Practice with Data Representation Passages on ACT Science Reasoning

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

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

In this lesson, you'll work through a sample Data Representation passage from the ACT Science section. Learn to put all those crazy charts and tables in their place!

Data Representation

Of the three passage types on the ACT Science section, Data Representation passages are the most straightforward but also the most chart heavy. These passages give you some data and ask you to analyze it.

This can be intimidating for students who don't feel comfortable reading charts and tables, so in this lesson, we'll learn how to break down a Data Representation passage into manageable chunks, tackle it piece by piece, and save time in the process.

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Coming up next: Research Summaries Passages on ACT Science Reasoning

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  • 0:03 Data Representation
  • 0:34 The Passage
  • 1:49 Question 1
  • 3:05 Question 2
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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The Passage

Ready to start? Here's the passage.


We're not going to read the whole thing; that takes too much time. Instead, we'll read just the most important parts: the first sentence of every paragraph and the titles and axes of graphs and charts.

A wetland is an ecosystem saturated with water, either temporarily or permanently.

Great; now we know the topic of the passage: wetlands. We'll skip down to the table.

Table 1 below shows the fluctuation, in centimeters, of six wetlands.

Now we know what Table 1 is measuring. If we look at the titles on the columns, we see that the table describes six specific wetlands and how significant their water fluctuations were.

Water fluctuations in a wetland also depend on whether the wetland is temporary, seasonal, or semipermanent.

Moving on to the second chart, we can see from the title that this chart is giving us averages, not the fluctuation for any particular wetland.

By now, we have a pretty good handle on what's where in the passage. That's all we need to get started, and the clock is ticking, so it's time to forge ahead on to the questions. If we need anything else from the passage, we can always go back and look later; it's not going anywhere.

Question 1

Some of the questions on the Data Representation passages ask you to just find facts in the passage, and others are a little more involved. First, we'll tackle a straightforward fact-finding question.

In which of the following wetlands was the water level fluctuation the smallest?
(A) Wetland 1
(B) Wetland 3
(C) Wetland 5
(D) Wetland 6

This question asks us about specific wetlands, not averages. So where do you think we'll need to look, the table or the chart? If you said the table, good job! Remember that the chart in this passage gives us average values by type of wetland, and that's not what we want. We're looking for a specific wetland, so we'll head to the table.

Now we just need to find which of the four choices had the smallest water level fluctuation. Wetland 1 had a fluctuation of 4.2 cm. Wetland 3 had a fluctuation of 2.4 cm. Wetland 5 had 17.9 cm, and Wetland 6 had 5.1 cm. The lowest of these values is 2.4 cm for Wetland 3, so Wetland 3 it is.

Question 2

That wasn't so hard! Now let's try a more involved question.

Judging from Table 1 and Figure 1, Wetland 4 is most likely…
(A) A temporary wetland
(B) A seasonal wetland
(C) A semipermanent wetland
(D) Surrounded by grassland

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