Nathan’s Guide to Long Passages

(so useful it should practically be considered cheating!) 1) Read the preface to the passage. This will provide important context and may also reveal the thesis. Try to guess what the passage will be about and how it may be organized. 2) Read the first paragraph. Try to locate a topic sentence and or thesis. Pay special attention to the first and last sentence. Circle all transition words. Verify your predictions made in step one. If they match, great! If they don’t match, it may mean the thesis or main idea of the passage is stated later, so be careful! 3) Read the first sentence of each body paragraph. Try to predict what the paragraph will be about based on this. Read the last sentence. Do they seem related? If so, the middle is probably not important. 4) Read the last paragraph. Try to locate restatement of the thesis or a summarization of the main ideas and themes of the text. Pay special attention to the first and last sentence. 5) Answer the questions: a. Note that the questions follow the order of the text. Many questions indicate line or paragraph numbers. If not, you can use line and paragraph numbers in other questions as a rough guide. b. Determine whether the question is about a detail or the big picture. i. for detail questions, context is especially important, so be sure to consider the topic sentence of the paragraph in which the detail appears, as well as the sentence before and after any indicated lines. ii. if the question asks you about the meaning of a specific word, it’s almost always not the answer you would expect without context. iii. questions that relate to the big picture can often be answered in the preface. you don’t have to read the entire passage. focus on the first/last paragraphs, and if that’s not enough, use topic sentences. c. Don’t get caught up on time waster questions. You can return to them later. But first, try to guess. If you can eliminate at least one answer, it’s in your interest to do so!

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