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# How to get "Primary Purpose of Passage" right?

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How to get "Primary Purpose of Passage" right? [#permalink]

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24 Jun 2007, 11:45
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I always get "The Primary Purpose of this passage is to?" wrong on Reading Comp. I'm guessing this is hurting my score as it seems like a simple questions and I always get it wrong.

Any idea on how to nail this??? I started taking notes during the section and it helps. I know what the passage is about, but trying to stick it into one of those GMAT choices is difficult. Suggestions?
If you have any questions
New!
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24 Jun 2007, 11:50
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Main Idea/Primary Purpose Questions:
Many people believe there is no difference between the main or central idea of the passage and the primary purpose of the author of the passage. This is simply not true. Let's take a look at the subtle but important difference between them:
Main Idea
The question might look something like this:

"Which of the following best states the central idea of the passage?"
"Which of the following most accurately states the main idea of the passage?"
"Which of the following is the principal topic of the passage?"
"The main topic of the passage is...."

Primary Purpose
The question might look like this:

"The primary purpose of this passage is to..."
"The primary purpose of the passage as a whole is to..."
"The primary focus of this passage is on which of the following?"
"The main concern of the passage is to..."
"In the passage, the author is primarily interested in...."
"The passage is chiefly concerned with..."

Strategy:
Main Idea: Look in the first and last paragraphs for the main idea. Any conclusion words like therefore, thus, so, hence, etc. that you see are most likely introducing the main idea. The correct answer will say the same thing as it says in the text, but using different words. The Main Idea is not always stated explicitly in the passage – in fact, more likely than not, it is not stated explicitly. Therefore, in order to answer this type of question when it is more implicit:

1. Re-read the first line of every passage, and the last line of the first and last paragraphs. This should give you the general structure or outline of the argument, with which you can answer the Main Idea question.
2. After determining the general structure or content of the argument, eliminate answer choices that are too broad or too specific, i.e. answer choices that go beyond the content of the passage, or that deal with content only discussed in one paragraph of the passage.
3. Make brief notes – a couple of words- regarding the Main Idea on the text on your scrap paper while you read.

Primary Purpose: What is the author trying to do? What is his intention? If he is evaluating a theory, then the answer could be something like "Discuss an interpretation". Note that the correct answer would deal with "an interpretation", because the author is only dealing with one theory. If the Primary Purpose is to criticize 2 new books, then his intention or his primary purpose might be to "Critique new studies". Again, as in Main Idea questions, re-read the first line of every passage, and the last line of the first and last paragraphs. This should give you the general structure or outline of the argument, with which you can answer the Primary Purpose question.
Note: A good main idea or primary purpose does not go beyond the scope of the passage, nor does it limit itself to discussing only one part of the passage.

Title Questions:
Title questions are very similar to Main Idea questions, though are less common. Though some of the example paassage we use in this tutorial and in the Practice Section are from the New Scientist, and therefore have titles, the passages in the real GMAT will not have titles. The question might look like this:

"Which of the following titles best summarizes the passage as a whole?"
Strategy:
Treat this as a Main Idea question. A good title sums up the central idea of a passage. Therefore, in order to answer this type of question:

1. Look in the first and last paragraphs for the main idea. Any conclusion words like therefore, thus, so, hence, etc. that you see are most likely introducing the Main Idea/Title. The correct answer will say the same thing as it says in the text, but using different words.
2. Re-read the first line of every passage, and the last line of the first and last paragraphs. This should give you the general structure or outline of the argument, with which you can answer the Title question.
3. Make brief notes – a couple of words- regarding the Title on the text on your scrap paper while you read.
4. After determining the general structure or content of the argument, eliminate answer choices that are too broad or too specific, i.e. answer choices that go beyond the content of the passage, or that deal with content only discussed in one paragraph of the passage.

From: S@ifur’s GMAT
Prepared by: Mahfuz
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24 Jun 2007, 12:20
Baer,

Great stuff. I honestly never realized that primary purpose & main idea were two diff things. Prob explains why I always get it wrong!

Can you post the notes these came from? I'd like to read the rest.

Thanks.
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24 Jun 2007, 12:44
Do you have any suggestions for inference questions. My 2nd biggest prob.
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24 Jun 2007, 12:47
jimmyjamesdonkey wrote:
Do you have any suggestions for inference questions. My 2nd biggest prob.

Those are the toughest imo... You need to cut thru all the convoluted wording to find the right answer. Try proving the other answer choices wrong and then going with the best one. I haven't found any shortcuts here I'm afraid.
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24 Jun 2007, 13:47
an inference must be true based on the information in the pasage... if u negate the inference, the whole passage will fall apart.. it is kind of like an assumption
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Re: How to get "Primary Purpose of Passage" right? [#permalink]

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22 Dec 2010, 10:21
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The below has been extracted from studystack.com.

What do main idea questions ask you to identify?
You are asked to identify the core topic of the passage.

What do primary purpose questions ask you to identfy?
You are asked to identify the author's intention.

Where should you look , primarily, for the main idea of a passage?
Look in the first and last paragraphs of the passage.

What types of words most likely introduce the main idea?
Conclusion words such as "therefore", "thus", "so", "hence", etc.

Is the main idea always stated explicitly in the passage?
More likely than not, it is not stated explicitly

Why is it important to re-read the first line of every paragraph, and the last line of the first and last paragraphs?
This should give you a general structure or outline of the arguement, with which you can answer the main idea question

When should you eliminate answer choices that are too broad or too specific?
After determining the general structure or content of the arguement.

Why should you "tag' your text while regarding the main idea on the test booklet?
Notetaking , while reading, helps you to recall specific details.

What do Primary Purpose questions ask ?
What the author trying to do or what the author's intentions are.

If the primary purpose is to criticize 2 new books, then what is his intention?
His primary purpose might be to "critique" new studies.
Re: How to get "Primary Purpose of Passage" right?   [#permalink] 22 Dec 2010, 10:21
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