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Main Idea Worksheet 4

Main Idea Questions


Main Idea Basics

One of the major skills tested on any standardized test (like state tests or college entrance exams like the ACT, SAT and more) is reading comprehension. If a person can't read and understand the test material, then how will he or she fare in school or in college?

On every reading comprehension test, at least a handful of the questions will deal with finding the main idea. Here, you (or your students) will have the opportunity to practice finding the main idea and differentiating the correct answer from distracting answer choices around it. Watch out for the top three main idea mistakes while you answer! These test main idea questions are similar to what you'll find on various standardized tests.

Main Idea Resources

Directions: Read the following paragraphs and answer the question that follows it. Click on the link below each paragraphs for the answer. The main idea will either be stated or implied.

Printable PDFs:

Paragraph 1

All paragraphs reprinted from:

Kramer, Samuel, Noah. (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Sumer, the land which came to be known in classical times as Babylonia, consists of the lower half of Mesopotamia, roughly identical with modern Iraq from the north of Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. It has an area of approximately 10,000 square miles, somewhat larger than the state of Massachusetts. Its climate is extremely hot and dry, and its soil, left to itself, is arid, wind-swept, and unproductive. The land is flat and river-made, and therefore has no minerals whatever and almost no stone. Except for the huge reeds in the marshes, it had no trees for timber. Here, then was a region with "the hand of God against it," an unpromising land seemingly doomed to poverty and desolation. But the people that inhabited, the Sumerians, as they came to be known by the third millennium B.C. were endowed with an unusually creative intellect and a venturesome, resolute spirit. In spite of the land's natural drawbacks, they turned Sumer into a veritable Garden of Eden and developed what was probably the first high civilization in the history of man.

Which of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the paragraph?

A. Although the land of Sumer was bleak at best and cursed at worst, the Sumerians did their best to make it work for them.
B. Although the land of Sumer was limited in its resources, the Sumerians used their personal resources to develop a well-functioning civilization.
C. The land of Sumer, fraught with natural drawbacks, was home to people dedicated to overcoming obstacles and sacrificing their lives for the dawning of civilization.
D. The land of Sumer, fraught with natural drawbacks, was home to people limited in personal resources, and as such, struggled to maintain a high civilization.


Paragraph 2

The earliest settlers had come upon the idea of irrigation, which made it possible for the Sumerians to collect and channel the rich silt-laden overflow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and use it to water and fructify their fields and gardens. To make up for the dearth of minerals and stones, they learned to bake the river clay and mud, the supply of which was practically inexhaustible, into sickles, pots, plates, and jars. In lieu of the scarce building timber, they cut and dried the huge and plentiful marsh reeds, tied them into bundles or plaited them into mats, and with the help of mud-plastering fashioned them into huts and byres. Later, the Sumerians invented the brick mold of shaping and baking the ubiquitous river clay and so had no more building - material problem.

Which of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the paragraph?

A. The Sumerians were imaginative, creative inventors of many things like pots, plates and jars, which are still used today.
B. The Sumerians were imaginative, creative users of resources close to home.
C. The Sumerians creatively used many resources from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to help irrigate their minerally-poor fields, and used marsh reeds to fashion huts and byres.
D. The Sumerians creatively used many resources from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in their daily lives.


Paragraph 3

The Sumerians devised such useful tools, skills, and techniques as the potter's wheel, the wagon wheel, the plow, the sailboat, the arch, the vault, the dome, casting in copper and bronze, riveting, brazing and soldering, sculpture in stone, engraving, and inlay. They originated a system of writing on clay, which was borrowed and used all over the Near east for some two thousand years. Almost all that we know of the early history of Western Asian comes from the thousands of clay documents inscribed in the cuneiform script developed by the Sumerians and excavated by archaeologists in the past hundred and twenty-five years.

Which of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the paragraph?

A. The Sumerians' invention of useful tools and techniques has allowed modern humankind to get a glimpse of their early history.
B. If it were not for the Sumerians' inventiveness, no one would have developed the ability to write cuneiform.
C. The origination of writing on clay, called cuneiform, allowed modern humankind to get a glimpse of the Sumerian's early history.
D. The Sumerians were thoroughly inventive, creating tools, skills and techniques that survive in our world, today.


Paragraph 4

The Sumerians were clear-sighted, levelheaded, and took a pragmatic view of life. Within the limits of their intellectual resources, they also rarely confused fact with fancy, wish with fulfillment, or mystery with mystification. In the course of the centuries, the Sumerian sages evolved a faith and creed which in a sense "gave unto the gods what was the gods" and recognized and accepted as inevitable mortal limitations, especially helplessness in the face of death and divine wrath. On the material side they highly prized wealth and possessions, rich harvests, well-stocked granaries, folds and stalls filled with cattle, successful hunting in the plain, and good fishing in the sea. Spiritually and psychologically, the laid great stress on ambition and success, pre-eminence and prestige, honor and recognition. The Sumerian was deeply conscious of his personal rights and resented any encroachment on them, whether by his king, his superior or his equal, much like modern man. No wonder that the Sumerians were the first to compile laws and law codes, to put everything down in black and white in order to avoid misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and arbitrariness.

Which of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the paragraph?

A.The Sumerian ideals and values were influenced by the time period in which they lived.
B. The Sumerians were a practical civilization, prizing fact over fancy, fulfillment over wishes, and intellectual resources.
C. Considering the time period in which they lived, the Sumerians' belief in equality and pragmatism was unprecedented.
D. The Sumerians held relatively current ideals, ideas and values.


Paragraph 5

Although Sumer existed more than five thousand years ago and may seem of little relevance to the study of modern man and culture, the fact is that the land of Sumer witnessed the origin of more than one significant feature of present-day civilization. Be he philosopher or teacher, historian or poet, lawyer or reformer, statesman or politician, architect or sculptor, it is likely that modern man will find his prototype and counterpart in ancient Sumer. Admittedly, the Sumerian origin of the modern offshoot can no longer be traced with directness or certainty: the ways of cultural diffusion are manifold, intricate, and complex, and its magic touch is subtle and evanescent. Even so, it is still apparent in a Mosaic law and a Solomonic proverb, in the tears of Job and a Jerusalem lament, in the sad tale of the dying man-god, in a Hesiodic cosmogony and a Hindu myth, in an Aesopic fable and a Euclidean theorem, the degree of an angle, and the writing of a number. It is the history, social structure, religious ideas, educational practices, literary creations, and value motivations of the civilization created in ancient Sumer that live on today.

Which of the following statements best expresses the main idea of the paragraph?

A. Present-day humanity can credit Sumer for almost everything we believe today.
B. No matter a person's interest, a person in today's time can find a prototype in ancient Sumer.
C. Despite it's antiquity, Sumer has influenced many features of present-day civilization.
D. Sumerian influence can be seen in proverbs from long ago and the speeches of modern politicians today.


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