Are You Ready for the SAT & ACT?

PURPOSE AND POINT OF VIEW

ANSWERS AND EXPLANATIONS

Drill 1

1. What the author says that inflation in Argentina is expected to reach 25%. Why does the author make that statement? Notice that the sentence includes the words for example. Therefore, the author must mention Argentina’s inflation in order to provide an example of a country in which annual inflation will likely increase.

2. What the author says is that the exact number of auxiliary Roman troops during a certain time is unknown, but that the troops were probably numerous. Why did the author write this sentence? He must have written this sentence to emphasize an uncertainty, and to provide an estimate.

3. What the author states is that Jane Austen had not earned very much from her novels by the time that she died. Why does he make that statement? Because he says that the fact that she had not earned much shows that she never became a really popular author during her lifetime.Therefore, the author must have written this sentence in order to present evidence that Jane Austen was not a truly popular author during her own lifetime.

4. What the author says in the first paragraph is that many people have claimed that in Chinese painting, perspective is ignored. Immediately after the author makes this statement, he then goes on to explain that this claim is wrong. He then explains the origins of that claim. So, why did the author write the first sentence? He must have written it in order to present a point of view that he would later argue against.

5. Choice (b). In the sentence in question, the author states that the name of the Nayves trial and the death of Menaldo have been forgotten. Notice that immediately before that sentence, he states that Events are so quickly forgotten in Paris. Immediately after that sentence, he states that at the time of the Nayves trial, the public was extremely interested in the details of the trial. So, why did the author write the sentence in question? Because the sentence contains an example of trial that the public was deeply interested in when it occurred, but quickly forgot afterward, the author must have written the sentence in order to provide an example that supported his statement that events were soon forgotten in Paris. Now examine your answer choices. The paragraph does mention two trials—the Nayves trial and the Yellow Room trial—but because the paragraph discusses the fact that they were both quickly forgotten, the paragraph emphasizes the similarities, rather than the contrasts, between the two trials. Therefore, choice (a) is not the credited answer. The statement immediately before the sentence in question is that Events are so quickly forgotten in Paris. Because the sentence in question provides support for that statement by giving an example of an event that was famous when it occurred, but was soon forgotten, the sentence does provide an example that supports a previous statement. Therefore, choice (b) is the credited answer. The sentence demonstrates the fickle nature of public interest, but does not mention the fickle nature of mystery writers, so choice (c) is not the correct answer. Because the sentence mentions a tragic history, but does not question the need for deeper inquiry into that history, you can eliminate choice (d). Finally, the sentence does mention a trial and a death, but does not offer any criticism regarding the way in which the investigation of the death or the tragedy was handled, so choice (e) is incorrect.

Drill 2

Passage 1. The main topic of the paragraph is the poetry of the Provençal troubadours. What the author says about the troubadours is that they have had a profound effect on literary history. He then goes on to provide examples of the ways in which they have affected history. Why does the author write about this topic? Notice that the final sentence of the paragraph reads, Hence, the poetry of the Provençal troubadours is a subject of first-rate importance to the student of comparative literature. Therefore, the author must have written the paragraph to explain why the students of comparative literature should study the poetry of Provençal troubadours.

Passage 2. The main topic of the paragraph is the essence of French society and salons. What the author says about the French society and salons is that their atmosphere is difficult to reproduce. She explains that French conversations may be reproduced, but the flavor is not there. She goes on to state that we know about the men and women who went to the salons and that we have pictures of their social life, but a full understanding of their society still eludes usWhy did the author write about that topic? Because the author focuses on the impossibility of catching the essential spirit of the salons, her purpose in writing must have been to state that catching the essential spirit of the salons is impossible and to explain why catching that spirit is impossible.

Passage 3. The main topic of this paragraph is Professor Hardwigg. What the author says about this topic is that Professor Hardwigg was a very learned man who spent much time studying. Why does the author write about this topic? Notice that he contrasts Professor Hardwigg with other learned men. He says that such men studied in order to benefit others, but not so my learned uncle. He explains that instead Professor Hardwigg studied in order to keep the knowledge acquired to himself. Therefore, the purpose of the passage must be to provide a contrast between the professor and other learned men.

Passage 4. The main topic of this paragraph is Wagner’s music. What the author states about that topic is that Wagner’s music was the sign and symbol of the nineteenth century. He then goes on to state that Wagner’s music spread to every quarter of the globe that had developed coal-power civilization, and Wagner’s dream became an integral portion of the consciousness of the entire race. Why did the author write about this topic? He must have written it to demonstrate the powerful effect that Wagner’s music had on the world.

Passage 5, Question 5. Choice (c). The main topic of the third paragraph is the terrible storm that occurred in the Northeast. What the author says about that storm is that it raged without intermission and that its ravages were terrible. In the paragraph immediately preceding, the author discusses events occurring in the air. In the paragraph immediately following, the author says that a drama not less exciting was being enacted in the agitated air. Because both the paragraph immediately before the third paragraph and the paragraph immediately after the third paragraph discuss events occurring in the air, the author must have written the third paragraph in order to relate it in some way to the events occurring in the air. Notice that the fourth paragraph begins by contrasting events occurring in land and at sea with the events occurring in the air. Therefore, the author must have introduced the events occurring on land and at sea—the events discussed in the third paragraph—in order to set up that contrast. The paragraph mentions that storms caused damage in Havana and Guadeloupe, but because the purpose of the paragraph is not to describe that damage, choice (a) is not the credited answer. Note too that the passage states that Havana was ravaged by a storm in 1810, while Guadeloupe was ravaged in 1825. Therefore, the two areas were not ravaged by the same storm. The events that occurred in the hot air balloon are described in the paragraphs before and after the third paragraph but are not discussed in the third paragraph, so choice (b) is incorrect. Choice (c) correctly identifies the purpose of the paragraph as described above and is the credited answer. The third paragraph mentions that the storm killed several thousand people but does not trace the cause of the storm, so choice (c) is incorrect.

Drill 3

Passage 1. The main topic of the passage is a man named Manderson. What the author says about him is that when he was younger, he was a financial buccaneer and a a gambler of genius, but that when his father died, Manderson turned to steady labour and came to control all of the activity in a large firm. The author goes on to state that Manderson began to tower above the financial situation and was eventually called the Colussus. Why does the author write about this topic? Because the passage as a whole focuses on how Manderson developed into an important financial figure, the purpose of the passage must have been to describe how Manderson developed into such a figure.

Passage 2. Choice (e). The main topic of the passage is a meeting between a man and a young woman. What the author says about the topic is that the young woman startled the man when she appeared suddenly; she was dressed completely in white. He also describes his meeting with the young woman as strange, to say the least of it. Why does the author write about this topic? Because the passage focuses on the strange meeting between the man and the woman, the purpose of the passage must be to describe an unusual meeting. The narrator does not criticize the young woman, so choice (a) is incorrect. The young woman does explain that the reason that she seemed to appear suddenly is because she had been hiding behind a hedge, and she waited until she had evaluated the man’s appearance before she stepped out. However, because this explanation is not the main focus of the passage, choice (b) is not the credited answer. The passage does say that the young woman was a little touched by suspicion; however, this suggests that the woman viewed others with suspicion, not that she was a suspicious character. Therefore, you can eliminate choice (c). Because the passage does not detail any course of action, choice (d) is incorrect. Choice (e) correctly identifies the purpose of the passage as discussed above and is the correct answer.

SUMMARY

In order to find the purposes of sentences, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What does the author say?

2. What does the author discuss immediately before this sentence?

3. What does the author discuss immediately after this sentence?

4. Consider how these thoughts fit together. Why does he or she make that statement?

In order to find the purposes of paragraphs, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What is the main topic of the paragraph?

2. What does the author say about that topic?

3. What does the author discuss in the paragraph immediately before the paragraph?

4. What does the author discuss in the paragraph immediately following the paragraph?

5. Consider how these thoughts relate to one another. Why did the author write the paragraph?

In order to find the purposes of passages, look at the big picture. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What is the main topic of this passage?

2. What does the author say about this topic?

3. Why did the author write about this topic?

Remember: The key to finding the purpose of a piece of writing is to find out not just what the author wrote, but why he or she wrote it!