Main Purpose of the Text

Although questions that focus on the function of specific sentences within a passage are more common, the digital SAT will also occasionally ask about the main purpose of the text as a whole. The questions will often follow the form of:

  • “Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?”
  • “What is the function of the passage as a whole?”

The approach to this type of question is similar, but more broad as you are focusing on the function of the entire passage, instead of just a single sentence within a passage.


  1. Read the Entire Text: Understand the overall theme, tone, and message. Pay attention to the introduction and conclusion, as they often contain key insights into the text’s purpose.
  2. Identify the Central Theme: Determine what the primary focus of the text is. Is it to inform, persuade, entertain, or describe?
  3. Choose the Best Answer: Relate each option to the text’s central theme. Eliminate choices that don’t align with the overall message or purpose. Select the option that best encapsulates the main purpose of the text.

As an example, the following text is from an article discussing the history and impact of the printing press.

The invention of the printing press in the 15th century marked a turning point in human history. This revolutionary technology facilitated the spread of knowledge, ideas, and literature across Europe, breaking down barriers of education and communication. It played a crucial role in the Renaissance, Reformation, and the scientific revolution. The printing press not only democratized knowledge but also laid the foundation for the modern era of media and information.

Which choice best states the main purpose of the text?

A) To analyze the technical aspects of the printing press
B) To argue for the continued importance of printed media in the digital age
C) To highlight the historical significance and transformative impact of the printing press
D) To compare the printing press with other inventions of the 15th century

Let’s apply our strategy to answering this problem.

  1. Read the Entire Text: The text provides an overview of the printing press’s role in history.
  2. Identify the Central Theme: The focus is on the broad impact of the printing press on society, knowledge, and historical events.
  3. Choose the Best Answer: Only one choice aligns with the text’s emphasis on the historical and transformative nature of the printing press. Option C accurately captures the text’s main purpose, which is to underscore the significance and wide-ranging influence of the printing press throughout history.