Reading comprehension and main ideas practice for adults

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Reading comprehension and main ideas practice for adults
For most adults, reading is a part of everyday life. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Reading comprehension is one of the most important skills in adult education. Without these skills, communication and research suffer. Because the ability to communicate and gather information is so crucial in the job market, all adults must be proficient in reading comprehension before they can go further in postsecondary education.

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Students can improve their comprehension of written material by outlining what they have read. Many non-fiction pieces are arranged as a series of discrete arguments. An outline assignment would ask adult students to identify each of the main ideas in a piece and then list each one in point form, with additional points for evidence. For practice, students can respond to non-fiction reading prompts written in a structured essay or research paper format and attempt to create outlines for several of them.


A worksheet is a page filled with questions or activities relating to a topic. For reading comprehension exercises, worksheets generally contain questions pertaining to the passage at hand. These questions may deal with the passage's literal content, figurative meanings or thematic message. A worksheet for main ideas would ask the student to identify the subject and motifs in the passage. Worksheet questions may be in multiple-choice, true/false or short answer format. Worksheets for adult students should ask advanced questions, since adults are expected to be proficient readers.


To practice reading comprehension, adult students can write short essays on passages they have read. One of the most common writing exercises for comprehension is the five-paragraph essay. Five-paragraph essays are perfect for adult students because they challenge writers to develop their own thoughts about what they have read, something adults are expected to be able to do. The five-paragraph essay has an introduction, three substantive body paragraphs and a conclusion. Each body paragraph should develop part of an argument that is outlined in the introduction.

Reading Tests

Reading comprehension can be tested directly. Using a timer, a reading prompt and a list of questions, adult students can practice increasing their speed and comprehension at the same time. For example, in one exercise developed by Marshall Adult Education, students practice by timing themselves as they read a passage and then answer questions on the main ideas. This exercise develops reading speed, reading comprehension and main idea identification skills.

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