Supporting ideas are all of the ideas that offer support to the main idea or other central concepts in the passage. These supporting ideas will always be explicitly (directly) stated as part of the passage. This is the key difference between a supporting idea and an inference. The supporting ideas are directly stated, while inferences are only implied.
Supporting ideas can be some of the most straightforward question types and can be identified when you see words such as
All of these question types would be considered supporting ideas as they do not identify the main idea, but rather a supporting detail that is directly stated in the passage.
Consider the following passage:
A potential supporting idea question could appear as follows:
1. According to the passage, the way to improve the telescope further is to
(A) increase the number of reflectors in the telescope.
(B) improve the conditions surrounding the telescope.
(C) increase the size of the lens of the telescope.
(D) increase the durability of the telescope’s casing.
Since this question is asking us to find a supporting idea directly from the passage, we should determine where the passage might state the answer to this question. It seems most likely that the passage would state this information near where it also describes previous advancements in the development of telescopes. Looking to the second half of paragraph 1 (lines 21-22), you can find that the author is directly discussing the best ways to improve the telescope.
The author states that we could continue to build larger telescopes by increasing the number of reflectors, seemingly supporting both A and C as potential answer choices! However, the author immediately contradicts this sentiment on lines 25-27: “It is more than doubtful, however, whether a further increase in size is a great advantage.” This is the author directly stating that increasing the size or the number of reflectors will likely not create a difference in the quality of the telescope.
Immediately after this, the author states “Much more depends on other conditions, especially those of climate…” (lines 27-29). This offers direct support for answer choice B and is directly stated in the passage. All it took was a little bit of close and careful reading to determine the correct answer!
Note that the durability of the telescopes casing is not even mentioned in the passage and thus, cannot possibly be the correct answer.
Pay close attention while reading and allow the questions to inform the information you are searching for in the passage! For instance, if I had read the sample question above before reading the passage, I would know to pay attention to where the passage discusses how to improve the telescope further.
Answers to Practice Questions