Reading Skills and Knowledge for Praxis II ParaPro Test Prep Study Guide (page 2)
Practice questions for this study guide can be found at:
ETS, the maker of the ParaPro Assessment, says there are seven key skills to know for the reading section of the test. The key skills are as follows:
- understand the main idea or primary purpose
- understand supporting ideas
- understand the organization of a passage
- understand vocabulary in context
- draw inferences or implications from directly stated content
- distinguish between fact and opinion
- interpret graphic text
The next seven sections explain each type of skill, with examples that shouw how you might see the concept tested on the ParaPro Assessment.
Main Idea or Primary Purpose
For this question type, you need to be able to identify the main idea or primary purpose of the passage or a specific paragraph in the passage.
When standardized reading tests ask you to find the main idea of a passage, they are asking you to determine an overall feeling or thought that a writer wants to convey about his or her subject. To find the main idea, think about a general statement that brings together all of the ideas in a paragraph or passage. Look out for statements that are too specific—a main idea must be broad enough to contain all of the concepts presented in a passage. Test takers often confuse the main idea of a passage with its main topic. The topic is the subject—what the passage is about. The main idea is what the author wants to express about the subject.
Textbook writing and the passages on the Para- Pro Assessment often follow a basic pattern of general idea → specific idea. In other words, a writer states his or her main idea (makes a general claim about the subject) and then provides evidence for it through specific details and facts. Do you always find main ideas in the first sentence of the passage? The answer is no; although a first sentence may contain the main idea, an author may decide to build up to the main point. In that case, you may find the main idea in the last sentence of an introductory paragraph, or even in the last paragraph of the passage.
Read the following paragraph and answer the practice question that follows.
Experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven't had enough sleep. If you routinely fall asleep within five minutes of lying down, you may have severe sleep deprivation. Microsleep, or a very brief episode of sleep in an otherwise awake person, is another mark of sleep deprivation. In many cases, people are not aware that they are experiencing microsleeps. The widespread practice of "burning the candle at both ends" in many societies has created so much sleep deprivation that what is really abnormal sleepiness is now almost the norm.
- What is the main point of this passage?
- If you fall asleep within five minutes every time you lie down, you are sleep deprived.
- If you experience enough microsleeps, you can attain the sleep you need to function.
- Sleep deprivation is a pervasive problem in many cultures.
- If trends in sleep deprivation continue, our society will experience grave consequences.
Choice a is a true statement, but too specific to be a main idea. Choice b is a false statement. Choice d is a speculative statement that is not implied in the passage. Only choice c represents a general or umbrella statement that covers all of the information in the paragraph.
Notice that in the sample passage, the author does not present the main idea in the first sentence, but rather builds up to the main point, which is expressed in the last sentence of the paragraph.
Some of the questions on the reading section of the ParaPro Assessment will ask you identify a detail from a passage. You will need to be able to locate specific information in the passage, such as a fact, figure, or name. 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 words. Keep in mind that the passage may use a slightly different wording than the key words. 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 the main point? Is information presented chronologically? Where does the author offer evidence to back up the 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.
- 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
- In which sentence does the author give Leeuwenhoek's description of living bacteria?
- sentence 1
- sentence 2
- sentence 4
- sentence 5
(1) The history of microbiology begins with a Dutch haberdasher named Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a man with no formal scientific education. (2) In the late 1600s, Leeuwenhoek, inspired by the magnifying lenses used to examine cloth, assembled some of the first microscopes. (3) He developed a technique for grinding and polishing tiny 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.
- c. The first paragraph provides the supporting detail to answer this question. Leeuwenhoek, a haberdasher, was inspired by the magnifying lenses used 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.
- c. 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 d 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 d 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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