Finding Main Ideas
The most important part of a paragraph is its topic sentence in which the author states the main idea of the paragraph. If read in isolation, the topic sentence would rarely be understood by the reader. The main idea needs further explanation and amplification and this support is the purpose of other sentences in the paragraph. The topic sentence states the main idea; other sentences offer more information, rephrasing, clarifications, and examples to help the reader understand the main idea. When a reader completes a paragraph, the topic sentence should express its full meaning without additional explanation.
A reading passage on the CBEST can consists of one or a number of paragraphs, but an understanding of the passage depends upon identifying the topic sentence of each paragraph. As an example of this skill, look closely at the first paragraph of this page and find its topic sentence. When you have selected it, click the "Next" button below.