Practice with Research Summaries Passages on ACT Science Reasoning

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  • 0:03 Research Summaries
  • 0:38 Sample Passage
  • 2:38 Question 1
  • 3:39 Question 2
  • 5:31 Question 3
  • 6:35 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.

Get a sneak peek at what you'll see on the ACT Research Summaries passages, and practice working through the questions quickly and efficiently. You'll also get a chance to do some independent practice on the quiz questions.

Research Summaries

On the science section of the ACT, the research summaries passages describe an experiment and then ask you questions about it. You might get questions about the results of the experiment or what the scientist found out, but you can also expect to see some questions about the methodology: how the scientist performed the experiment.

The good news is that you don't have to do any experimenting yourself - it's all on paper. But it's still a challenge to get through all the data within a reasonable amount of time. In this lesson, we'll walk through a sample research summaries passage to help you get a feel for the territory.

Sample Passage

Below is the sample passage that we'll be working with. Here you can see the basic structure of the research summaries passage: there's some text introducing the experiment and telling you how the scientist set it up and then some graphics showing what the results were.


Since it's important to save time reading these passages, we won't look carefully through all that information. You'll never have enough time to read it all. Instead, we'll skim for just the important parts to get a feel for the passage and see what's there. Then when we get to the questions, we'll go back and get just the information we need without wasting time on the rest of it.

First, we'll skim the first sentence: A student tested the effects of diet and sleep deprivation on the feeding habits and weight gain of rats over a period of 6 weeks. Great. Now we know what the experiment was about.

We can also see that there are a bunch of abbreviations in this paragraph. It's worth taking a look at these just to get a slightly better feel for the passage.

  • SD-SC: sleep-deprived with standard chow
  • SD-CD: sleep-deprived with a cafeteria diet
  • NS-SC: not sleep-deprived with standard chow
  • NS-CD: not sleep-deprived with a cafeteria diet

From just skimming over the abbreviations, we now have a pretty good idea what the experimental groups in this study are: that's very useful information. Now we'll briefly glance at the tables.

We can see in the first one that there are four rats in each group and that the table represents how much food each individual rat ate. We can also see that Figure 1 shows weight gain by group - not by individual rat.

Now we know just enough about the passage; it's time to move on to the questions.

Question 1

We'll warm up with one of the easier questions. This one just asks you to find one piece of information in the passage, and as a bonus, it even tells you exactly where to look for it.

According to Table 1, what was the average food intake, in grams, of rats in the SD-SC group?

(A) 26 grams
(B) 30 grams
(C) 32 grams
(D) 36 grams

Remember that the SD-SC group was the group of sleep-deprived rats eating the standard chow. We'll just look for that group in Table 1.

We've got four rats to deal with here, so we'll take the average:

(30 + 32 + 32 + 26)/4 = 120/4 = 30

That gives us 30 grams of food as the average, so we'll pick answer choice (B). Not so hard, right? Let's try a more difficult one.

Question 2

The results of this study suggest that:

(A) Sleep deprivation and the cafeteria diet both contribute to weight gain.
(B) Sleep deprivation but not the cafeteria diet contributes to weight gain.
(C) The cafeteria diet but not sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain.
(D) Neither the cafeteria diet nor sleep deprivation contribute to weight gain.

This one's a little trickier because it's asking us to compare multiple data points from the experiment, not just find one. But let's take it step by step. We want to figure out what it is that makes the rats gain weight: is it the sleep deprivation, the cafeteria diet, or both?

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