There are five kinds of reading comprehension questions that you will encounter on the HESI nursing entrance exam.
They include 1. finding main idea, 2. identifying supporting details, 3. identifying a writer's purpose/tone, 4. distinguishing between fact and opinion, and 5. making logical inferences.
Today we will focus on the main idea of a story.
What is the “Main Idea”?
The main idea is what the text is about and what the author wants you, the reader, to know. If someone were to ask you, “What was that book or article about?” they are asking you about the main idea. When you can tell them succinctly what it is about, you have a grasp on the main idea.
What is the purpose of the main idea?
The purpose of the main idea is twofold. First, it lets the reader know what the text is about so that the reader can decide whether or not to continue reading. Secondly, its purpose is to engage the reader quickly. It serves to capture and take hold of the reader within the first minute or two of picking up the text.
How can you identify the main idea?
The main idea is usually (but not always) within the first two to three sentences. Often, the main idea is the same as the topic sentence. And even other times, the title is the main idea. After the first paragraph of a text, a reader should be able to identify what the topic and main idea are and what the text is seeking to do. Some questions you can ask yourself after the first paragraph include:
- Does this book/article/text tell me who, what, where, or how about something?
- Does this piece’s title tell me what I am reading?
- What is the point of this text?
Main idea and supporting details
The text you are reading will have additional details that help support or lend credence to the main idea. As you are reading, it is important to stop periodically and measure whether these supporting details help illustrate the main idea and how they relate to each other.
Rereading and reviewing
Sometimes it is necessary to read the text again to decipher the main idea and the supporting details. Read each paragraph carefully and consider why the author is sharing this information.
Example: Glass is such a popular material in our homes because it has all kinds of really useful properties. Apart from being transparent, it's inexpensive to make, easy to shape when it's molten, reasonably resistant to heat when it's set, chemically inert (so a glass jar doesn't react with the things you put inside it), and it can be recycled any number of times.
What is the main idea of this paragraph?
a. Glass is transparent.
b. Glass can be recycled.
c. Glass is a useful and varied.
d. Glass is resistant to heat.
The answer is C because the first sentence states that glass is a popular material because it is useful. All the other answers (a,b,d) are supporting details to further illustrate the main idea.
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