GMAT Reading Comprehension: 4 Steps for Supporting Ideas Questions

Supporting idea questions ask about details directly stated in the passage. You can identify them because they will refer to only one part of the passage. These questions are different from main idea questions because supporting ideas questions ask about the points the author makes within the passage and do not ask about the passage as a whole. For these questions you will need a solid understanding of how the author makes his overall argument as well as the argument’s component parts.
Supporting idea questions are commonly phrased in one of the following ways: “According to the passage…”, “The passage states that…”, or “The passage mentions….” You should be able to recognize them quickly, as they are more straightforward than inference or application questions, and follow the following steps to get the correct answer!

  • Rephrase the question.

    Sometimes these questions are written as fill-in-the-blank statements, such as “According to the passage, a reasonable assumption about x is that:” Take a moment to mentally rephrase the stem in the form of a question. This will help you understand exactly what to look for in the passage.
    Original Question: “The passage states that Jim Crow laws occurred because:”
    Possible Mental Rephrase: “What reason does the passage give for Jim Crow laws?”
    What to Look for: The paragraph where the author discusses Jim Crow laws, and then the specific point where he discusses the reasons for the laws.

  • Find the answer in the passage.

    Check your passage map to locate the appropriate paragraph that contains the detail, and re-read the appropriate sentence to locate the relevant information. Don’t try to predict without referencing the passage. Some of these questions are incredibly specific and will hinge on a single sentence, or even a solitary word. Chances are you will not remember the correct answer from your first reading of the passage, so don’t try.

  • Write down a prediction.

    Avoid writing complete sentences, but take a couple of seconds to make a note in shorthand of the question’s answer. Don’t skip this step! If you do, you risk forgetting your prediction as you read the answer choices, and becoming swayed by tempting wrong answer choices. A written-down prediction will give you something to reference when you are stuck between two choices.

  • Eliminate answer choices that do not match your prediction.

    Look for the common wrong answer types: distortions, extreme language, misused details, and opposites. If you are stuck between two choices, ask yourself what is the subtle degree of difference between them, and re-consider your mentally-rephrased question. Only one choice will perfectly match the scope of the question.

For supporting ideas questions, remember that a “logical” answer is not enough. The correct answer must be based on something directly stated in the passage, so avoid making inferences for this question type.