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Locating supporting points and examples

Speakers and writers use supporting details to support the main ideas of a text.
© Griffith University

Speakers and writers use supporting details to support the main ideas of a text. Types of support include the writer or speaker’s own personal opinions, opinions from experts, logical explanations, examples, reasons, statistics, names and dates.

In the reading and listening parts of PTE, you will be required to locate supporting points and specific information to answer many test items.

Identifying specific information

The fastest way to locate specific information in a reading passage is to scan read. Scanning is searching the text to find specific information or key words, such as names, dates, or statistics. Like skimming, you do not need to read every word. You also do not need to start at the beginning of a text. Instead, you can predict where you think the information is and start there.

Steps for scanning a passage to find information:

Step 1 Use what you learnt from skimming the text to locate the section of the text you need.
Step 2 Move quickly through the section. Do not read every word.
Step 3 Stop when you come to the information you want, slow down and read intensively until you understand the information needed to answer the question.

When you listen for specific information, you need to be aware that the idea you are listening for could be expressed in a number of different ways. You will not hear the exact words in the test questions, so you should listen for synonyms and paraphrasing to match the meaning of the text with the meaning of the questions.

Explanations and examples

As you read and listen you need to recognise when information is about to be given and pay close attention to that point. Speakers and writers often give an explanation or example to make their ideas clearer. Recognising when an explanation or example is coming up will improve your comprehension.

Words that signal:

  • An explanation: including, meaning, which includes, which means
  • An example: a few examples are, another example is, for example, like, one example is, such as


Speakers and writers will often support their ideas with reasons. Identifying why things happen helps you to understand the text. When listening and reading, it’s useful to note reasons that give more information and detail to the main point.

Words that signal:

  • Reasons: the reason is, because of, since, therefore, consequently, hence, thus, due to

Locating supporting points and examples

Let’s look at an example of Listening: Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer task. For this item type you need to listen to a recording and answer the multiple-choice question. There is more than one correct response.

You will have seven seconds before the recording begins to read the prompt carefully and skim the response options to understand what to listen for. To do well in this item you need to identify and note down supporting details (eg times, places, dates, statistics, examples, explanations, reasons) as well as the main points while you listen. Taking notes while you listen is important because you may not hear the information in exactly the same order as the response options. You will also need to select more than one option, so will need to refer to your notes to make your decisions.

Listen to the recording and look at the question prompt below with an example of notes taken on the main ideas and supporting details.

Listen to the recording

Question prompt inside a box with a floating box of notes

Refer to the notes and select the multiple options that best match the meaning of what you have heard. Don’t just choose an option because it has the same words or phrases as the recording. Several options may use words from the recording but may not match the meaning of what you have heard.

Now look at an annotated transcription of the recording below with notes on locating supporting details and check your answers.

Your task

Listen to a recording and answer the Listening: Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer task. Listen for words that signal explanations, examples and reasons. Practise taking your own notes on the main ideas and supporting details.

For more information about how to best approach this test item see the video tutorial in the SEE ALSO section below.


Western, V & Gasper, V. (2018). PTE Academic Lesson Plan Ideas. Pearson

Disclaimer: The question prompts are for practice purposes only and are not official PTE Test materials.

© Griffith University
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