Main point | Quick guide (article) | Khan Academy (2024)

Main Point Questions

The first question in most Reading Comprehension sets will ask you to identify the statement that best expresses the central idea or the main point that the passage as a whole is designed to convey.

These questions come in three basic varieties:

Type 1: What’s the point? What’s the “big idea?”

The most common Main Point variant asks you to identify the main point, main idea, or central idea of the passage.

These main point questions have a much narrower focus than questions that ask you to summarize the passage do. To answer them correctly, you have to be able to identify the most important idea that the passage is trying to establish—the idea that all other ideas and information in the passage are there to support.

Type 2: Can you sum it up?

A few Main Point questions will take the following form:

“Which one of the following most accurately summarizes the contents of the passage?”

Summary questions ask you to identify the response that summarizes the passage most accurately. The thing to remember about these questions is that the answer will be the one choice that covers the important material in the passage most completely. That is not to say that the answer is necessarily the choice with the most words, but it does mean that the correct choice will be the most comprehensive and inclusive of the steps taken in the passage.

Note: This variant of main idea questions is fairly rare.

Type 3: What’s a good title?

A third variant offers five potential titles for the passage (or pair of passages) and asks you to choose the one that is most suitable, based on the main point of the passage. This variant is related to the main point/main idea question in that the best title will be the one that touches most directly on the central idea or point of the passage.

These questions are also relatively rare. If you come across one, focus on finding the title that contains the content you would expect to see in a standard statement of the main idea of the passage.

Strategies

Prediction

When you say something in your own words, you gain control of the content and prove to yourself that you understand what's going on.

With that in mind, it can be helpful to come up with the main point in your own words before heading to the choices. Then, see which choice most closely matches your prediction.

Of course, there is more than one way to express the main idea of any passage, so you may not find an option that matches your phrasing exactly. But if you have a good grasp of the passage, the correct choice should come closer to the way you would put it than the other choices do.

Active reading strategies

We review active reading strategies in other parts of Official LSAT Practice on Khan Academy, but here is a short list:

  • Underline or circle important claims
  • Identify the point of view of the author, and note how it differs from other views presented (the perspectives of other individuals or groups)
  • Take special note of contrast language. e.g.: yet, but, although, however
  • Jot quick notes to yourself in the margins
  • After every paragraph, check your comprehension by saying the main point of the paragraph back to yourself in your own words

Check the bones of the passage

Many passages on the LSAT feature structural characteristics that are common in expository writing:

  • The first paragraph introduces the main point
  • The last paragraph sums up the main point
  • The first sentence of each paragraph makes a claim
  • The rest of the paragraph supports the claim made in the first sentence

Because of this, a quick glance over the first and last sentences of each paragraph can sometimes help to confirm what the overall structure of the passage is, and what the main point is.

Note: This strategy is by no means a substitute for a paragraph-by-paragraph breakdown of main claims; the main points of many LSAT passages are introduced in the second, third, fourth, or even later paragraphs!

Common distractor types

For main point questions, it is especially important to check all the choices before moving on to the next question. If you find a choice that looks good, it’s still worthwhile to see if there’s another that’s even better.

Some common wrong options you’ll encounter on main point questions include:

  • Too narrow: One important thing to know about main point questions is that an option that captures something that is true about the passage, or something that is present in the passage is not necessarily the answer. Choices that are too narrow will accurately describe a part of the passage, but they’ll exclude the broader point.

  • Too strong or extreme: Some distractors will draw upon a point that is made in the passage, but then take it further than can be directly supported. Be wary of “blanket” words like “always” “any” “all” “ever” and “never.”

  • Beyond the scope: These wrong options bring in content that, while adjacently related, is ultimately outside of the scope of the passage. These choices feature ideas or information that you might reasonably expect to find in a larger excerpt from the same source document that the passage was taken from, but the statement simply can't be supported by info that is present in the text in front of you.

  • Conflicts and contradictions: Some options contain language that is in direct conflict with information presented in the passage. These wrong choices can be the easiest to rule out, but many students find themselves drawn to strong statements on the opposing sides of arguments. It may be human nature that we sometimes find opposites attractive, but consider yourself warned — avoid these tempting distractors!

Main point | Quick guide (article) | Khan Academy (2024)
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