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Conflicting Viewpoints Passages on ACT Science Reasoning Video

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  • 0:03 Conflicting Viewpoints…
  • 0:45 The Passage
  • 2:30 The Questions
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

There's no reason to be nervous about the Conflicting Viewpoints passages on the ACT Science test. In this lesson, we'll walk through what they are, how they work, and how to crack them.

Conflicting Viewpoints

Of the three types of Science passages on the ACT, Conflicting Viewpoints passages are the most text-heavy. They ask you to evaluate the conflicting opinions of two or more scientists on a particular topic.

The good news is that you won't see a lot of fancy charts or complicated diagrams on these passages. But the bad news is that you have to keep track of multiple different opinions, which can quickly get confusing or lead you into trap answers.

In this lesson, you'll learn about what you'll see on the Conflicting Viewpoints passages, how to approach them, and what kinds of questions the test writers will throw at you.

The Passage

Conflicting Viewpoints passages all have the same basic structure. First, you'll be introduced to a topic. This can be any kind of scientific subject. Then you'll read the opinions of two or more scientists on the given topic. These opinions are sometimes completely opposite, but they can also have a more subtle relationship. For example, they might focus on slightly different details in the passage.

Ready to see an example? Here you go:

Example: Conflicting Viewpoints passage
conflicting viewpoints passage

Here, you can see the typical layout of a Conflicting Viewpoints passage. First, you have the topic introduced, and then the opinions of the scientists - in this case, it's just two.

On the other Science passages, it's better to just scan for the topic and not read the whole passage, but on the Conflicting Viewpoints, many students actually find it easier to quickly skim through the whole passage - this helps them get a better feel for each viewpoint so they don't get confused later. The passages are pretty short, so it doesn't actually take that much time. Try it both ways, and see which way you like better.

Whether you read just the topic sentences or skim the whole passage, the most important thing is to keep track of who says what. The questions will ask you to compare and contrast the scientists, so as you read the passages, be on the lookout for similarities and differences. After skimming each passage, write a note in the margin summarizing that scientist's take on the issue - maybe even give him a descriptive nickname to help you remember. You'll thank yourself for this when you get to the questions.

The Questions

Questions on the Conflicting Viewpoints passages are all multiple-choice with four answer choices each. All the questions are worth the same amount, whether they're hard or easy. They're not organized by difficulty level, but you can recognize at least two types: the questions about just one passage and the questions about both.

A few of the questions ask you about just one of the scientists' opinions. In this question, you only have to deal with Scientist 1:

Example: question asking about one opinion
conflicting viewpoints question

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