If you’ve ever taken a practice LSAT, you’ve seen at least a few Main Point questions; they often accompany Reading Comprehension passages, and they appear in the Logical Reasoning sections of the test as well. Regardless of the context, the ability to recognize an author’s main point is a crucial part of understanding any stimulus or passage, and the right approach is vital if you want to attack Main Point questions effectively and efficiently.
All of our books on the LSAT, as well as our courses, deal with the concept of prephrasing. After reading any given question, you should seek to quickly form a rough conception of the answer before you have moved on to consider the answer choices provided. When you have created an effective prephrase, in many cases you will find that you are able to scan the answers and quickly zero in on the right one—a process that is far more efficient than considering the answer choices one by one.
In Logical Reasoning
The author’s main point is often stated quite succinctly, which makes sense considering the fact that each stimulus is no more than a few sentences long. As a result, such questions are often particularly conducive to prephrasing—if you’ve isolated the main point or conclusion of the stimulus, and it is clearly relayed among the answer choices, you will generally know it when you see it, enabling you to sidestep many of the test makers’ clever wrong answer choices.
In Reading Comprehension
On the other hand, Main Point questions tend to work a bit differently. The passages in that section are generally much longer than any given Logical Reasoning stimulus, and in many cases the main point will not appear in a single sentence or any one location within the passage. So, determining the main point may take a bit more effort, but that is a crucial part of the analysis in any case. Since the main point is often not stated succinctly within the passage, prephrasing the answer with precision is often nearly impossible, so remember that you often need to be flexible as you scan through the answer choices.
The takeaway is this:
In Logical Reasoning, finding the main point will often involve quickly isolating the author’s conclusion and simply recognizing it among the answer choices. In Reading Comprehension, the main point is much less likely to be expressed in an single sentence; forming an effective prephrase will often require a broad understanding of the passage as a whole, and a search for the answer choice that most closely relays your prephrased answer. So, when you encounter Main Point questions in Reading Comprehension, always prephrase an answer, but prepare to be a bit more flexible as you consider the choices provided!
Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight, courtesy of NASA