How to identify it: Look for synonyms for purpose, such as objective,
goal, main strategy.
What is the purpose of the passage?
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 it: Verbs, verbs, verbs. The purpose of a passage can often 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? Or is it merely describing a person or place or event? Often the answer choices
will also start with verbs, and so 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.