Detail

Detail asks:  What is a detail of what you just read?


Basics

Detail refers to specific words in a reading passage.

Detail is one of three key questions of reading comprehension.

Detail asks: What is a detail of what you just read?

A detail question is usually asked without using the term “detail.”
Specific words are brought up instead.

Details can be found anywhere in a passage.


Passage

Description of a Desert

The most remarkable of deserts is the Sahara.  This is a vast plain, but little elevated above the level of the ocean, and covered with sand and gravel, with a mixture of sea shells, and appears like the basin of an evaporated sea.

Question
In the above excerpt from a report by Ann Plato, the Sahara Desert is described with which of the following features?
A.  Winding rivers.
B.  A mixture of sea shells.
C.  Limited expanse.
D.  Seaweed.

Answer
B.  A mixture of sea shells.

Answer Process
A mixture of sea shells is given as a detail through specific words in the passage.


Passage

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

My mother was named Harriet Bailey.  She was the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite dark.  My mother was of a darker complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather.  My father was a white man.  He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage.  The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means of knowing was withheld from me.  My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant—before I knew her as my mother.  It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.  Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor.  For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child.  This is the inevitable result.

Question
In the above excerpt from Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, which of the following is revealed?
A.  Frederick Douglass grew up with his mother.
B.  Both of Frederick Douglass’s parents were slaves.
C.  Frederick Douglass’s master could not have been his father.
D.  Frederick Douglass eventually ran away from Maryland.

Answer
D.  Frederick Douglass eventually ran away from Maryland.

Answer Process
In the middle of the passage, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away is given as a detail through specific words.


Passage

A Tale of Two Cities

The messenger rode back at an easy trot, stopping pretty often at ale-houses by the way to drink, but evincing a tendency to keep his own counsel, and to keep his hat cocked over his eyes.  He had eyes that assorted very well with that decoration, being of a surface black, with no depth in the colour or form, and much too near together—as if they were afraid of being found out in something, singly, if they kept too far apart.  They had a sinister expression, under an old cocked-hat like a three-cornered spittoon, and over a great muffler for the chin and throat, which descended nearly to the wearer’s knees.  When he stopped for drink, he moved this muffler with his left hand, only while he poured his liquor in with his right; as soon as that was done, he muffled again.

Question
In the above excerpt from a novel by Charles Dickens, the messenger is distinguished by which of the following?
A.  He seldom stops.
B.  He wears an old cocked-hat like a three-cornered spittoon.
C.  He has a trusting expression.
D.  His eyes are far apart.

Answer
B.  He wears an old cocked-hat like a three-cornered spittoon.

Answer Process
In the middle of the passage, an old cocked-hat like a three-cornered spittoon is given as a detail through specific words.


Practice – Questions

1.  Passage
The Origin of Species

Believing that it is always best to study some special group, I have, after deliberation, taken up domestic pigeons … The diversity of the breeds is something astonishing.  Compare the English carrier and the short-faced tumbler, and see the wonderful difference in their beaks, entailing corresponding differences in their skulls.  The carrier, more especially the male bird, is also remarkable from the wonderful development of the carunculated skin about the head; and this is accompanied by greatly elongated eyelids, very large external orifices to the nostrils, and a wide gape of mouth.  The short-faced tumbler has a beak in outline almost like that of a finch; and the common tumbler has the singular inherited habit of flying at a great height in a compact flock, and tumbling in the air head over heels.  The runt is a bird of great size, with long massive beak and large feet; some of the sub-breeds of runts have very long necks, others very long wings and tails, others singularly short tails.

1.  Question
In the above excerpt from a book by Charles Darwin, what does he say about pigeons?
A.  The runt is a small bird.
B.  There is only one kind of tumbler.
C.  There is little diversity among pigeons.
D.  The carrier has elongated eyelids.


2.  Passage

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

2.  Question
In the above excerpt from a poem by Robert Frost, which road did the traveler take?
A.  Yellow
B.  Bent
C.  Grassy
D.  Both


3.  Passage

The Fall of the House of Usher

Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building.  Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity.  The discoloration of ages had been great.  Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine, tangled web-work from the eaves.  Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation.  No portion of the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones.

3.  Question
In the above excerpt from a story by Edgar Allan Poe, what is covering the building?
A.  Ivy.
B.  Fungi.
C.  Paint.
D.  Chalk.


4.  Passage

The Strenuous Life

Of course we must remember not to judge any public servant by any one act, and especially should we beware of attacking the men who are merely the occasions and not the causes of disaster.  Let me illustrate what I mean by the army and the navy.  If twenty years ago we had gone to war, we should have found the navy as absolutely unprepared as the army.  At that time our ships could not have encountered with success the fleets of Spain any more than nowadays we can put untrained soldiers, no matter how brave, who are armed with archaic black-powder weapons, against well-drilled regulars armed with the highest type of modern repeating rifle.

4.  Question
In what condition was the navy twenty years before this excerpt from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt?
A.  Modern.
B.  Ready for war.
C.  Better than the army.
D.  Unprepared.


5.  Passage

U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy & Compliance

Safety is our no. 1 priority at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  And a cornerstone of our safety policy is ensuring that transportation providers across all modes – on roads, rails, water, or in the air, over land and underground – employ operators who are 100 percent drug- and alcohol-free.  We want – and we insist upon – safety-conscious employees at all times and under all circumstances.

Fortunately, the transportation industry over time has worked hard to reduce the number of accidents and crashes directly related to drug and alcohol use.  Nevertheless, human risk factors remain – and some transportation workers do use illicit drugs, or abuse alcohol, despite serious efforts to deter them.

5.  Question
In the above excerpt from an employee handbook, what kind of crashes are specifically mentioned?
A.  Related to drug and alcohol use.
B.  Poor steering.
C.  Distracted driving.
D.  Non-human.


6.  Passage

The Taxpayer Advocate Service Is Here To Help You

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is your voice at the IRS.  As an independent organization within the IRS, our job is to ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly and that you know and understand your rights.  We can offer you free help with IRS problems that you can’t resolve on your own.  We know the tax process can be confusing,
but the worst thing you can do is nothing at all!  TAS can help if you can’t resolve your tax problem and:
• Your problem is causing financial difficulties for you, your family, or your business.
• You face (or your business is facing) an immediate threat of adverse action.
• You’ve tried repeatedly to contact the IRS but no one has responded, or the IRS hasn’t responded by the date promised.

6.  Question
In the above excerpt from a government document, what is one of the problems for which you can contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service?
A.  Alcohol abuse.
B.  Drug abuse.
C.  Immediate threat of adverse action.
D.  Insomnia.


7.  Passage

Of Parents and Children

The joys of parents are secret; and so are their griefs and fears.  They cannot utter the one; nor they will not utter the other.  Children sweeten labors; but they make misfortunes more bitter.  They increase the cares of life; but they mitigate the remembrance of death.  The perpetuity by generation is common to beasts; but memory; merit, and noble works are proper to men.  And surely a man shall see the noblest works and foundations have proceeded from childless men; which have sought to express the images of their minds, where those of their bodies have failed.  So the care of posterity is most in them that have no posterity.  They that are the first raisers of their houses are most indulgent towards their children; beholding them as the continuance not only of their kind but of their work; and so both children and creatures.

7.  Question
In the above excerpt from an essay by Francis Bacon, how are grown men without children described?
A.  Worthless.
B.  Capable of the noblest works and foundations.
C.  Complete failures.
D.  Incapable of contributing to society.


8.  Passage

Preface to Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language

It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward.  Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries; whom mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pioneer of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths through which Learning and Genius press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress.  Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to very few.

8.  Question
In the above introduction, how does Samuel Johnson describe the writer of dictionaries?
A.  Brilliant scholar.
B.  Stupid idiot.
C.  Happy camper.
D.  Unhappy mortal.


9.  Passage

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties

The balsam bed is made of the small twigs of balsam-trees. In gathering these, collect twigs of different lengths, from eighteen inches long (to be used as the foundation of the bed) to ten or twelve inches long (for the top layer). If you want to rest well, do not economize on the amount you gather; many a time I have had my bones ache as a result of being too tired to make my bed properly and attempting to sleep on a thin layer of boughs.

9.  Question
What does Daniel Carter Beard, the author of Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties, recommend for building a balsam bed?
A.  Twigs of the same length.
B.  Tree trunks.
C.  Twigs of different lengths.
D.  Feathers.


10.  Passage

Hamlet

To be, or not to be–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

10.  Question
What weapons does Hamlet mention?

A.  Scud missiles.
B.  Weapons of mass destruction.
C.  Battering rams.
D.  Slings and arrows.


Practice – Answers

1.  D.  The carrier has elongated eyelids.

2.  C.  Grassy

3.  B.  Fungi.

4.  D.  Unprepared.

5.  A.  Related to drug and alcohol use.

6.  C.  Immediate threat of adverse action.

7.  B.  Capable of the noblest works and foundations.

8.  D.  Unhappy mortal.

9.  C.  Twigs of different lengths.

10.  D.  Slings and arrows.

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2 Responses to Detail

  1. chele says:

    E xcellent practice

  2. Dina L Fortune says:

    This is Awesome Sauce!!!

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