The author's purpose is their reason for writing. The reading passages on the test you're preparing for will fall into two main categories: persuasion and information.
Another reason authors write is to inform. In this format, the author's goal is to educate the reader on topics by providing facts. However, in contrast to pieces written to persuade, these facts are not used to promote a specific opinion or encourage the reader to take action—they simply teach. Examples of texts written to inform include textbooks, newspapers, and encyclopedias.
Here's a sample passage of informative writing:
Opera refers to a dramatic art form in which the emotional content is conveyed to the audience as much through music, both vocal and instrumental, as it is through the lyrics. By contrast, in musical theater an actor's dramatic performance is the most important, and the music plays a lesser role. The drama in opera is presented using the primary elements of theater such as scenery, costumes, and acting. However, the words of the opera are sung rather than spoken.
Notice how the author uses facts to educate the reader on opera and contrast it with musical theater. Unlike persuasive texts, this informative text doesn't try to convince the reader to attend an opera or that opera is superior to musical theater; it simply informs.
A statement of fact expresses only what actually happened, or what can be proven by data. A statement of opinion expresses an attitude toward something: it makes a judgment, offers a view, draws a conclusion, or gives an opinion that cannot be proven. Sometimes both fact and opinion are used in the same passage; it is important to pay attention to the author's purpose and choice of language so you can distinguish between facts and opinions.
Here are some examples of key words used to introduce facts:
The experiment has demonstrated... According to Newton's findings, it is clear that... The test results confirm... The data firmly indicates...
And here are some key words used to introduce opinions:
The government claims..., Dr. Smith argues that..., In Shakespeare's view..., It is generally agreed that..., Most experts suspect...
Here's an example:
Public transportation should be free so that people are less inclined to use their cars, which emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane.
Notice that the author has used the fact that cars emit greenhouse gases to try to advance an opinion that public transportation should be free.
A prediction is a statement about what will happen or might happen in the future. A meteorologist uses maps and scientific instruments to predict the possibility of changes in the weather. Investors make predictions regarding the rise and fall of stock prices. While reading, you make predictions based on the information the author gives you.
Here's a sample passage:
Over the past 25 years, the percentage of overweight kids in the U.S. has tripled. Today, more than 9 million people ages 6 to 19 are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Schools play an important role in improving the nutrition of young people," according to Julia Lear, director of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools. Ms. Lear, along with many other experts, says the cafeteria menu is a good place to start addressing this problem, since more than 26 million children buy lunch at school each day.
After reading this passage, you can predict that without a change in school menus, childhood obesity will continue to be a problem.
Organization is the act of putting things into a logical order, and can refer to writing, thoughts, or even your sock drawer! In writing, organization is the arrangement of ideas, incidents, evidence, or details in a specific order. Writers use different organizational strategies, and you need to be able to recognize a few of the most utilized methods of organization, which are cause/effect, compare/contrast, and problem/solution. A cause/effect pattern describes or discusses an event or action that is caused by another event or action. This structure often uses words and phrases such as because, since, as a result, due to, consequently, and therefore.
Sample Passage - Cause/Effect
Scientific evidence has shown that the earth has warmed since 1880. Global warming is caused mainly by an increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The increased temperatures have caused much of the ice in the North and South Poles to melt, disrupting the global conveyor belt. Even though the phenomenon is called "global warming," it is more accurately described as climate change—if the ice caps melt, there will be less dense water to move around the globe. Consequently, if there's less dense (and therefore cold) water to circulate around the earth, the Gulf Stream will be slowed down. This will result in a cooling of the Caribbean and Western Europe. As a result, global warming can in fact create colder temperatures in some areas.
In this passage, notice how the writer begins with the cause of global warming (increased carbon dioxide), and then explains many effects of global warming (melting of ice caps, slowing of the Gulf Stream, cooling of Caribbean).
A compare/contrast organizational pattern emphasizes the similarities or differences between two or more items. When comparing, writers show the way two or more ideas are the same; when contrasting, writers show the way two or more ideas are different. The focus can be on just similarities, just differences, or a combination of both. When comparing, writers often use words and phrases such as like, similarly, resembles, or in the same way; when contrasting, writers use words and phrases such as on the other hand, in contrast, instead, or unlike.
Sample Passage - Compare/Contrast
People have different learning styles, and it can be helpful to understand your own. For example, if you're a visual learner who acquires knowledge most easily by reading or seeing, the best study methods for you may be using flash cards, writing things down, or color-coding information to remember it more easily. On the other hand, if you're an auditory learner, you tend to learn best by hearing and listening. If that's the case, you may study more effectively by reading new materials aloud or having someone else read stories, directions, assignments, or questions to you.
In this passage, notice how the writer contrasts visual and auditory learners using the signal phrase "on the other hand."
A problem/solution organizational pattern divides information into two main sections: one that describes a problem and one that describes a solution. This pattern is typically used in persuasive writing, where the writer's purpose is to convince the reader to support the suggested solution. First, the writer establishes that a problem exists by identifying different aspects of the problem and offering evidence of the problem. In the solution section, the writer identifies a potential solution or solutions. This structure often uses words such as issue, question, puzzle, propose, and answer.
Sample Passage - Problem/Solution
Kate has a serious issue: four younger siblings who refuse to give her space. "When I have friends over, three of my siblings follow me around, which is embarrassing and annoying," she says. However, tagalong siblings are actually a compliment because their behavior means they think you're cool. Many experts would propose that Kate try positive attention: being encouraging, giving compliments, or even offering to play a game with your siblings can go a long way. Although the sibling relationship is filled with difficulties, don't take it for granted. Sure, siblings can sometimes be a pain and you may get into fights, but the sibling bond is like no other and should be cherished.
In the passage, notice how the writer began by stating a problem (the need for time away from siblings) and then gave an example of the problem (siblings following Kate around). Next, the author offered several solutions to help Kate deal with her problem.