Finding The Implied Main Idea Help (page 3)

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Updated on Sep 21, 2011


The correct answer is choice b, "Playing on Coach Lerner's team is like being under the command of an army general." There are many clues in the language of this paragraph that lead you to this inference. First, you probably noticed that Coach Lerner's voice "booms like a foghorn." This comparison (called a simile) suggests that Coach Lerner wants his voice to be heard and obeyed.

Second, the description of Coach Lerner's haircut is a critical part of the way the author establishes the tone of this paragraph. To say that he has "the haircut of a drill sergeant" (also a simile) makes us think of a military leader whose job it is to train soldiers. A writer wouldn't use this comparison unless he or she wanted to emphasize military-like discipline.

The author tells us that Coach Lerner "marches onto the basketball court," "barks orders," and expects his players to respond like "troops on a battlefield." The writer could have said that Coach Lerner "strides" onto the court, that he barks "instructions," and that he expects his players to act like "trained dogs." However, since the author is trying to paint a picture of Coach Lerner that will bring to mind a military leader, he uses words that convey military ideas. Thus, though choices a and c may be true—it might be difficult to play for Coach Lerner and he might be a terrible basketball coach—choice b is the only idea that all of the sentences in the paragraph support.

Of course, this person's description of Coach Lerner is very subjective, since it uses the first-person point of view. As an active reader, you should wonder whether everyone sees Coach Lerner this way or if this player is unable to be objective.

Practice Passage 4

Many people find reading literature a difficult task because in literature (fiction, drama, and poetry), the main idea is almost never expressed in a clear topic sentence. Instead, readers have to look for clues often hidden in the language of the text. For example, the following fictional paragraph describes a character. Read it carefully, make your observations, and then identify the main idea of the paragraph:

Every morning when Clara arrives at the gym, she is greeted with a buzz of warm hellos. She starts her workout in the weight room, where her exercise regimen is always peppered with lively chats with those around her. She then moves on to the pool, where she stops and converses with other friends and acquaintances before diving in and swimming laps. As she swims, her sole focus is the calming sound of her body gliding through the water—a rare moment in her always very social days.

Your Observations:

    Example:I noticed that Clara talks with many people.
  1. The main idea of this paragraph is that
    1. Clara is shy.
    2. Clara knows everyone at the gym.
    3. Clara is very friendly.


Although it is possible that b "Clara knows everyone at the gym" (choice b), there is no evidence in this paragraph to support that inference. Thus, choice b cannot be the main idea. Choice a, "Clara is shy," cannot be the correct answer either, since everything in the paragraph suggests that Clara is, in fact, quite outgoing.

Furthermore, the language of the paragraph creates a feeling of warmth and friendliness: Clara is greeted with "warm hellos" and she has "lively chats" and conversations with friends and acquaintances. She also has "very social days." All these words work together in the paragraph to paint a picture of someone who is very friendly and social. Thus, without directly saying so, the writer tells us that, "Clara is very friendly," choice c.

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