Resources › For Students and Parents Finding the Author's Purpose Share Flipboard Email Print Hero Images / Getty Images For Students and Parents Test Prep Test Prep Strategies Test Registration Study Skills SAT Test Prep ACT Test Prep GRE Test Prep LSAT Test Prep Certifications Homework Help Private School College Admissions College Life Graduate School Business School Law School Distance Learning View More By Kelly Roell Education Expert B.A., English, University of Michigan Kelly Roell is the author of "Ace the ACT. " She has a master's degree in secondary English education and has worked as a high school English teacher. our editorial process Kelly Roell Updated July 22, 2018 Knowing what author's purpose questions look like is one thing. Finding it is quite another! On a standardized test, you'll have answer choices to help you figure it out, but distractor questions will often confuse you. On a short answer test, you'll have nothing but your own brain to figure it out, and sometimes it isn't as easy at it seems. It may be helpful to practice these types of questions while preparing for standardized tests. Look For Clue Words Figuring out why an author wrote a particular passage can be as easy (or as difficult) as looking at clues inside the passage. I've mentioned in the "What is the Author's Purpose" article several different reasons an author would have to write a passage of text, and what those reasons mean. Below, you'll find those reasons, with the clue words associated with them. Compare: Author wanted to show similarities between ideasClue Words: both, similarly, in the same way, like, just asContrast: Author wanted to show differences between ideasClue Words: however, but, dissimilarly, on the other handCriticize: Author wanted to give a negative opinion of an ideaClue Words: Look for words that show the author's negative opinion. Judgment words like "bad", "wasteful", and "poor" all demonstrate negative opinions. Describe/Illustrate: Author wanted to paint a picture of an ideaClue Words: Look for words that provide descriptive detail. Adjectives like "red", "lusty", "morose", "striped", "sparkling", and "crestfallen" are all illustrative.Explain: Author wanted to break down an idea into simpler termsClue Words: Look for words that turn a complicated process into simple language. A "descriptive" text will use more adjectives. An "explanatory" text will usually be used with a complicated idea.Identify/List: Author wanted to tell the reader about an idea or series of ideasClue Words: Text that identifies or lists, will name an idea or series of ideas without providing much description or opinion.Intensify: Author wanted to make an idea greaterClue Words: Text that intensifies will add more specific details to the idea. Look for superlative adjectives and "bigger" concepts. A baby sadly crying is descriptive, but a baby mournfully howling red-cheeked for 30 minutes is more intense.Suggest: Author wanted to propose an ideaClue Words: "Suggest" answers are usually positive opinions and try to sway the reader to believe. The author will provide a point, then use details to prove it. Underline the Clue Words It helps to use that pencil in your hand when you're reading if you're unsure what the author's purpose is. As you read, underline the clue words in the text to help you get a better idea. Then, either compose a sentence using the key words (compare, explain, illustrate) to show why the author wrote the piece or select the best answer from the choices given.