Reading through a Secondary English comprehension passage will reveal several points raised by the author. You will realise that each paragraph has at least one main topic point. Every paragraph should have minimally one main point and the rest are supporting points.
What about main ideas and supporting evidence?
The main idea is the main topic point. I referred to supporting points earlier. That may be in the form of substantive points or evidence. It may be statistics or just percentile figures taken from a flow chart.
Why do we need to distinguish main ideas from supporting evidence?
The main idea is like a mini theme in Secondary English comprehension. It merely reflects what the author wishes to say in that paragraph. It is a point or a view. It is devoid of any elaboration or supporting evidence.
The main idea is also the main part of the text. There are several main ideas each of which contributes to the entire Secondary English comprehension passage.
The entire text is held up by the main ideas and they form the main part of the summary question as well. The main idea is actually a reflection of the author’s views based on current trends and opinions.
How are the main ideas built up?
The first paragraph in Secondary English comprehension will have an introductory main idea. The next one may be built upon that. Some main ideas are connected ideas and they may be sequential.
When you examine the main ideas from the beginning till the end of the text, you will notice that some may veer away from the sequence. In descriptive texts, authors may offer an opposing viewpoint just to create balance in the arguments.
Your task is to determine the strength of these arguments. It is necessary to note how the opposing points sometimes may counter the other points and you may determine which one is stronger. If you are unsure, re-read the entire text again so you will have a better grasp of determining which argument should you choose.
Why do you need to determine this in Secondary English comprehension?
When you answer speech bubble type of questions, you will be asked about opposing views in the context. And you will be asked to comment on the extent to which the views are presented.
For example, you may be asked if A’s view is stronger or not compared to B. This could happen and it will be wise to gather your views. In most cases, there will be equally strong arguments for both sides as main ideas pertaining to both sides will be presented well. You can write the views in point form to help in making a decision. Be sure to exercise your judgment.
What about supporting evidence?
Supporting evidence may be straightforward statistics or it could be points of view offered by people in positions of power.
Scientists, businessmen, inventors and politicians could offer their views and this can be seen as supporting evidence.
When you read supporting statements in Secondary English comprehension, make sure you understand the full import – the meaning and implications of what they are trying to convey. Some of them may be views without elaborations and you will be expected to infer the rest.
Most descriptive comprehension passages have inference questions based on evidence. Evidence that is presented in quotes or past and present situations will be crucial when you have to form your own conclusions.
Identifying the main ideas is the first step to coming to grips with your text. The evidence forms the larger part. Once you are able to grapple with these, answering the questions in Secondary English comprehension will be a piece of cake. Just be sure to read carefully and exercise your judgment.