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Reading Comprehension: Main Idea Questions

The primary purpose of the passage is to...


Only the second paragraph provides illustrations (examples) of principles, but these examples illustrate the mainstream theory, not the rival approach - ecological economics.

Did you use the Initial Reading to answer this question?



In the first paragraph, the author tells us that the theory behind mainstream economics is challenged by the school of ecological economics. The second paragraph points out main deficiencies in the idea of a self-regulating market, by explaining the fallacy of ignoring externalities. The third paragraph proposes ways that market failures can be overcome.



The passage does not criticize the failures of the market system; it criticizes the premises upon which the market system is believed to work; these incorrect premises result in market failures.



This answer choice is too narrow/specific. Only the third paragraph includes suggestions (...externalized costs must be internalized, etc.) and nowhere does author claim the current mechanism to be foolproof.



The passage does not mention implementation of a paradigm.

This answer choice attempts to distract you by including the phrase costs and benefits mentioned in the first paragraph. However, this phrase is a part of the definition of externalities and does not reflect the Main Idea of the passage.

The examples given in the second paragraph are beyond the scope of the Initial Reading. Remember: when performing the Initial Reading, you should read a good deal of the first paragraph and only the first one or two sentences of each subsequent paragraph.

The following question stem "The primary purpose of the passage is to... " indicates that this is a Main Idea question; therefore, the correct answer can be reached by sticking only to the Initial Reading.

Reading more than required provides distractions and increases your chances of choosing the wrong answer.


Notice the word illustrate in the answer choice. To illustrate means to make something clear by providing examples. Seeing as the Initial Reading does not include any examples that explain principles, this answer choice can be eliminated.

Illustrate the principles of an approach that rivals a mainstream theory
Challenge a widespread theory by describing its deficiencies and indicating how they can be overcome
Criticize the failures of a system and propose measures for restoring it
Suggest ways to sustain a foolproof mechanism in face of criticism
Describe the costs and benefits of implementing a classic paradigm
Yes, I did.
No, I forgot.