How to Get the Matching Headings to Paragraphs Task Right

For this question type you need to choose the heading that best summarises the main idea or topic of a section/paragraph of the passage.

Your approach

  • If there is an example, cross out the paragraph(s) given in the example(s).
  • Skim the first paragraph paying attention to the key words and the overall meaning. Note the words with the similar meaning that are repeated throughout the paragraph. Find the topic sentence that gives the main idea of the paragraph. It may be the first sentence, the last sentence or any other sentence in the paragraph.
  • Sometimes, however, the main idea of the passage may be spread over a few sentences. In this case, you would need to ask yourself ‘what is the main point of this paragraph?’.
  • Try to formulate the main idea in your own words (in one phrase or sentence) to understand the main point of the paragraph.
  • Read the headings and find the one that matches the main idea of the paragraph paying attention to the key words. If needed go back to the paragraph and re-read it again to make sure you choose the right heading.
  • Pay attention to the words like the problem, reason, definition, effect, benefits and the like. They will help you find the relevant information in the passage. If the heading contains the word ‘reason’, the matching paragraph should answer the question ‘why’.
  • Continue working through the text in the same way, paragraph by paragraph.

Hint 1: Written texts in English follow a pattern or a plan. Therefore, it is often possible to predict the order of headings. If a text explores a problem, then the pattern can be the following:

General description of a problem or issue

Expansion on the problem

Reasons

Predictions

 

In most cases there are more paragraphs in a text and there could be two paragraphs describing reasons and possibly another two discussing the problem in detail. The main point here is that usually the problem is stated at the beginning of the text and any predictions or solutions are suggested towards the end.

For example, look at the list of headings below and try to put them in a logical order without looking at the text.

List of Headings

i             The effects of social change

ii            How do we begin to tackle the problem?

iii           What are the effects on our health and why are we so susceptible?

iv           Who is responsible for the problem?

v            Danger signs

vi           A disease with no age limits

vii          What is the main ‘reason’ for hurry sickness?

viii         A treatment for heart disease

ix           What is the cause?

x            Is there a cure? 

 

Take a minute or two now to put the headings in the logical order before you read further.             

 

Hint 2: In this task type, you need to read attentively enough to understand the meaning of the paragraph but not read the text word for word. Instead, jump over the insignificant words, paying attention to key words only. Sieve the information to get the main point. 

Typical mistakes:

Similar to a passage, a paragraph can be divided into intro, body and conclusion. Practise reading paragraphs with the aim to identify the main idea (i.e. the body) of it. Some students fail to get the task right because they fall for the fact(s) which either give additional detail for the main idea of the paragraph or expand on it with an example.

Another mistake that students make is when they choose a paragraph because they find the same word in it as in the heading. Very often it is a trap, because what you really need to look for is the main idea of a paragraph, not matching words.   

 

Now, to put these ideas into practice, read the paragraph below and chose the correct heading from the list above.

Paragraph A ……

Paragraph B ……

According to statistics, it is becoming increasingly rare in many Western countries for families to eat together. It seems that people no longer have time to enjoy a meal, much less buy and prepare the ingredients. Meanwhile, fast food outlets are proliferating. Further evidence of the effects of the increasing pace of life can be seen on all sides. Motorists drum their fingers impatiently at stop lights. Tempers flare in supermarket queues. Saddest of all is the success of an American series of books called One Minute Bedtime Stories. What, one has to ask, do parents do with the time thus saved. 

B  According to Barton Sparagon, M.D., medical director of the Meyer Friedman Institute in San Francisco, and an expert on stress-related illness, the above are all symptoms of a modern epidemic called hurry sickness. The term was invented nearly 40 years ago by a prominent cardiologist, who noticed that all of his heart disease patients had common behavioral characteristics, the most obvious being that they were in a chronic rush. Hurry sickness has been an issue in our culture ever since, but the problem is escalating in degree and intensity, leading to rudeness, short-tempered behaviours and even violence, alongside a range of physical ills.    

 

Answers:

Paragraph A is v.

 When you read the paragraph you understand that ‘families don’t eat together because they are in a hurry and evidence of this is motorists…, people in queues and fast reading.’ Looking at the headings you eliminate the ones that have nothing to do with the ideas of the paragraph, i.e.    

ii  as there is nothing about solution to the problem

iii as there is no mention of effects of the phenomena on health

iv no mention of who is responsible

vi as nothing is said about the age

vii as there is no mention of reasons here

viii as nothing is said about the treatment 

ix  or a cause

x  or a cure

We have i and v left. So, we re-read the paragraph and the remaining headings again and notice that the paragraph does not talk about the social change actually but the word ‘evidence’ can be understood as sign(s) and the following examples of people being nervous and aggressive can be interpreted as dangerous.  So, the answer is v.

                                                                                                                 

Paragraph B is vii

The main idea of the paragraph lies in the following sentence ‘…who noticed that all of his heart disease patients had common behavioral characteristics, the most obvious being that they were in a chronic rush.’

Now, if you have put the headings in their logical order in the first exercise, you would see that the text follows a good logical sequence. In fact, if you practice looking at English text structures, you will notice that they often have a logical development of the question – beginning of the problem or its history, reason/cause/effects/cure or future developments.

v            Danger signs

vii          What is the main ‘reason’ for hurry sickness?

ix           What is the cause?

i             The effects of social change

iii           What are the effects on our health and why are we so susceptible?

vi           A disease with no age limits

x            Is there a cure? 

ii            How do we begin to tackle the problem?

 

The article uses the Matching Heading task from Focus on IELTS by Pearson.

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