Find the Main Idea Worksheets and Practice Questions

Whether you're a teacher standing in front of a classroom full of kids, or a student struggling with reading comprehension, chances are good you'll need to become very familiar with finding the main idea of a passage of text. Every reading comprehension test, whether it's for school or college admissions (like the SAT, ACT or GRE), will have at least one question related to finding the main idea. Students can learn to understand what they read by practicing with main idea worksheets.

These main idea worksheets come complete with two PDF files. The first is a worksheet you can print for distribution in your classroom or for personal use; no permissions are required. The second is an answer key.

Main Idea Worksheets

Number 1' painted on wall, close-up
John-Patrick Morarescu / Getty Images

Print the PDF: Main idea worksheet No. 1

Print the PDF: Main idea worksheet No. 1 answers

Have students write short paragraph essays, about 100 to 200 words each, on 10 different topics including William Shakespeare, immigration, innocence and experience, nature, the right-to-life debate, social movements, novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, the digital divide, internet regulation, and classroom technology.

Each main idea topic provides a brief write-up detailing a specific issue related to an individual—such as Shakespeare's works, which highlighted the value of women in society—or issue. Students can then show their ability to pick out the main ideas in their brief essays.

Main Idea Worksheet No. 2

Number 2
Carl Johann Rann/Getty Images

Print the PDF: Main idea worksheet No. 2

Print the PDF: Main idea worksheet No. 2 answers

Students will have another chance to practice their skills in finding the main idea and writing about it with 10 more topics, including the physical environment of classrooms, China's growing power, the effect of rain, why male students tend to score higher than female students on math tests, movies, support for U.S. troops, educational technology, copyright and fair-use laws, and how the social environment affects the breeding rate of mares and foals.

After allowing students to read the brief write-up about each topic, ask them to write a 100-to-200-word response indicating what they believe to be the main idea.

Main Idea Practice No. 3

3
Lan Qu/Getty Images

Print the PDF: Main Idea Worksheet No. 3

Print the PDF: Main Idea Worksheet No. 3 answers

After reading each write-up, ask students to demonstrate their understanding of the main idea by answering multiple choice questions. To further develop their skills, ask the class to write a few sentences explaining why they chose the answer they selected as well as why the other responses were not correct. The topics covered include the environment, Asperger's syndrome, a school district's expansion plans, students with special needs, and legends.