Main Idea and Details

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PSAE Practice: Days 1 and 2

Main Idea and Details

Part One: Goals

  • What is a main idea?

  • What are supporting details?

  • What are some tips for main ideas and supporting details?

Part Two: Practice

Passage 1:

Many young people love playing tennis. A similar sport, called badminton, is growing in popularity, and it provides just as much fun and exercise. Like tennis, badminton requires racquets and utilizes a net to separate the players. Instead of balls, however, badminton players use birdies – small, netted projectiles that sail lazily through the air.

What is the main idea of the passage?

Passage 2:

The toothbrush, an important tool that most people use daily yet still take for granted, has a long history dating back to the fifteenth-century China. The Chinese made tiny brushes to clean their teeth. In the United States, the first patent for a toothbrush appeared in 1857; however, manufacturers did not start mass-producing these dental tools until 1185. The toothbrushes sported handles of bone and bristles made of fine animal hair. The first nylon-bristled brushes would not appear on the market until 1938. Later, in 1954, the electric toothbrush was invented in Switzerland. Over the years, these advanced models became more highly stylized. Today, we can buy toothbrushes with interchangeable heads, as well as folding travel toothbrushes and other modern dental equipment designed to help keep out teeth clean and our breath fresh.

  1. What is the main idea of this passage?

    1. The electric toothbrush was invented in Switzerland.

    2. We have many options today for cleaning our teeth.

    3. The toothbrush has a long and varied history.

    4. Toothbrushes date back to fifteenth-century China.

  1. Which of the following supporting details is LEAST important to the passage?

    1. The Chinese made toothbrushes from the bristly hairs of pigs.

    2. In the United States, toothbrushes were made of animal hair until nylon became the replacement in 1938.

    3. The year 1857 was when the U.S. patent first appeared for the toothbrush.

    4. Clean teeth and fresh breath are the results of proper dental equipment.

Part Three: Test Questions


  1. What other supporting details could be added to paragraph 1?

  2. Why do you think the author includes so many details about the pygmy hog’s appearance?

  3. Which details form paragraph 5 are most important in supporting the author’s controlling idea?

  4. What details could further strengthen the author’s points about the dangers of urban growth and other human activity?

  5. How well does the author restate and strengthen the main idea in paragraph 6?


  1. What is the main idea of the passage?

    1. People must learn about and help save the endangered pygmy hog.

    2. The pygmy hog is a strange and interesting animal that is rarely seen anymore.

    3. Although the pygmy hog may be important to some people, others do not want to save it.

    4. There are many different species that are currently endangered in Asia

  1. The writer supports the main idea by

    1. Showing examples of how predators and hunters have hurt the pygmy hog.

    2. Explaining details about where the animal used to exist as opposed to where it lives today.

    3. Giving details about why people sometimes find the pygmy hog a humorous animal.

    4. Comparing and contrasting the pygmy hog with some of its predators.

  1. Which of the following sentences could be added as a supporting detail to paragraph 3?

    1. Scientists first gave a name to the pygmy hog in the mid-1800s.

    2. It is essential that hunters stop targeting the unfortunate pygmy hog.

    3. Zoos throughout the world need to come together to save this animal,

    4. The animal has wide, rounded hips that swing comically as it runs.

  1. Which of the following is an extraneous detail, and does NOT provide important support for the main idea?

    1. The pygmy population was once much larger than it is today.

    2. Several different types of beetles can be found in Asia today.

    3. The decline in the pygmy population is caused by urban development, among other causes.

    4. There are no major conservation efforts to save the pygmy hog.

  1. The author wants to expand the essay for a magazine about animal conservation. What are some additional points the author could make to further support the main idea?

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