Understanding Main Ideas and Supporting Details: Key to GED Social Studies Success

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In preparing for the GED Test, particularly within the Social Studies section, it’s essential to grasp several critical concepts and skills that contribute to successful comprehension and analysis of the material presented. This section of the test may include diverse formats such as text passages, graphical data, or a combination thereof. The ability to discern the central idea or main point of these presentations forms the foundation of effective study and test-taking strategies for this segment. At the end, we shall go through a practice test.

Understanding the Main Idea

The main idea, sometimes referred to as the central idea or thesis, is the primary message or argument that an author or creator aims to convey through a text or graphic. Identifying this central idea is crucial as it helps to focus your understanding of the material, guiding you through the details and examples provided to support the main argument.

Key Skills for Social Studies Comprehension

  1. Identifying Supporting Details: Once the main idea is established, it’s important to recognize the supporting details or evidence that the author uses to bolster their argument. These details are the building blocks that lend credibility and depth to the main idea, making its understanding more comprehensive.
  2. Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions: Beyond merely understanding what is explicitly stated, the GED Test often requires test-takers to infer meanings or draw conclusions from the given information. This involves piecing together information presented in the passage or graphic and applying logic and reasoning to arrive at a deeper understanding or insight that may not be directly stated.

Strategies for Social Studies Test Questions

When faced with questions in the Social Studies section of the GED Test, a systematic approach can be highly beneficial:

  • Identify the Main Point: Start by asking yourself what the primary message or argument of the passage or graphic is. This will be the cornerstone of your analysis.
  • Analyze Supporting Evidence: Look for and evaluate the evidence or details provided to support the main point. How do these elements contribute to the overall argument or message?
  • Conclude Thoughtfully: Based on your understanding of the main point and its supporting details, consider what conclusions can be drawn. This may involve making inferences about implications, consequences, or underlying themes that are suggested but not explicitly stated.

GED Test Tip

A practical tip for tackling GED Test questions is to systematically question and evaluate the material presented. Ask yourself: What is the main point being made? What evidence or details are presented to support this point? What logical conclusion can I draw from this information?

Mastering these skills and strategies not only aids in the comprehension of social studies material but also equips test-takers with the analytical tools necessary to navigate the GED Test effectively, enhancing their ability to analyze, infer, and critically engage with a wide range of informational content.

Lets go through the Practice below, Please I encourage you to read all, as it will help you;

Farewell Address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961

Good evening, my fellow Americans:

First, I should like to express my gratitude to the radio and television networks for the opportunity they have given me over the years to bring reports and messages to our nation. My special thanks go to them for the opportunity of addressing you this evening.

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and finally to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final message to you as President, I feel the need to share with you these thoughts that have been weighing heavily on my mind.

The United States stands at the threshold of a new era of challenge and opportunity. Our scientific and technical prowess has been proven in recent years through a series of brilliant achievements in space and defense. However, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn.

(Source; The American Presidency Project, which archives and provides access to presidential documents online. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which preserves and documents government and historical records.)

Do try these questions first before checking the answers at the end;

Question 1: Main Idea

What is the main idea of President Eisenhower’s farewell address?

– A) The importance of maintaining a strong military presence around the world.

– B) The achievements of the United States in space exploration and defense.

– C) The warning against the accumulation of power by the military-industrial complex.

– D) The role of the federal government in funding scientific research.

Question 2: Identifying Supporting Details

Which of the following did President Eisenhower express gratitude for at the beginning of his speech?

– A) The work of his successor.

– B) The opportunity given by radio and television networks to address the nation.

– C) The advancements in technology and science.

– D) The support from the Congress throughout his presidency.

Question 3: Making Inferences

What can be inferred about Eisenhower’s view on the relationship between the government and scientific research?

– A) He believes government involvement stifles scientific creativity and curiosity.

– B) He supports government contracts as the primary means for scientific advancements.

– C) He feels that scientific research should be left entirely to the private sector.

– D) He is concerned about the potential domination of scientific research by federal funding and interests.

Question 4: Drawing Conclusions

According to Eisenhower, what is necessary to prevent the military-industrial complex from endangering liberties?

– A) Increased military spending.

– B) An alert and knowledgeable citizenry.

– C) Expansion of the space program.

– D) Reduction of federal involvement in scientific research.

Question 5: Drawing Conclusions

What conclusion can be drawn about Eisenhower’s vision for America’s future in the international community?

– A) He advocates for a strong military presence as the basis for international relations.

– B) He believes in the importance of disarmament and mutual respect among nations.

– C) He prioritizes economic strength as the key to America’s leadership.

– D) He supports the idea of America becoming the world’s sole superpower.


  1. C – The warning against the accumulation of power by the military-industrial complex.
  2. B – The opportunity given by radio and television networks to address the nation.
  3. D – He is concerned about the potential domination of scientific research by federal funding and interests.
  4. B – An alert and knowledgeable citizenry.
  5. B – He believes in the importance of disarmament and mutual respect among nations.

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