Question Type II — Purpose of the Passage
How to identify ‘Purpose of the Passage’ questions: Look for synonyms for purpose: objective, goal, main strategy.
- Why did the author write the passage?
- For which of the following reasons did the author write the passage?
- What was the author’s primary objective?
- The overall objective of the passage is which of the following?
- How to tackle them: Often the answer choices will also start with verbs. Look for the one that fits.
How to tackle them: Verbs, verbs, verbs. The purpose of a passage often can be summarized by a single descriptive verb. Ask yourself: What is the passage doing? Is it arguing a point? Or praising something the author likes? Is it merely describing a person, place, or event? Often the answer choices will start with verbs: once you’ve found the verb that best describes the passage’s purpose, you’re half done: all you need to do now is look for the one that fits your own mental description. For example, if the passage is a description of a new species of bird, look for words that mean “describe”: explain, discuss, etc.
Which of the following is the author’s main purpose?
A) Present . . .
B) Argue . . .
C) Persuade . . .
D) Lament . . .
E) Praise. . .
The answer must be (A), “present,” because its meaning is the closest to “describe.” Both words suggest a measured and objective style of writing Choices (B) and (C) suggest that the author is offering a specific point of view, which isn’t true if he’s simply describing a new species. Choice (D) implies that the passage is about something sad or lost, which isn’t true either. Choice (E) could potentially make sense if the author’s description is extremely enthusiastic, but again this implies bias or a specific point of view, which we haven’t identified in the passage. Therefore (A) is by far the best answer.