ACT Reading

Main Idea Questions

If there is one question you are certain to see on the ACT, it is about the main idea of a passage. The main idea is nothing but the primary purpose of the passage.

There are two broad types of questions on the ACT Reading Test:

  1. General questions that ask about broader concepts in the passage. These should be answered from your initial reading
  2. Detail-oriented questions that ask about specific information and/or relationships within the passage. These can almost always be supported by an explicit (but cleverly hidden) piece of information or relationship within the passage

So, let’s start with the main idea questions. Typical main idea questions are phrased as follows:

  • The primary purpose of the passage is...?
  • The main idea of the passage is….?
  • Which of the following best describes the organization of the passage?
  • The passage as a whole can best be characterized as which of the following?

Identifying the main idea and the primary purpose in your initial read is the key to answering main idea questions. You should be able to answer general questions without having to re-read the entire passage.

In fact, rereading the entire passage can actually be distracting. An incorrect answer choice may pertain only to a detail in a body paragraph. As you reread, you might spot that attractive detail and choose the wrong answer. So, instead of rereading, dive right into the answer choices and start eliminating.

On almost every main idea question, you will see at least one answer choice that is exactly about some portion of the passage. Test makers are good at guiding you to an answer choice that is correct for half of the passage but not for the whole reading. Often the correct answer will be hidden behind convoluted language so that you are hesitant to pick it.

Occasionally, though, you may still find yourself stuck between two answer choices on a general question. If this is the case, use a Scoring System to determine which answer choice relates to more paragraphs in the passage. Assign the answer choice two points if it relates to the first paragraph and one point for each additional paragraph. The answer choice with more points is usually the correct one. In the event of a tie, select the answer choice that pertains to the first paragraph over any choices that do not.

Remember, though, that it is not enough to recognize what the author said or why, but instead whether an idea is primary or not. Wrong answers may make statements about people, places, dates, etc. that are factually supported by the passage, but those answers will still be incorrect because they do not identify the main focus of the passage. As stated earlier, it’s imperative that you predict an answer choice before diving deep into the answer choices.

Patterns in Main Idea Questions

Both correct and incorrect answers to “main idea” questions tend to follow some general patterns; while there are of course many exceptions, these patterns can be helpful to keep in mind when eliminating answer choices.

First, because “main idea” questions ask about the big picture, correct answers are more likely to be phrased in a general (or “vague”) manner, whereas incorrect answers tend to refer to specifics from the passage.

The more specific the information in a given answer choice, the more unlikely the information applies to the entire passage.

Secondly, you should be suspicious of answers that include specific words from the passage, especially challenging vocabulary words that many test-takers are unlikely to know. “Main idea” questions are not merely testing your ability to recognize words from the passage but require you to make a leap from concrete to abstract. As a result, answers that quote the passage verbatim are less likely to be correct.

Lastly, another important component of primary purpose questions relates to the first word or phrase of the answer choices themselves. Most answer choices in these questions start with a verb that must properly match the passage type. In this problem, the four verbs or verb phrases are “detail,” “defend,” “suggest,” and “make the case.”

For example, if a passage is opinionated, answer choices having words like “defend,” “suggest,” and “make that case” all relate to presenting an opinion and are more likely to be correct. You should always read all answer choices, but the first signal word could disqualify an answer choice quickly if it does not match the passage type.

Example 1 
         European zoos of the late 19th and early 20th centuries incorporated the visual cultures of their animals’ native homes into ornate buildings - reflections of their nations’ colonial aspirations. The Berlin Zoo’s ostrich house resembled an Egyptian temple, with large columns flanking the entrance and scenes of ostrich hunts decorating the exterior. Berlin’s elephant enclosure was built in the spirit of a Hindu temple; the home for its giraffes adopted an Islamic architectural style. Zoos in Cologne, Lisbon, Antwerp, and Budapest, among others, created similar exhibits. These zoos were no home for subtlety: The animals they contained were exotic to most visitors; the buildings that did the containing reinforced the sensation.

1. Which of the following best states the main idea of the paragraph?
Buildings in the late 19th and early 20th European zoos emphasized the exotic origins of the animals they housed
Many buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries European zoos were built to resemble Egyptian temples
European zoos in the late 19th and early 20th centuries sought to evoke subtle emotions in their visitors
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most of the animals in European zoos came from outside of Europe

2. The primary purpose of the paragraph is to?
Argue that European zoos of the late 19th and early 20th centuries should have made more of an effort to accommodate their animals’ needs
Describe specific ways in which late 19th and early 20th century European zoo buildings evoked the animals’ home countries
Compare the buildings at the Berlin Zoo to zoo buildings in Cologne, Lisbon, Antwerp, and Budapest
Illustrate the importance of housing zoo animals in buildings that recreate their native homes

3. The author mentions “zoos in Cologne, Lisbon, Antwerp, and Budapest” (lines 13-14) in order to illustrate what point?
Buildings in 19th and 20th century European zoos emphasized the exotic origins of the animals they housed
Many buildings in 19th and 20th century European zoos were built to resemble Egyptian temples
European zoos in the 19th and 20th centuries sought to evoke subtle emotions in their visitors
During the 19th and 20th century centuries, most of the animals in European zoos came from outside of Europe

1. The main idea essentially states that European zoo buildings looked something like buildings in the animals’ native countries. Even if you’re not 100% sure about the point, you can probably figure out that it’s talking about buildings. So, you can assume that the correct answer must have something to do with buildings. Only A and B mention buildings, so C and D can be eliminated immediately. Option B states that many European zoos had buildings that resembled Egyptian temples, whereas the passage only states that the Berlin zoo’s ostrich house resembled an Egyptian temple. Option A is consistent with both the first and the last sentences: the buildings “reinforced” the sensation that the animals were exotic. So that fits. Answer A is correct. 

2. The most effective way to approach this question is to think about how the paragraph is organized. The topic sentence presents an idea and the rest of the paragraph is devoted to specific examples that support that idea. That’s exactly what B says, which makes it the correct answer. 

3. Although the question refers to lines 13-14, they should not be your focus. Instead, the last few sentences say that the “buildings reinforced the sensation,” which corresponds to the correct answer A.
Example 2 
   A barn. A warehouse. These locations have something in common: They all contained films or parts of films that were missing and presumed lost forever. According to reliable estimates, at least 50 percent of all films made for public exhibition before 1950 have been lost. Move into the silent era, and the estimate shoots up to 90 percent. The cellulose nitrate film on which movies were recorded until 1950 is flammable and highly susceptible to deterioration. The medium that replaced nitrate, cellulose acetate, solved the flammability problem, but is vulnerable disintegration, shrinkage, and breakage.
          Film needs to be stored in a temperature and moisture controlled environment. Film archives all over the world maintain such climate-controlled storage facilities as a first line of defence. Transferring nitrate film to stable safety stock is a second precaution film preservationists take.
          Actual restoration is a further, complicated step that many films will never undergo. Restoring celluloid films is a costly, time-consuming process that requires expert handling in one of the few photochemical labs that still exist; today, more films are being restored through digital correction, but this work is also labor-intensive.
          The work also requires old-fashioned research. Film is an art form that everyone from producers to theater owners has felt entitled to alter to fit their requirements, including shortening films to maximize the number of screenings and cutting out material the exhibitor deemed inappropriate. Therefore, research must be done to find shooting scripts, directors’ notes, and other preproduction materials to ensure the restoration is as complete as possible.  
           Established in 1990 by Martin Scorsese, the Film Foundation helps to conserve motion picture history by supporting preservation and restoration projects at film archives. The foundation has helped save more than 560 motion pictures. It prioritizes funding each year according to physical urgency. Also taken into account is the significance of a project, whether the film is an important work of a writer, actor, or director, or a technical first, or whether it approaches some social issue ahead of its time.
          At its core, the Film Foundation represents a natural progression for Scorsese, arguably the world’s greatest film enthusiast. Margaret Bodde, a film producer and executive director of the Film Foundation, says “With Marty, what is so remarkable is his dedication to preservation and film as culture and an art form. He doesn’t do it as an obligation. He does it because he wants future generations to be as inspired by films as he was.”
           Scorsese’s storied career gained its inspiration from the numerous films he viewed growing up in Manhattan’s Little Italy. One film that inspired Scorsese with a model for how to shoot the fight sequences in his 1980 film Raging Bull was The Red Shoes (1948), the ballet -centered masterpiece created by the powerhouse British directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The Film Foundation funded its restoration in 2006, the first fully digital restoration with which it was involved.
           Working from the original film negatives, preservationists found that tiny imperfections from the original film development had been exacerbated by time. In addition, much of the film had shrunk. Colors flickered, became mottled, and showed other types of distortion. The film also showed red, blue, and green specks throughout. Worst of all, mold had damaged the negatives. After the film underwent an extensive cleaning process, it was digitized: 579,000 individual frames had to be scanned. Colors were reregistered, scratches smoothed, flecks removed, and color inconsistencies addressed. Last, a new filmstrip was produced.
            The rapid shift from photochemical to digital production has raised concerns. Bodde says, “If a film is born digital, there should be a film output” because of the possibility of data corruption or the unavailability of playback mechanisms. The Film Foundation is working with archivists, technologists, and preservationists to ensure that photochemical preservation continues.
            The foundation also offers an interdisciplinary curriculum to help develop visual literacy and film knowledge. This curriculum, The Story of Movies, has been embraced by well over thirty thousand schools. All of this effort works to ensure that future generations know the wonder of watching Moira Shearer move through the vivid, technicolor dreamscapes of The Red Shoes and many other treasures of our film heritage.
1. What is the function of the fourth paragraph in relation to the passage as a whole?
To outline some of the processes that Scorsese’s Film Foundation uses to restore films
To discuss the social issues that are raised in films restored by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation
To shift the focus from a discussion of film restoration to a specific organization that restores films
To describe how Martin Scorsese was inspired to establish the Film Foundation in 1990

2. The function of the fifth paragraph in relation to the passage as a whole is to?
discuss some of the films that Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation has helped to save
outline the steps that film archives take to restore and preserve films
describe the factors Film Foundation takes into account when selecting films for restoration
explain how establishment of the Film Foundation has led to an increase in film viewership

3. Which of the following is the primary purpose of the passage?
To compare the way that films were preserved prior to 1990 to the way that they are preserved today
To discuss some of the problems involved in transferring film from photochemical to digital format
To trace the steps involved in a film restoration, from initial cleaning to digitization
D. To indicate some of the challenges involved in restoring film and describe how one organization has confronted those challenges

1. The fifth paragraph functions as a pivot point in the passage; it marks the beginning of the second major section, in which the focus of the passage moves from a general discussion of the difficulties of restoring films to a more specific focus on Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation. The correct answer is, therefore, C. Answer A is wrong because the paragraph introduces the Film Foundation and explains how it selects its films, but it says absolutely nothing about how the Foundation actually goes about restoring films. Option B is wrong because the paragraph never actually discusses any of those social issues. Option D is wrong because the paragraph says nothing about what inspired Scorsese.

2. Although the correct answer choice, option C, is fairly straightforward, it is also somewhat deceptive because although the question asks about the function of the fourth paragraph in relation to the whole passage, the answer is actually based on the content of the paragraph itself. Answer A is wrong because the paragraph does not give a single specific example of a film restored by the Film Foundation. For option B, the paragraph never explains the process by which those things occur. For D, the paragraph never even mentions film viewership.

3. The only answer choice that directly corresponds to the idea that restoring films is difficult is D, which is the correct answer. If you find it helpful, you can also think about how the passage is divided and the focus of each section.

The first section discusses some general problems involved in film restoration, and the second focuses on the role that the Film Foundation has played in restoring films. That’s basically what D says. For answer A, the passage says nothing to indicate that films are restored differently than they were before 1990. Option B is way too specific. The passage does discuss some of these issues, but the discussion is limited to one paragraph. The passage does discuss the restoration process in the second and third paragraphs, but again, the discussion is pretty much restricted to those paragraphs. And if it’s restricted to one place, it can’t be the primary purpose, ruling out Option C.

A special kind of main idea questions are tone and function questions. Tone questions look like the following:

  • What is the author’s tone when he says X?
  • What can we infer in the attitude of the author when he talks about snakes?
  • Based on X or Y, we can assume that the author believes that…
  • In lines 58-73, the description of the ocean floor primarily serves to…
  • The author invokes “Cthulhu the destroyer” chiefly in order to…

While not all of these problems contain the word tone, they address a central idea: not what’s being said but how it’s being said.

For example, let’s say that you lived in a city that got over 100 inches of snow last winter. Just as you finished clearing snow out of the gutters, it started snowing again, prompting you to sing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” as you smiled through gritted teeth.

The MEANING of the words “most wonderful” in this context would be “worst” (as in “It’s the worst time of the year”); the FUNCTION of the words “most wonderful” would be “to suggest that the speaker actually feels the opposite is true.”

Tone problems can be frustrating, but there’s an easy way to master them. Once you understand the proper way to think about tone problems, you’ll actually look forward to answering them.

The secret is to remember that tone-related questions address how something is being said and not what is literally being said. In other words, stop thinking about the content, and start thinking about the context.

These problems seem tricky because they refer to text in a passage that may state one thing but mean something else.

Example 3 
Consider the following passage written by Stanton, a feminist advocating for woman’s voting rights, in 1890. It may look familiar: “For thousands of years, women were not given their basic right to vote in the United States.  It’s only in the recent decade that many northern states have started to pass legislature legally allowing women to vote, and this change is primarily due to female activists.”

Now, while the content is upsetting and the tone could be interpreted as angry, this passage is actually just factual. The question could be something like:

The best word to describe the tone of the author is:

Solution: Options A, B, and C all seem tempting because a feminist writer probably is outraged that women were subjected to such inequality for such a long period of time. But is the tone of this passage actually outraged or hurt or indignant? NO! This passage is simply laying out facts. The answer is D it’s factual!

One more trick to answer tone questions is to ask yourself where you would find such a text. This question is incredibly helpful.

For instance, if you say an academic or history journal, then you would expect the tone to be factual or informative. If you’d find it in a comedy magazine, it’ll probably be ironic or humorous. If you’d find it in a furious letter to the editor, it’ll probably be outraged or indignant. Just ask yourself this question, and the answer will usually fall into place.

Another easy way to answer tone questions is to start by determining whether the author’s tone or attitude is positive or negative. If it is positive, you can automatically eliminate any negative answers and vice-versa. Sometimes, you’re left with the correct answer using that trick alone. Other times, you may be able to eliminate at least two out of the four answer choices.

As a general rule, “extreme” answers to tone questions are usually incorrect, while correct answers are more reasonable. Thus, if an author’s attitude is positive, the answer is more likely to be approving or appreciative than awed; if the author’s attitude is negative, the answer is more likely to be skeptical or dubious than angry; and if an author uses strong language, the answer is likely to be a more neutral word such as emphatic or decisive.

You should be particularly careful with science passages, however. In science, especially, it is important not to confuse a dry or objective tone with an absence of opinion or point of view. ACT passages are, for all intents and purposes, not just recitations of factual information but rather chosen because they contain some sort of argument. More precisely, passages frequently contain the “old idea vs. new idea” structure in which the author first discusses a prevailing theory, then at a certain point turns around and describes a new theory. While there will undoubtedly be indications that the author rejects the former and embraces the latter, the overall tone may remain fairly neutral when discussing both.

Let’s start with a more straightforward example: The so-called machine-learning approach...links several powerful software techniques that make it possible for the robot to learn new tasks rapidly with a relatively small amount of training. The new approach includes a powerful artificial intelligence technique known as “deep learning,” which has previously been used to achieve major advances in both computer vision and speech recognition. Now the researchers have found that it can also be used to improve the actions of robots working in the physical world on tasks that require both machine vision and touch.

In this passage, the author’s positive tone is revealed in a number of words and phrases:

  • make it possible
  • powerful artificial intelligence technique
  • major advances
  • improve the actions

Taken together, all of these elements indicate that the author considers this technology important and holds it in very high regard. His tone, however, is relatively restrained. He does not say that that this technology is “extraordinary,” nor does he say that it is the “most important” invention ever. His tone, therefore, could be characterized as appreciative or approving.

Important: As with all other ACT Reading Test questions, you will still be able to find clear evidence in the passage to confirm the correct answer.

The ACT designs incorrect answer choices based on common assumptions in the real world that aren’t actually stated in the passage. So no matter what, always find evidence in the passage for your answer.

Often there are many characters in ACT passages, each with their own respective opinions and thoughts. Therefore, always start by reading the question to figure out what is being asked. Check whose tone or attitude you’re focused on. Always do the following:

  • Figure out what the question is asking: whose perspective about what?
  • Look for words in the passage that point to the person’s feelings or mood
  • If the tone is positive or negative, eliminate answer choices that obviously don’t match
  • Test remaining choices by relying on synonyms or closely related phrases in the passage
Example 4 
         During the years I spent in the company of Alexander Graham Bell, at work on his biography, I often wondered what the inventor of the world’s most important acoustical device, the telephone, might have sounded like. Born in Scotland in 1847, Bell, at different periods of his life, lived in England, then Canada and, later, the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. His favorite refuge was Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where he spent the summers from the mid-1880s. In his day, 85 percent of the population there conversed in Gaelic. Did Bell speak with a Scottish burr? What was the pitch and depth of the voice with which he loved to belt out ballads and music hall songs? Someone who knew that voice was his granddaughter, Mabel Grosvenor, a noted Washington, D.C. pediatrician who retired in 1966. In 2004, I met with Dr. Mabel, as she was known in the family, when she was 99 years old—clearheaded, dignified and a bit fierce. I inquired whether her grandfather had an accent. “He sounded,” she said firmly, “like you.” As a British born immigrant to Canada, my accent is BBC English with a Canadian overlay: It made instant sense to me that I would share intonations and pronunciations with a man raised in Edinburgh who had resided in North America from the age of 23. When Dr. Mabel died in 2006, the last direct link with the inventor was gone.

Information in the first and second paragraphs (lines 1-18) indicates that the author’s attitude toward Alexander Graham Bell’s voice was one of:

The context of the passage is inquiring - the author wanted to know more - and therefore, the answer has to be curiosity, making D is the correct answer. If you wanted to play positive/negative, you could see the author’s attitude is somewhat positive and eliminate A and C on that basis, then eliminate B because nothing in the passage directly indicates that the author was amused.
Example 5 
        “Come, come!” my mother urged us forward. It was the custom to greet the old. “Deborah!” my mother urged. Deborah stepped forward and took Ultima’s withered hand. “Buenos dias, Grande,” she smiled. She even bowed slightly. Then she pulled Theresa forward and told her to greet la Grande. My mother beamed. Deborah’s good manners surprised her, but they made her happy, because a family was judged by its members.
          “What beautiful daughters you have raised,” Ultima nodded to my mother. Nothing could have pleased my mother more. She looked proudly at my father who stood leaning against the truck, watching and judging the introductions. “Antonio,” he said simply. I stepped forward and took Ultima’s hand. I looked up into her clear brown eyes and shivered. Her face was old and wrinkled, but her eyes were clear and sparkling.  
          “Antonio, she smiled. She took my hand, and I felt the power of a whirlwind sweep around me. Her eyes swept the surrounding hills and through them I saw for the first time the wild beauty of our hills and the magic of the green river. My nostrils quivered as I felt the song of the mockingbirds and the drone of the grasshoppers mingle with the pulse of the earth. The four directions of the llano met in me, and the white sun shone on my soul. The granules of sand at my feet and the sun and sky above me seemed to dissolve into one being. A cry came to my throat, and I wanted to shout it and run in the beauty I had found

In the third paragraph (orange font), Antonio reacts to Ultima with:
Scorn and indifference
Awe and amazement
Bashfulness and reluctance
Calm and resignation

The easiest way to approach the question is to play positive/negative. Antonio’s reaction to Ultima is positive: he sees the wild beauty of the hills and the magic of the green river, and the white sun shone on [his] soul. That eliminates options A and C, which are clearly negative. In D, calm is a possibility, but look at the second word: “resignation” means passive acceptance, usually of a bad situation, and that’s not happening here. In fact, Antonio wants to shout it and run in the beauty [he] had found. So D doesn’t work either. That leaves option B as the correct answer; awe and amazement both capture the intense sense of wonder Antonio feels upon meeting Ultima.
Example 6: The following passage is adapted from a 2014 article about the study of different kinds of diversity.
        Most of us think of nature and culture as belonging to two separate domains. One contains items such as butterflies, the Amazon rainforest and photosynthesis; the other, things like wedding ceremonies, Beethoven’s piano sonatas and sushi. But in fact nature and culture - which we can think of as two great realms of diversity in which all the world’s differences are registered - often interpenetrate. These areas of overlap are now often described by a new term: biocultural diversity.
        We see the commonalities clearly when we look at two fundamental components of biological and cultural diversity: species and languages. Both evolve via a process of descent with modification, although cultural evolution is far more rapid than biological evolution. Both can be classified into closely related families that share a common ancestor. Both coincide geographically, with highest diversity in the tropics and lowest at the poles. And both are threatened with extinction on a scale never before seen in history.
          How deep is the threat to biocultural diversity? Analysis shows that at least 25 percent of the world’s 7,000 languages are threatened with extinction, compared with at least 30 percent of amphibians, 21 percent of mammals, 15 percent of reptiles and 13 percent of birds. A new Index of Linguistic Diversity captures the recent general trend in which a few of the world’s largest languages are “cornering the market” as speakers shift away from smaller ones. When we superimpose the global trend line of the new index upon that of the Living Planet Index, a well-respected measure of the rate at which biodiversity is declining, the result is astonishing: They track one another almost perfectly, with both falling about 30 percent between 1970 and 2009.
          Why is this happening? The ultimate reason is globalization. We now live in a world where the dominant economic and political forces are aligned to encourage uniformity and the seamless global interchange of products and information. Government policies generally favor developing resources for human use, which simplifies the landscape as it destroys wild animal and plant habitats. Similar policies promote linguistic unification either directly, through sanctions on minority language use, or indirectly, such as by concentrating economic opportunities in cities, thereby making it more difficult for the rural areas in which most languages evolved to remain viable places for the next generation of speakers.
          The dual extinction crisis is actually a golden opportunity for new directions in conservation. If biodiversity organizations joined forces with advocates for linguistic and cultural self-determination, there would be a double payoff. Traditional ecological knowledge that has evolved over millennia among indigenous peoples living in a diversity of Earth’s ecosystems is being rapidly lost as the languages which encode that knowledge disappear. By working together with biologists, field linguists could help to maintain those cultural treasure troves. Conservation biologists could benefit from applying some of that traditional knowledge to their own work. By combining expertise, not only would biocultural diversity be conserved in the environments in which it evolved, but time-tested traditional environmental knowledge could be shared and adapted as appropriate to the wider landscape.
            Some of this is already happening. For example, a recent study by scientists in collaboration with Canada’s Taku River Tlingit First Nation used in-depth interviews with tribal members, each with many years’ experience closely observing woodland caribou, to develop a habitat model to help recover this endangered species. When compared with a model created using Western scientific methods alone, the First Nation model correctly identified the caribou’s preference for using frozen lakes as part of its winter habitat - an important nuance that was missed by the Western model. Knowledge of this kind is valuable for our understanding of wildlife ecology and management. The Tlingit language, however, is now spoken by fewer than 1,000 people and is critically endangered.
             This kind of cross-cutting conservation work is increasing, but much of what is going on is at the grass roots, far under the radar. From Montana to Mozambique, everyday people are dreaming dreams of a world whose differences are valued and protected. There are many powerful forces arrayed against the continuation of our planet’s natural and cultural creativity, and many of these same forces stand to benefit if the world’s cultures are homogenized. But on the other side of the equation is the cumulative power of millions of individuals who know that diversity in nature and culture is the genuine condition of life on Earth.
1. The author’s attitude is best described a
A. Conflicted outrage.
Ardent curiosity.
Sincere optimism.
. Bewildered contempt.

2. The author believes the Tlingit First Nation to be
somewhat smarter than Western scientists.
more detail-oriented than Western scientists.
C. a minor inhibition to Western scientists.
an important resource to Western scientists.

3. The author views biological diversity and cultural diversity as
similar and intermingled.
important and thriving.
interesting but unrelated.
endangered but inessential.

The author describes some events as negative, but she does not express “outrage” or anger about them.
“Ardent” suggests extreme, passionate feelings, but the author’s tone seems more informational. “Curiosity” suggests that the author has questions, but the passage seems to be providing answers to the questions it presents.
This is the correct answer. Did you notice the phrases “actually a golden opportunity” and “already happening.” Did you notice in the last sentence that the author sees the “cumulative power of millions” on her side?
“Contempt” suggests that the author has strong negative feelings. The passage describes facts or events that she sees as negative, but her tone is descriptive, not confused or angry.

The passage does not discuss intelligence. The “comparison” is between two “models,” not the people.
The First Nation did find one nuance the Western scientists missed, but the passage doesn’t generalize this to say one group is more detail-oriented.
This answer has a negative connotation, while the passage discusses the Tlingit First Nation in positive terms.
This is the correct answer! The words “valuable” and “correctly identified” serve as evidence of this, along with the phrase “important nuance that was missed by the Western model.”

This is the correct answer! The first two paragraphs contain a number of comparisons that give evidence for this answer.
The author does view them as important, but says that they are both “threatened with extinction”—the opposite of “thriving.”
The first two paragraphs contain several comparisons showing that the two are very much related.
“Inessential” means not necessary, but the passage describes why it is important to conserve them. The author does not suggest that they are not important.