The Reading Module


Paragraph Focus

Focus upon the first sentence of each paragraph, which is the most important. The main topic of the paragraph is usually there.

Once you’ve read the first sentence in the paragraph, you have a general idea about what each paragraph will be about.  As you read the questions, try to determine which paragraph will have the answer. Paragraphs have a concise topic.  The answer should either obviously be there or obviously not.  It will save time if you can jump straight to the paragraph, so try to remember what you learned from the first sentences.

Example:  The first paragraph is about poets; the second is about poetry.  If a question asks about poetry, where will the answer be? The second paragraph.

The main idea of a passage is typically spread across all or most of its paragraphs. Whereas the main idea of a paragraph may be completely different than the main idea of the very next paragraph, a main idea for a passage affects all of the paragraphs in one form or another.

Example: What is the main idea of the passage?

For each answer choice, try to see how many paragraphs are related. It can help to count how many sentences are affected by each choice, but it is best to see how many paragraphs are affected by the choice. Typically the answer choices will include incorrect choices that are main ideas of individual paragraphs, but not the entire passage.  That is why it is crucial to choose ideas that are supported by the most paragraphs possible.

Eliminate Choices

Some choices can quickly be eliminated.  “Andy Warhol lived there.”  Is Andy Warhol even mentioned in the article?  If not, quickly eliminate it.

When trying to answer a question such as “the passage indicates all of the following EXCEPT” quickly skim the paragraph searching for references to each choice.  If the reference exists, scratch it off as a choice.  Similar choices may be crossed off simultaneously if they are close enough.

In choices that ask you to choose “which answer choice does NOT describe?” or “all of the following answer choices are identifiable characteristics, EXCEPT which?” look for answers that are similarly worded.  Since only one answer can be correct, if there are two answers that appear to mean the same thing, they must BOTH be incorrect, and can be eliminated.


A.)      changing values and attitudes

B.)      a large population of mobile or uprooted people

These answer choices are similar; they both describe a fluid culture.  Because of their similarity, they can be linked together. Since the answer can have only one choice, they can also be eliminated together.

Contextual Clues

Look for contextual clues.  An answer can be right but not correct. The contextual clues will help you find the answer that is most right and is correct. Understand the context in which a phrase is stated.

When asked for the implied meaning of a statement made in the passage, immediately go find the statement and read the context it was made in.  Also, look for an answer choice that has a similar phrase to the statement in question.
Example:  In the passage, what is implied by the phrase “Churches have become more or less part of the furniture”?

Find an answer choice that is similar or describes the phrase “part of the furniture” as that is the key phrase in the question.  “Part of the furniture” is a saying that means something is fixed, immovable, or set in their ways.  Those are all similar ways of saying “part of the furniture.”  As such, the correct answer choice will probably include a similar rewording of the expression.

Example: Why was John described as “morally desperate”.

The answer will probably have some sort of definition of morals in it.  “Morals” refers to a code of right and wrong behavior, so the correct answer choice will likely have words that mean something like that.

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