Warning: while this may look like an awfully long list of things to circle, chances are that only a handful of these words/phrases will show up on any given passage. This is also not intended to be a exercise in memorization; rather, it is to get you thinking about the kinds of ways in which authors indicate to their readers the most important aspects of what they’re trying to say.
Furthermore, the point of looking out for these things is not to turn your reading into a transition hunt at the expense of actually absorbing what you’re reading. Just circling transitions mechanically and not thinking about what role they play in the passage at large will not get you very far and may in fact make things harder for you. However, if you actively consider them in relation to the point of the passage once you’ve established it, they will help you establish a general “map” of the key places in the argument.
As a result
The answer is
Giving you the point:
The point is
The goal/aim is
To sum up
In other words
In the end
The (main) idea
It is true/not true
It is clear/unclear
Question Marks – Indicate rhetorical questions. Questions are prime targets for inference questions because information is often implied but not stated.
Colons – Explanations Dashes – Explanations or supplementary (qualifying) information
Semicolons – Imply a relationship between two thoughts that is not necessarily spelled out — likely spot for inference questions to deal with
Words in quotes – Used figuratively. The answer to at least one question will depend on your understanding of how a word in quotes is being used, even if the question doesn’t ask about it directly. Often indicates skepticism.
Italicized words – Used to emphasize, underscore, call attention to, highlight