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Identifying general and specific statements

Looking for main points

Focusing on details: meaning of unfamiliar words

General and specific statements

In order to answer the questions about the text successfully, we need to understand the question and identify what kind of information is being asked: general or specific.

Specific information refers to exact, precise fact or description of something mentioned in the text.

General information is normally vague and represents a broad description of something. For example:

      1. School children do not like reading books.
      2. Brian is in 5th grade and hates reading poems.

Example 1 is a general statement as it talks about ALL the school children. Example 2 is very specific as it talks about a particular student and his likes.

Now do exercises 1 and 2

How to find main points of a paragraph?

Here you will need to sum up all the specific statements of the text and reduce them to one general statement. The main points of a paragraph are normally located in the beginning of the paragraph and are called topic sentences: their purpose is to introduce the topic of the sentence.

BE CAREFUL: Don't forget to read the entire paragraph in order to grasp its main idea. You cannot rely only on the topic sentence.

Now complete the exercise 3

How to understand the meaning of unfamiliar words in the text?

When you do not understand the meaning of some unfamiliar words you encounter in the text, you have to focus on the context in which the word is situated:other words that are familiar to you, synonyms, antonyms, definitions and examples given in the text. Once you put it all together you can guess the meaning of these unknown words. Think about what this word needs to mean, so that the sentence would make sense.

Ex.: Prolonged eating disorders cause a condition called anorexia in the body of many thin people.

How can we guess the meaning of the word anorexia? We have 2 clues here: "eating disorders" and "thin". They indicate that this illness has to do with eating problems and it affects skinny people. This helps us get an idea of the meaning of the word anorexia.

Now you can complete exercises 4 and 5