Reading Topic Sentence Practice

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Updated on Aug 10, 2011

Often, writers express their main idea in a clearly defined sentence known as a topic sentence. Topic sentences are usually found at the beginning of a paragraph in order to immediately establish the main idea. But this is not always the case— topic sentences can be found anywhere in a paragraph, and sometimes, the author chooses not to use one at all. Still, looking for the topic sentence is a good skill to have when ferreting out the meaning of a reading passage.

For the following three questions, choose the topic sentence that best fits the paragraph.

  1. The term spices is a pleasant one, whether it connotes fine French cuisine or a down-home, cinnamon-flavored apple pie. _____. In the past, individuals traveled the world seeking exotic spices for profit and, in searching, have changed the course of history. Indeed, to gain control of lands harboring new spices, nations have actually gone to war.
    1. The taste and aroma of spices are the main elements that make food such a source of fascination and pleasure.
    2. The term might equally bring to mind Indian curry made thousands of miles away and those delicious barbecued ribs sold on the corner.
    3. It is exciting to find a good cookbook and experiment with spices from other lands—indeed, it is one way to travel around the globe!
    4. The history of spices, however, is another matter altogether, and at times, it can be filled with danger and intrigue.
  2. It weighs less than three pounds and is hardly more interesting to look at than an overly ripe cauliflower. _____. It has created poetry and music, planned and executed horrific wars, and devised intricate scientific theories. It thinks and dreams, plots and schemes, and easily holds more information than all the libraries on Earth.
    1. The human brain is made of gelatinous matter and contains no nerve endings.
    2. The science of neurology has found a way to map the most important areas of the human brain.
    3. Nevertheless, the human brain is the most mysterious and complex object on Earth.
    4. However, scientists say that each person uses only 10% of his or her brain over the course of a lifetime!
  3. _____. It rained in April; it rained in May. It rained in the mornings; it rained in the afternoons. It poured, it drizzled, it showered, it misted—but always it rained. But the good news is we won't have a drought this summer.
    1. The rain makes me gloomy.
    2. This spring was the rainiest on record.
    3. Rain is nice, but I prefer sunshine.
    4. Scientists know very little about the global climate.
  4. For the following questions, a topic sentence is given. Try choosing the sentence that best develops or supports it.

  5. A fireplace should be lined with special fire bricks to prevent heat transfer.
    1. Normal bricks are not dense enough to withstand excessive heat.
    2. Fire codes also require a smoke alarm in every room.
    3. Good up-drafts can make a pleasant fire, however.
    4. Modern houses don't use as much lumber as older homes did.
  6. Cosmetic plastic surgery is one of the fastest-growing segments of U.S. medicine.
    1. Cosmetic plastic surgery can have dangerous side effects, some of which can be fatal.
    2. Americans are eager to make their bodies as perfect as possible and to minimize the visible signs of aging.
    3. The price of cosmetic plastic surgery is also on the rise.
    4. This increase in cosmetic plastic surgery says something quite disturbing about our culture.
  7. If a car suddenly begins to skid on ice, a driver's instinctive reaction might be the wrong one.
    1. Skids can be a terrifying experience.
    2. Cars can be very unpredictable on ice.
    3. Many people instinctively turn the wheel in the wrong direction, making the skid worse.
    4. New tires can help reduce the risk of skidding on ice.
  8. The "lead" inside the common pencil is actually not lead at all.
    1. Lead is commonly mined in Africa.
    2. Pencils were invented in 1603 by William Ledbelly.
    3. Even when sharpened, a pencil may not write as well as a pen.
    4. The substance used in pencils today is graphite.
  9. The Greek ideal of the hero most closely resembles today's freeagent superstar.
    1. A superstar is an athlete who commands a great salary based on his individual skills.
    2. he Greek warrior's focus was on grasping at immortality, and he did this by ensuring that his name would live on, long after he died.
    3. The Greek hero valued self-interest above loyalty to a cause, his king, or to his army, just as the free-agent superstar values his contract salary above any special team, coach, or the game.
    4. The Greek hero was impressive in his performance on the battlefield as well as in the sports arena.
  10. There is no instruction by the old bird in the movements of flight; no conscious imitation by the young.
    1. The most obvious way in which birds differ from humans in behavior is that they can do all that they have to do, without ever being taught.
    2. More extraordinary than the fact that a bird is able to fly untaught, is that it is able to build a nest untaught.
    3. Young birds frequently make their first flights with their parents out of sight.
    4. Young birds brought up in artificial environments will build the proper kind of nest for their species when the time comes.
  11. Parents play an important role in their children's academic success.
    1. Video games have a negative impact on children's academic success.
    2. Studies show that children of parents who regularly assist with homework and show an active interest in their child's studies bring home better grades.
    3. Studies show that watching less television and spending less time playing video games help children get better grades.
    4. Children who are avid readers get much better grades than their peers.
  12. In special cases, needy people who have nowhere else to go are permitted to enter the United States as refugees.
    1. Other people, however, enter the United States illegally.
    2. The total number of newcomers was over one million.
    3. United States immigration laws put limits on the number of people permitted to enter the United States.
    4. As many as 12 million people may be living in the United States illegally.
  13. Most common weed killers work by poisoning the root of the plant.
    1. Weed killer can be dangerous to pets.
    2. Some weeds can grow even during drought.
    3. When using weed killer, always wear gloves.
    4. The poison is absorbed by the leaves and carried down to the roots.
  14. More and more people are eating organically grown fruits and vegetables.
    1. Organic food is usually more expensive than non-organic food.
    2. A wide variety of organic chocolate products are now available in stores.
    3. Raw foods are enjoying increasing popularity, now that people are discovering how a raw-foods diet leaves you feeling and looking great.
    4. Fresh organic produce contains more vitamins, minerals, and enzymes than non-organic produce.
  15. In Oklahoma, a girl is forbidden to take a bite from her date's hamburger.
    1. It's illegal for teenagers to take a bath during the winter in Clinton, Indiana.
    2. Youngsters may not spin Yo-Yos on Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee.
    3. It may be hard to believe, but these types of strange laws are still on the books!
    4. It is illegal to parade an elephant down Main Street in Austin, Texas.
  16. A cat's whiskers are among the most perfect organs of touch.
    1. The hairs themselves are very sensitive.
    2. Whiskers are generally white in color.
    3. Touch is very important to a cat.
    4. Dogs have very sensitive noses.
  17. French explorers probably taught the Inuit Eskimos how to play dominoes.
    1. It was known in 181 a.d. in China.
    2. Also, it was played during the eighteenth century in Italy.
    3. The game of dominoes has been popular for centuries.
    4. From Italy, it was then introduced to the rest of the world.
  18. People are now living longer than ever before for many different reasons.
    1. Some people in the Soviet Union's Caucasus Mountains live to be over 100 years of age.
    2. No one seems to understand this phenomenon.
    3. Advances in medical science have done wonders for longevity.
    4. The people in this region do not seem to gain anything from medical science.
  19. For 16 years, he spread violence and death throughout the west.
    1. Jesse was gunned down on April 3, 1882.
    2. He left a trail of train and bank robberies.
    3. His crimes were committed during the late 1860s.
    4. Jesse Woodson James was the most legendary of all American outlaws.
  20. For the final two questions, choose the sentence that does not support the given topic sentence.

  21. In ancient Greece, honor was not just the domain of the warrior.
    1. A great orator [speaker], who could sway the public with his logic and wit, was greatly respected.
    2. A revered poet's name lived on long after he died.
    3. Great wealth was characteristic of the truly great kings.
    4. A warrior's quest for the esteem of his peers would bring him great prizes, which would secure a long-lasting reputation.
  22. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville wrote that the whale men were "enveloped in whale lines," that each man relied on the others during moments of danger.
    1. The small boats that pursued the whales left the whaling ship far behind; each man in a boat had to depend on the others to stay alive.
    2. Once the whale was harpooned, the whale line unraveled so fast that water had to be poured on it to keep it from smoking.
    3. The whale line was the rope, dozens of yards long, that attached to the harpoon; it was raveled under the seats of all the men metaphorically connecting each man to the next.
    4. One wrong move and the line would snap a man right out of the boat; thus, his life depended on whether the crew would cut the whale loose to save him, or leave him in the ocean during the heat of the hunt.
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