Main Idea Questions

Main Idea Questions

Necessary Skills

  • Understanding the overall topic or basic idea of a lecture or conversation
  • Understanding the speaker’s general purpose in giving a lecture or having a conversation
  • Inferring the speaker’s purpose or main idea when it is not directly stated

Example Questions

  • What is the main topic of the lecture?
  • What is the main topic of the conversation?
  • What are the speakers mainly discussing?
  • What aspect of__________ does the professor mainly discuss?
  • What aspect of the problem does the___________ help with?
  • What features of each type of___________ does the professor focus on?
  • What is the woman’s main concern about__________
  • What concerns does the student have about__________
  • Why did the professor mention__________
  • What is the student’s motivation for__________

Pay attention to phrases like:


  • Today’s talk is on . . .
  • Today we’re going to talk about..
  •  Now we are going to discuss . .

In a conversation,

listen for cues that will indicate a speaker’s main, purpose.

  • How can I help?
  • What do you need?
  • Can you help me with .
  • Listen for key words that are emphasized or repeated.

Keep in mind that two or more major ideas together may define the overall topic.