Reading - Find Essential Facts: Practice I Exam
Some of the literal comprehension questions on the PPST Reading test will ask you identify a paraphrase or rewording of supporting details. How can you distinguish a main idea from a supporting idea? Unlike main ideas, supporting ideas present facts or specific information. They often answer the questions what? when? why? or how?
How can you locate a supporting detail in a passage that is 200 words long? One thing you don't have to do is memorize the passage. This test does not require that you have perfect recall. Instead, it measures your ability to read carefully and know where to look for specific information. Here are some tips for finding supporting details.
- Look for language clues. Writers often use transitional words or phrases to signal that they are introducing a fact or supporting idea. As you read, keep your eye out for these common phrases:
- Focus on key words from the question. Questions often contain two or three important words that signal what information to look for in the passage. For example, a question following a passage about the American car industry reads, "The passage states that hybrid automobiles work best if.…" The key words are hybrid automobiles and best. They tell you to look for a sentence that contains the phrase hybrid automobiles and describes an optimal situation. Instead of rereading the passage, skim through the paragraphs looking for the key word. Keep in mind that the passage may use a slightly different wording than the key word. As you scan, look for words that address the same idea.
- Pay attention to the structure of the passage. Take note of how the passage is organized as you read. Does the author begin with or build to his main point? Is information presented chronologically? Where does the author offer evidence to back up his main point? Understanding how a passage is structured can help you locate the information you need. Read on for more about common organizational models.
Read the following paragraph, focusing on its main idea and the details that support the main idea. Then, answer the practice questions that follow.
(1) The history of microbiology begins with a Dutch haberdasher named Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, a man of no formal scientific education. (2) In the late 1600s, Leeuwenhoek, inspired by the magnifying lenses used by drapers to examine cloth, assembled some of the first microscopes. (3) He developed a technique for grinding and polishing tiny, convex lenses, some of which could magnify an object up to 270 times. (4) After scraping some plaque from between his teeth and examining it under a lens, Leeuwenhoek found tiny squirming creatures, which he called "animalcules." (5) His observations, which he reported to the Royal Society of London, are among the first descriptions of living bacteria.
- What inspired Leeuwenhoek's invention of the microscope?
- his training in science
- the great microbiologists of his era
- the lenses used by the practitioners of his profession
- the desire to observe bacteria
- the common practice of teeth scraping
- In which sentence does the author give Leeuwenhoek's description of living bacteria?
- sentence 1
- sentence 2
- sentence 3
- sentence 4
- sentence 5
- c. The first paragraph provides the supporting detail to answer this question. Leeuwenhoek, a haberdasher, was inspired by the magnifying lenses used by drapers to examine cloth. One of the key words from the question—inspired—leads you to the location of the detail in the passage. Choice a is refuted by a detail presented in the line: a man of no formal scientific education. Choice b is untrue, because the first sentence of the passage states that the history of microbiology begins with Leeuwenhoek. Choice d is also incorrect, because Leeuwenhoek did not know what he would discover under his microscope, and choice e is a silly choice used as a distracter.
- d. You can find Leeuwenhoek's description of bacteria in sentence 4: tiny squirming creatures, which he called "animalcules." You may have been tricked into selecting choice e, because of its repetition of the phrase descriptions of living bacteria, from sentence 5. Be sure to always refer back to the passage when answering a question—do not rely on your memory. Choice e is incorrect, because it does not refer to Leeuwenhoek's own description, but rather the significance of his observation. This question highlights the importance of taking note of where crucial details are located in a passage. Again, do not try to memorize or learn facts or details, but have an idea about where to find them.
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