Reading Comprehension: Main point/Title/Central idea

In this article, we explore another particular Reading Comprehension question type: title of the passage. This is one of the most commonly asked questions. Whenever you are asked this question, you need to identify one central point around which the whole passage is built. Passages are built by accumulating a number of ideas. All these ideas (which might appear disconnected or unique to you) are actually built around a central theme, the theme of the passage that the author wishes you to understand. At times this central idea might be directly quoted in the passage and on other occasions, only a passing reference might be made to it. In either case, it is imperative that you follow the flow of the passage to identify the answer.

What are 'titles' exactly?

Titles refer to the most appropriate headings given to the passages (like the headings given to the newspaper/magazine/journal articles). These titles have the following qualities:

  1. They are brief and precise.
  2. They contain the subject of the passage and refer to the central idea/theme of the passage directly or indirectly.
Suggested Action
FREE Live Master Classes by our Star Faculty with 20+ years of experience.
Register Now

Mostly, books/academic journals' articles have more direct titles than newspaper articles.

Types of titles:
Basically, we come across two types of titles:
  • Explicit: These state the subject directly. You are able to identify such titles easily.
  • Implicit: These state the subject indirectly. You need to be careful with this title type. 
    They may be given in form of metaphors/idioms that imply the main idea of the passage.

These questions are asked in the following forms

  • The most apt title for the passage is:
  • Select the most suitable title for the passage from the following?
Strategy to answer the title questions correctly:
  • Identify the subject/central idea: Identify the subject of the passage and make sure it reflects in the answer options (implicitly/explicitly), as done in case of 'main idea' question. This is the topic around which the whole passage is built.
  • Donot be misled by minor details; focus on the key ideas: Pay attention to the central ideas only. Details are irrelevant here. Donot obsess over single points/ideas. They may be stated directly but donot convey the main idea or theme of the passage. Always keep the whole picture in mind as single points cannot form the answer.
  • 'Title' is not a 'conclusion': This is a common mistake committed by the students. The title is meant to summarize the ideas/points enlisted in the passage and not to recommend subsequent action or deduce judgments. One important tip: summarize individual paragraphs of the passage. Look at the main idea question as one where you need to reach the final destination. How do you do so? Well, you take one step at a time- pausing at important junctions. Consume the information one paragraph at a time, summarize and make a mental roadmap of the passage flow. Once you have identified the flow of the passage, try to outline that one central idea the author of the passage is aiming at.
  • Focus on the structure: The structure and organization of the passage indicates the message/idea the author intends to convey. The tone and attitude adopted by the author, the way he presents his ideas- all signal towards the theme of the passage.
  • Assume the role of author: You are required to think from author's point of view- the core ideas he intends to convey to the reader and the feeling/experience he is going through. It basically means that if you were the author, what title would you choose for your passage?
  • Strengthen your vocab base: Building your vocabulary will help you identify the correct title for the given passage, even if stated implicitly. Apart from this, this works like a long-term approach in honing your language skills. Be sure to learn 10-20 words daily and revise them frequently (use flash cards, mobile apps, books like Word power made easy by Norman Lewis etc.).
  • Sharpen your knowledge of idioms and metaphors: The options may be given in form of idioms/metaphors. Without a good knowledge of these, you will not be able to identify the correct title for the passage.
  • Be mindful of the scope-trap: It is not uncommon to fall in the scope-trap. Some of the options may refer to the central idea directly but are outside the required scope. We tend to pick such answer options, misguided by their construction and donot realize these options are about another subject or vaguely related to the passage, thus rendering it outside the scope of the passage. Eg. If the passage talks about unemployment issue in India, the answer options related to unemployment on global level cannot be the answer. Be sure that you do not fall into this 'scope trap' to perform well in this question type.
  • Develop reading habit: Lastly, inculcate the habit of daily reading. It benefits you in multiple ways - enhances your concentration, improves vocabulary etc. and thus helps you to identify the central theme faster than a non-reader. Reading here means reading good articles and books(The Hindu editorials and other such good newspapers' articles, magazines like Reader's Digest, Journals/their websites, Novels etc.)
FREE e-books
Get access to carefully curated e-books by Academic Experts to crack competitive exams.
Download Now
How do we reach at the final answer?
Use the important guidelines provided above, match your 'central idea' with the answer options and eliminate the incorrect answer options. Remember the objective of this exercise is to follow the process of identifying the main idea in an analytical and objective manner. Follow the steps and you are on your way to scoring really well in the exam.
Rate Us