GED Social Studies : Identifying Main Idea

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GED Social Studies

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Question Types

The following question refers to the information contained in this passage.

When considered from a historical standpoint, most academics believe that St. Paul was far more important to the development of the western world than Jesus Christ. Christianity of course emerged from the teachings of Jesus Christ, but it spread due to the dedicated work of St. Paul.

St. Paul was, in his own time, a famously devout Jew. He lived a pious life dedicated to God. One day, according to Paul, Christ spoke to him and showed him the way. From that moment on, Paul would travel back and forth across the Western World spreading the word of Christ and trying to convert anybody who would listen. Paul’s messages reached Rome, Greece, North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and even further afield. Without Paul’s influence, it is likely that Christ’s religion would have remained a niche branch of Judaism, rather than being established as the dominant western religion in its own right. Paul would continue his proselytizing right up until he died—condemned to death by the Romans for preaching a heathen religion.

The main idea of this passage is that __________

Possible Answers:

St. Paul took many risks in order to spread the word of Christianity.

the rise and fall of the Roman Empire can be traced through the emergence of Christianity as the dominant religion in the Empire.

the rise of Christianity in the west owed more to the work of St. Paul than to Christ.

Christ is an overrated figure as far as historical importance goes.

most people were reluctant to adopt Christianity until they were convinced otherwise by St. Paul.

Correct answer:

the rise of Christianity in the west owed more to the work of St. Paul than to Christ.

Explanation:

The main idea of this passage is to emphasize the importance of St. Paul in spreading Christianity around the Western World. According to the author, "St. Paul was far more important to the development of the western world than Jesus Christ." Although the author talks about how Paul died for his faith, the main idea is not that Paul took many risks in order to spread Christianity.

Example Question #2 : Question Types

The following question refers to the information contained in this passage.

The religion of Christianity began as a religion of suffering, pity, and forgiveness. This was Christ’s dominant message: the majority of people live to suffer, and we must take pity on those who are suffering and forgive those who cause it. Thus Christianity, by its basic tenets, was not meant as a religion of power. It was a religion for the powerless, the common man. It was meant to provide meaning to suffering and to give a form of power (power over one's own emotions) to the powerless.

For the first few hundred years after Christ’s death, Christianity lived up to this message. It was widely embraced by the common people around the western world, in particular the Roman Empire, and by and large they were persecuted for it. This was the whole point: you will suffer for me and I will reward you when I return. As generations went by and Christ failed to return, the message was violently corrupted. Constantine the Great, a Roman Emperor in the fourth century, adopted Christianity as the official religion of his army and later of his empire. In doing so, he took Christianity from a fringe religion, with a growing flock of dedicated believers, to the official religion of the world’s largest empire. In so doing he also militarized the cross. He took the religion of Christianity away from suffering, pity, and forgiveness and imbued it with qualities that were never supposed to be there: dominance over your enemies; power; warfare; wealth. This would have untold consequences for the history of the western world and the history of the Christian faith. No longer did its believers have to cower in fear of their enemies, but also no longer were they truly adhering to the teachings of Christ.

The author of this passage is primarily concerned with __________

Possible Answers:

the inadequacy of Christ’s followers.

the degree to which Christianity affected the western world.

the violence that has been done in Christ’s name.

the corruption of the Christian message by Constantine the Great.

the ease with which Christianity spread around the Roman Empire.

Correct answer:

the corruption of the Christian message by Constantine the Great.

Explanation:

The author of this passage is primarily concerned with describing the corruption of the Christian message by Constantine the Great. The author spends the first part of the passage detailing how Christianity was meant to be understood, according to Christ’s teachings. He then goes on to show how this message was corrupted and manipulated by Constantine.

Example Question #3 : Question Types

The following question refers to the information contained in this passage.

Communism is an economic system where the government controls property and the means of production. Its primary intention is to promote economic equality and normalize the standard of living. In theory, a perfect communist system would result in no man having more or less than his neighbor and would involve everyone doing an equal amount of work for an equal incentive—the good of the collective whole. Yet, every time pure communism has been attempted on a large scale in human history it has resulted in widespread famine and poverty. Why might this be? Well, the simplest answer is human nature. The positive aspects—our competitive nature, our desire to better ourselves and our families lives—and the negative—our inability to work hard without incentive, our desire to manipulate one another—all combine to favor an economic system that is based on competition and individually-motivated reward.

The author of this passage is primarily arguing _______________.

Possible Answers:

against the complete rejection of Communism

that Communism fails because it always results in widespread famine and poverty

against the idea that Communism can be enforced on a smaller scale

for a nation-building experiment in Communism on a smaller scale

that Communism fails because it goes against basic human nature

Correct answer:

that Communism fails because it goes against basic human nature

Explanation:

The author of this passage is primarily arguing that Communism can never work because it goes against human nature. This can be clearly seen after the author asks “why might this be?” and goes on to list how Communism goes against our positive and negative aspects. That Communism fails because it always results in widespread famine and poverty is closer to how it fails than why it fails.

Example Question #1 : Identifying Main Idea

The following question refers to the information contained in this passage.

The religion of Judaism—for many hundreds of years after it had adopted monotheism—did not really deal with the notion of heaven and hell, or the afterlife. It was a fringe matter for theologians, but far from central to the practice of the religion. This all changed when a series of devastating wars and diseases dramatically reduced the population of the Jewish nation. Suddenly the belief in the afterlife, and the attention it was given by theologians, exploded. After all, these people had to have died for something, right? So, out of war and tragedy, grew one of the most influential ideas in human history—a monotheistic god who would guide all his people to life after death.

The author of this passage is primarily concerned with ___________________.

Possible Answers:

outlining the history of the Jewish people

explaining the ancient polytheistic beliefs

discussing the effects of war on societal development

the rise of monotheism

identifying the beginning of a Jewish belief in the afterlife

Correct answer:

identifying the beginning of a Jewish belief in the afterlife

Explanation:

The author of this passage is primarily concerned with identifying the beginning of a Jewish belief in the afterlife. He notes in the opening line that for hundreds of years the religion of Judaism did not really address the notion of the afterlife. He then goes on to talk about how this all changed when a large proportion of the Jewish population suddenly died or was killed in battle. This, the author claims, was the beginning of the Jewish belief in the afterlife. Although the author does suggest that war plays a role in societal development, this is not the main idea of the passage—nor is it to explain the rise of monotheism or the history of the Jewish people.

Example Question #5 : Question Types

The following question refers to the information contained in this passage. 

The city of Dubrovnik has a rich and complicated history. For centuries it served as a halfway point between the Ottoman Empire and the Christian nations of Europe. After the Ottoman Empire invaded and conquered much of the Balkans, trade between the Empire and Christian Europe was largely forbidden, except through the independent city-state of Dubrovnik (at the time called Ragusa). Considering the massive amount of trade that poured through Dubrovnik on the way from the East to the Italian city-states and the nations of Northern Europe, it is no surprise that the city grew immensely wealthy and developed an autonomous character.

The main idea of this passage centers around __________________.

Possible Answers:

the intellectual and scientific spirit of the city of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik’s ability to defend itself and remain independent

the massive territorial expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century

Dubrovnik’s history and its concentration of wealth and trade

the tensions that existed between the Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe

Correct answer:

Dubrovnik’s history and its concentration of wealth and trade

Explanation:

The main idea of this passage is that Dubrovnik has a unique history built around it’s status as an autonomous city-state where trade and wealth was concentrated. Although the tensions between the Ottoman Empire and Christian Europe are mentioned this is done more to demonstrate why Dubrovnik became a trading center. Dubrovnik’s ability to defend itself is not mentioned as a reason why it developed an independent character, nor is the intellectual or scientific spirit of the city.

Example Question #6 : Question Types

The following question refers to the information contained in this passage.

The feudal system arose during the Dark Ages of European history. After the fall of the western Roman Empire in the fifth century, there was a massive power vacuum in central and western Europe. This vacuum that was swiftly filled by invading barbarian tribes and settlers from further East. Wave after wave of people arrived in the fertile lands of central and western Europe and encouraged those who lived there either to seek protection or perish at the hands of the endless hordes of migrating people. This need for protection created the feudal system. A common family would pledge to work the lands of a Lord or Knight, and that person would in turn promise to defend the family whenever the land was invaded. This grew into a system fairly close to slavery, called serfdom, where the common man had no choice but to toil endlessly to further someone else’s wealth or perish out in the wider world by himself. It was born out of the violence and mass migration of the Early Dark Ages.

The author of this passage is primarily concerned with ________________.

Possible Answers:

explaining why the feudal system was ineffective

delineating the strengths of the feudal system

highlighting the horrors of the Dark Ages

decrying the Fall of the Roman Empire

describing the situation that led to the rise of the feudal system

Correct answer:

describing the situation that led to the rise of the feudal system

Explanation:

The first line reads "The feudal system arose during the Dark Ages of European history." From there the author proceeds to talk about how the violent circumstances in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire led to the creation of the feudal system. The author is focused on describing the situation that led to the rise of the feudal system, as can also be seen in the last line "it was born out of the violence and mass migration of the Early Dark Ages." Although the author suggests that the fall of the Roman Empire created a dangerous power vacuum he is not primarily concerned with decrying this state of affairs. Similarly, he does talk about the horrors of the Dark Ages, but this is done primarily to show why the feudal system was allowed to rise.

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