
or focal point of a passage or paragraph.
You can usually find the main idea at
the beginning of a paragraph, but be
careful not to make this assumption
since it is not always the case. Sometimes
the main idea can also be found at the
end of a passage or paragraph. The main
idea is not always directly stated in
the passage. It may be implied or suggested.
Therefore, be aware that in the CUNY/COMPASS
Reading exam, this type of question
targets specific paragraphs rather than
the whole passage. When selecting the
main idea, make sure that it is a complete
sentence that is not too general or
too specific. General main ideas usually
include information that is not explained
in the passage. Specific main ideas
tend to be narrow and elusive.
To find the main idea do the following:
- Determine the topic by asking:
what is the selection about?
- Find the main
idea by asking: what is the most
salient point the author makes
about the topic?
- Determine the message
of the topic by asking: does the
information in the
selection develop and support
the main idea?