When you're taking the reading comprehension portion of any standardized test, whether it's the SAT, ACT, GRE or something else – you'll typically have at least a few questions about author's purpose. Sure, it's easy to point out one of the typical reasons an author has for writing like to entertain, persuade or inform, but on a standardized test, those are not usually one of the options you'll get. So, you must do some author's purpose practice before you take the test!
Try your hand at the following excerpts. Read them through, then see if you can answer the questions below. If you struggle through the first few, then take a peek back at these two articles before you move forward. They'll help!
PDF Handouts For Teachers:
Author's Purpose Practice Question #1: Temperature
The next day, the 22nd of March, at six in the morning, preparations for departure were begun. The last gleams of twilight were melting into night. The cold was great; the constellations shown with wonderful intensity. In the zenith glittered that wondrous Southern Cross – the polar bear of Antarctic regions. The thermometer showed 12 degrees below zero, and when the wind freshened it was most biting. Flakes of ice increased on the open water. The sea seemed everywhere alike. Numerous blackish patches spread on the surface, showing the formation of fresh ice. Evidently the southern basin, frozen during the six winter months, was absolutely inaccessible. What became of the whales in that time? Doubtless they went beneath the icebergs, seeking more practicable seas. As to the seals and morses, accustomed to life in a hard climate, they remained on these icy shores.
The author's description of the temperature in lines 43 – 46 primarily serves to:
A. explain the hardships the boatmen were about to go through.
B. intensify the setting, so the reader can experience the boatmen's difficult journey.
C. compare the differences between boatmen who have experienced hardships and those who haven't.
D. identify the causes of the temperature decrease.
Author's Purpose Practice Question #2: Social Security
Until the early 1900's, Americans were not extremely concerned about their futures as they became older. The major source of economic security was farming, and the extended family cared for the elderly. However, the Industrial Revolution brought an end to this tradition. Farming gave way to more progressive means of earning a living and family ties became looser; as a result, the family was not always available to take care of the older generation. The Great Depression of the 1930's exacerbated these economic security woes. So in 1935, Congress, under the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed into law the Social Security Act. This act created a program intended to provide continuing income for retired workers at least 65 years old, partially through the collection of funds from Americans in the work force. Much organization was required to get the program underway, but the first monthly Social Security checks were issued in 1940. Over the years the Social Security Program has metamorphosed into benefits not only for workers but also for the disabled and for survivors of beneficiaries, as well as medical insurance benefits in the form of Medicare.
The author most likely mentions the Depression to:
A. identify the primary purpose for Social Security.
B. criticize FDR's adoption of a program that would run out of money.
C. contrast the effectiveness of the Social Security Program with that of family care.
D. list another factor that contributed to the need for the Social Security Program.
Author's Purpose Practice Question #3: Gothic Art
The true way of looking at Gothic art is to regard it not as a definite style bound by certain formulas—for the spirit is infinitely various,—but rather as the expression of a certain temper, sentiment, and spirit which inspired the whole method of doing things during the Middle Ages in sculpture and painting as well as in architecture. It cannot be defined by any of its outward features, for they are variable, differing at different times and in different places. They are the outward expression of certain cardinal principles behind them, and though these principles are common to all good styles, Gothic among them, the result of applying them to the buildings of each age, country, and people will vary as the circumstances of that country, that age, and that people vary.
The author most likely wrote the passage about Gothic art in order to:
A. suggest that Gothic art is not a style with specific characteristics as much as it is a sentiment from a particular time.
B. intensify the description of Gothic art's sentiment and spirit.
C. explain the definition of Gothic art as an art form that has no definable characteristics.
D. compare Gothic art to the art of the Middle Ages
Author's Purpose Practice Question #4: Funeral
The funeral was just stretching on and on that sweaty Sunday in the middle of the summer. I took a look at my fingers, clammy and swollen from the dizzy heat, and ached to be splashing around in the creek behind the church. Daddy promised that the rain from Friday would cool everything down, but the sun just sucked up all that water just the same as it did year after year. All the women, dressed in black with funny-looking hats, whispered at each other and blew their noses into hankies as they tried to fan themselves cooler with the paper bulletin old lady Mathers had typed up just for this occasion. Preacher Tom yammered on and on in his booming voice like it was just another boring Sunday and no one had even died, while tiny little rivers of sweat made their way down the middle of my back. Miss Patterson, my favorite Sunday school teacher, whispered ‘cross the aisle to Daddy that “It’s a cryin’ shame, ya know.” Daddy shrugged his big old coal-mining shoulders and said, “The good Lord knows what’s best.” I knew he wasn’t really sad because he was a “hard-hearted man with no sense and no decency,” like Momma used to say when he’d come home smelling like whiskey.
The author most likely used the phrase "tiny little rivers of sweat made their way down the middle of my back" in order to:
A. contrast the hot interior of the church during the funeral with the coolness of the creek.
B. compare the hot interior of the church during the funeral with the coolness of the creek.
C. identify the main reason the narrator was uncomfortable during the funeral.
D. intensify the description of the heat during the funeral.
Author's Purpose Practice Question #5: Cold and Warm Fronts
A warm front is a specific air pressure system where warm air replaces cool air. It is associated with a low pressure system and usually moves from a southerly direction to the north. A warm front passage can be depicted by an increase in temperature and humidity (higher dew point temperatures), a decrease in the air pressure, a wind change to a southerly direction, and the likelihood of precipitation. A cold front is another specific front which is also associated with a low pressure system, but with different causes, characteristics and results. During a cold front, cold air replaces warm air instead of the other way around. A cold front usually moves from a northerly direction downward, wheareas the warm front moves south to north. A cold front can be depicted by rapidly falling temperatures and barometric pressure, a wind shift to the north or west, and a moderate chance of precipitation, which is very different from a warm front! The barometric pressure, after falling, usually rises very sharply after the passage of a cold front.
The author most likely wrote the passage in order to:
A. list the causes, characteristics, and results of both warm and cold fronts.
B. describe the causes of cold and warm fronts.
C. contrast the causes, characteristics, and results of warm and cold fronts.
D. illustrate the characteristics of both warm and cold fronts, by describing each facet in detail.