Reading Study Guide for the PERT

Page 1

General Information

The PERT Reading section will test how well you can not only read and comprehend, but also analyze a passage. It will be important to understand the terms used in the test and be able to extract the requested details from the written material. Here are some study points to help you do just that.

Terms to Know

It will help to be familiar with certain terms so you will know exactly what information you are seeking in order to select the correct answer.

Main Idea

The main idea of a piece is the overarching theme or point. In an argumentative essay arguing against the use of kill shelters in animal care, the main idea would likely be something akin to, “Kill shelters demonstrate inhumane treatment of animals and should be banned immediately.” The main idea is frequently used as a synonym for thesis: both provide the main point and purpose of a single work.

Implied Main Idea

Similar to a main idea, an implied main idea is one that is the purpose and overall thesis―but one that is not clearly stated by the author. In the example used above, that sentence is likely to function as an actual sentence in the opening (and closing) paragraph. An implied main idea is not spelled out like this, but is hinted at or spelled out by the supporting details and arguments.

Supporting Details

Supporting details are found in the body of a work, rather than the opening or closing paragraphs/chapters. Supporting details are the framework of an argument or piece, providing evidence or ideas used to support the main idea. These typically make up the bulk of a paragraph and are used to expound on a paragraph’s topic sentence and the paper’s main idea.

Author’s Purpose

The author’s purpose is simply the reason for the author’s writing. In the argumentative essay discussing kill shelters, the author’s purpose is likely to be “to provide reasons and evidence to support the notion that kill shelters are inhumane, thereby persuading the audience to come to his/her way of thinking.” This will also be the case in a persuasive essay. A narrative essay will likely be different: rather than writing to persuade, the author is writing to deliver a story. The author’s purpose is usually most easily identified by identifying the type of work being read.

Author’s Tone

Tone can be difficult to find. An author’s tone is used to clue the audience in to how the author feels about the subject matter. In a narrative essay, the author’s tone might be sad, or nostalgic. In an informative essay, the author’s tone is usually formal and detached. Tone lends insight into the purpose of a paper and the expected reaction to the piece.


An inference is an idea that is assumed based upon available knowledge or evidence. If a friend rushes into a party late, with work clothes still on, you might infer that said friend got off of work late. If a paper offers evidence to support the notion that global warming is a serious issue, you might infer that the author considers this a serious threat and is writing to persuade his/her audience to take action. Inferences are used regularly in both academic and informal writing.


A bias in writing occurs when an author fails to consider the possibility of any outcome or idea but one. Bias is often seen in both argumentative essays and compare/contrast essays; rather than offering ideas from both sides of the proverbial coin, an author will simply provide information to reinforce his/her ideas, rather than giving equal weight to both sides.

Fact and Opinion

Fact is irrefutable, or assumed to be true. Facts are typically found in more formal writing, discussing concrete matters such as history, science, and current affairs. In a newspaper, facts may be found everywhere, from sports reporting to the headlines.

Opinion is refutable and is simply a reflection of the author’s ideas. In a newspaper, opinions are typically found in the editorial section―a section dedicated to authors voicing their opinions.

In academic writing, facts and opinions should not be mixed up; facts are used to support ideas, while opinions are used to influence the audience.

Reasoning and Rhetoric

The reasoning of a piece describes the manner in which an author lays out his/her information and arguments. Reasoning may involve using facts to support ideas or appeals to emotion. Rhetoric is the delivery of reasoning and includes three types of delivery: logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos is reasoning using logic (appeal to reason). Ethos is reasoning using an appeal to ethics. This is most often used in discussions of morality and wrongdoing. Pathos is reasoning using an appeal to emotion. This is most commonly found in persuasive essays and even narrative essays.

To evaluate what type of rhetoric (or reasoning) is being used in a piece, identify the type of language being used. Is the language primarily academic or formal in nature? Are facts the most commonly used support? This is logos rhetoric. Is the language emotionally charged, conjuring images of pain or suffering? This is pathos rhetoric. Is the language focused on similarities between the author and the audience? Does it cast the author as an authority on the subject? This is ethos rhetoric.


All Study Guides for the PERT are now available as downloadable PDFs