TOEIC : Purpose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for TOEIC

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Purpose

I was a wild little girl of seven. Loosely clad in a slip of brown buckskin, and light-footed with a pair of soft moccasins on my feet, I was as free as the wind that blew my hair, and no less spirited than a bounding deer. These were my mother's pride,--my wild freedom and overflowing spirits. She taught me no fear save that of intruding myself upon others. 

Having gone many paces ahead I stopped, panting for breath, and laughing with glee as my mother watched my every movement. I was not wholly conscious of myself, but was more keenly alive to the fire within. It was as if I were the activity, and my hands and feet were only experiments for my spirit to work upon. 

Returning from the river, I tugged beside my mother, with my hand upon the bucket I believed I was carrying. One time, on such a return, I remember a bit of conversation we had. My grown-up cousin, Warca-Ziwin (Sunflower) always went to the river alone for water for her mother. Their wigwam was not far from ours; and I saw her daily going to and from the river. I admired my cousin greatly. So I said: "Mother, when I am tall as my cousin Warca-Ziwin, you shall not have to come for water. I will do it for you."

Adapted from Zitkala Sa's "Impressions of an Indian Childhood" (1900)

What is most likely the author's purpose for writing this passage?

Possible Answers:

To persuade the audience to value Native-American culture

To inform the audience about a particular set of customs

To describe important personal memories

To entertain with an amusing anecdote

Correct answer:

To describe important personal memories

Explanation:

The best answer is "To describe important personal memories." The title of the passage as well as the content lead us to choose this answer. The author does not use any persuasive techniques, and also does not present factual information about a set of customs, but rather conveys a personal experience. The anecdote is light-hearted, but not necessarily meant to amuse--it does not contain any jokes and in fact, it turns more serious at the end. 

Example Question #2 : Purpose

A really fine waterfall is a most fascinating thing. Long before you reach it you hear the roar of the water, and see the spray ascending like steam from a boiling caldron. Then when you stand before it, you gaze in wonder on the never-ending rush of water, hurtling in one great mass from top to bottom of the lofty cliff, or leaping in mighty bounds from ledge to ledge.

Adapted from Peeps at Many Lands: Norway by A. F. Mockler-Ferryman (1911)

What is the purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To persuade

To entertain

To describe

To inform

Correct answer:

To describe

Explanation:

The correct answer is to describe. The paragraph mostly focuses on sensory details about a waterfall, including auditory and visual imagery. There is a lack of factual information, so informative is not the best choice. The author doesn't spend any time trying to convince the readers about anything in particular, so "to persuade" is not the best choice. Finally, the passage does not tell an entertaining story or have humorous anecdotes, so the best choice is not "to entertain," but rather "to describe."

Example Question #3 : Purpose

      Science tells us that all objects are made visible to us by means of light; and that white light, by which we see things in what may be called their normal aspect, is composed of all the colors of the solar spectrum, as may be seen in a rainbow; a phenomenon caused, as everybody knows, by the sun's rays being split up into their component parts.

      This light travels in straight lines and, striking objects before us, is reflected in all directions. Some of these rays passing through a point situated behind the lenses of the eye, strike the retina. The multiplication of these rays on the retina produces a picture of whatever is before the eye, such as can be seen on the ground glass at the back of a photographer's camera, or on the table of a camera obscura, both of which instruments are constructed roughly on the same principle as the human eye.

      These rays of light when reflected from an object, and again when passing through the atmosphere, undergo certain modifications. Should the object be a red one, the yellow, green, and blue rays, all, in fact, except the red rays, are absorbed by the object, while the red is allowed to escape. These red rays striking the retina produce certain effects which convey to our consciousness the sensation of red, and we say "That is a red object." 

-From The Practice & Science of Drawing by Harold Speed (1913) 

What is the main purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To persuade

To inform

None of these

To entertain 

Correct answer:

To inform

Explanation:

The best answer is "to inform." This passage is primarily concerned with telling straightforward facts. It does not attempt to change our minds or make us do something, so it is not a persuasive text. Also, it does not contain amusing anecdotes of stories, so it is not an entertaining text either. The best choice is "to inform."

Example Question #4 : Purpose

The Egyptian writing was certainly the quaintest, and perhaps the prettiest, that has ever been known. It is called "hieroglyphic," which means "sacred carving," and it is nothing but little pictures from beginning to end. The Egyptians began by putting down a picture of the thing which was represented by the word they wanted to use, and, though by-and-by they formed a sort of alphabet to spell words with, and had, besides, signs that represented the different syllables of a word, still, these signs were all little pictures. For instance, one of their signs for a was the figure of an eagle; their sign for m was a lion, and for u a little chicken; so that when you look at an Egyptian book written in the hieroglyphic character, you see column after column of birds and beasts and creeping things, of men and women and boats, and all sorts of other things, marching across the page.

Adapted from Peeps at Many Lands: Ancient Egypt, by Rev. James Baikie (1912)

What is the purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To inform the audience about international communication

To describe how Egyptian writing was unique

To persuade people to study ancient Egyptians

To entertain the audience with amusing stories about Egyptians

Correct answer:

To describe how Egyptian writing was unique

Explanation:

The correct answer is "to describe how Egyptian writing was unique." This is the best choice because the author spends most of the paragraph talking about the distinctive features of Egyptian writing. First, the authors states that their writing was probably "the prettiest that has ever been known," and also "when you look at an Egyptian book written in the hieroglyphic character, you see column after column of birds and beasts and creeping things, of men and women and boats, and all sorts of other things, marching across the page." This language is very descriptive rather than persuasive, entertaining or informative. For those reasons, the best choice is "to describe how Egyptian writing was unique." 

Example Question #5 : Purpose

One fine day in winter some Ants were busy drying their store of corn, which had got rather damp during a long spell of rain. Presently up came a Grasshopper and begged them to spare her a few grains, "For," she said, "I'm simply starving." The Ants stopped work for a moment, though this was against their principles. "May we ask," said they, "what you were doing with yourself all last summer? Why didn't you collect a store of food for the winter?" "The fact is," replied the Grasshopper, "I was so busy singing that I hadn't the time." "If you spent the summer singing," replied the Ants, "you can't do better than spend the winter dancing." And they chuckled and went on with their work.

Adapted from Aesop's Fables, translated by V.S. Vernon Jones (1912)

What is the purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To teach a lesson through a fictional scene

To inform readers about the habits and diets of insects

To describe the relationships among insects

To persuade readers to store grain for themselves

Correct answer:

To teach a lesson through a fictional scene

Explanation:

The correct answer is "to teach a lesson through a fictional scene." The story is fictional, as we know from the talking insects. The purpose of the passage is to instruct readers on a life lesson rather than to persuade readers to store grain in a literal sense; the lesson can be applied to many situations. Because the passage is not factual, The purpose is not to inform about insects or to describe the diets of insects. For these reasons, the best choice is "to teach a lesson through a fictional scene."

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