Rhetorical Skill: Author’s Main Goal on ACT English
Rhetorical Skill: Author’s Main Goal on ACT English. As you probably know by now, the ACT English section tests two main areas: grammar usage and reading comprehension. One type of reading comprehension questions tested most frequently is author’s main goal. If you are looking for ways to maximize the time allotted on the ACT English section as well as to increase your score, you must have a systematic approach to answer these types of questions quickly and correctly.
In this article, we will discuss what an author’s main goal question is and how to identify it; explain the process and strategies for answering author’s main goal questions, and provide real ACT examples to support our discussion.
Rhetorical Skill: Author’s Main Goal on ACT English.
Author’s main goal questions are always presented in the same way. Let’s look at examples of such questions form real ACTs:
In order to answer these questions, you must understand the main idea of the passage. These questions should be answered in two steps.
First, determine if the main idea of the passage (from your reading) fits with the author’s intended goal. If it does, eliminate both “No” answers, and if it does not, eliminate both “Yes” answers.
Second, determine why the essay fulfills the author’s goal.
Now that you can recognize the structure of author’s main goal questions and understand that these questions involve a two-step process, let’s talk about strategy in more detail.
Rhetorical Skill: Author’s Main Goal on ACT English
On the ACT, the author’s main goal questions are usually presented last in the passage, but if you come across one that is not, save it for last. After getting through all of the other questions related to the same passage, you should have a better sense of what the passage was about and determine the main idea more quickly.
Because the time on the ACT is valuable, you want to make sure to have a strategy for answering these questions that is as efficient as possible. Following the steps outlined below will help you maximize your time and answer these types of questions quickly and correctly.
Ok, so you know you need to determine the main idea. But how? One mistake that many students make is to reread the entire passage. Doing so is very time consuming and not necessary. Do Not Do This. If, when you come across the author’s main goal question, you are not sure what the main idea is, try using the following strategies to quickly and efficiently identify it.
The title will frequently provide information about the scope and/or focus of the passage which can help you determine the main idea. In Example 2 from above, the title is “Wearing Jeans at School.” Therefore, we know that the focus will be on fashion or dress code. The question in Example 2 is about “constitutional rights” and the title does not explicitly connect the idea of “wearing jeans” to “constitutional rights.”
So, what should you do if you are still not sure about the main idea?
The first few sentences of the passage read the following:
Given this excerpt and the title, we know that the passage is about a student who was punished for wearing inappropriate clothing (blue jeans) and, along with his parents, believed that his constitutional rights were violated.
If the introductory paragraph does not provide you with a solid understanding of the main idea, look at the concluding paragraph, where main idea would be restated. Remember, your job is to find the main idea of the passage. The main idea would be repeated throughout the passage, so if something is mentioned in the passage does not necessarily make it a main idea.
Once you’ve identified the main idea, go on to the next step.
Here’s the question again.
By now, you should have the main idea and use it to quickly answer the first part of the question.
In our example, if we know that the main idea is an example of a student who believed his constitutional rights were violated, would the essay fulfill the goal of urging students to exercise their constitutional rights?
No. Kevin is a student who took action. The question is about persuading students (plural) to “exercise their constitutional rights.” The focus is on Kevin, not students in general. At this point you have at least a 50% chance of answering this question correctly.
In our example, we can immediately eliminate A and B. Now we are left with only two answer choices. All you have to do is determine why the passage doesn’t fulfill the author’s main goal.
I would say that the reason this passage does not fulfill the author’s intended goal is because the passage focuses on one student and his actions, not all students in general.
Now that we have a reason, we can pick the answer to this question.
Answer choice D most closely matches our reasoning. It’s the only answer choice that states that the essay “objectively reports on one case of a student exercising one particular constitutional right.”
Keep in mind that these types of questions do take more time to answer than sentence reference questions on the ACT English. However, while this process seems like it has a lot of steps, in reality it should not take you longer than a minute to answer.
Let’s apply this process to another ACT question.
First, we need to determine the main idea. The title of the passage is “Notes from the Underground.” From the title, we can infer that the passage is about something underground. Because the title does not provide any more information than that, we need to reread the first couple of sentences.
Just from the first two sentences we know that the author loves the subway because it’s fast and there are many different types of people who ride it.
After answering the other questions related to the passage, you probably noticed that the passage is about the various people the author meets on the subway. We know that the main idea would always be found in the introductory or concluding paragraphs; therefore, because there is no mention of the economical aspect of subway riding in the first paragraph means that New York City’s subway system is “the most economical means of public transportation” is not the author’s main goal. So, the answer to the first part of the question is “No.”
Immediately, we can eliminate A and B.
In our own words, we can say that the passage is about the description of author’s encounters with many different types of passengers on the subway.
Looking at choices C and D, we determine which choice matches our own reasoning most closely. We know that the passage only talks about subways, not any other form of transportation which makes D incorrect. (This answer is too broad – the author may love all kinds of transportation, but there is no mention of that in this passage, therefore, we cannot choose this as the answer). Answer choice C most closely matches our reasoning and is the correct answer.
Here’s a summary of strategies you should use to answer Author Main Goal Questions.
Want to know how to answer another type of reading comprehension question on the ACT English? Read this article about author technique.