ACT Science Conflicting Viewpoints Passages

In conflicting viewpoints passages, several different viewpoints or hypotheses are presented on a specific scientific phenomenon.

The first few paragraphs describe the phenomenon and the remaining paragraphs outline each student or scientist’s viewpoint. These passages typically contain more words than Research Summaries or Data Interpretation passages, so your reading skills will definitely be useful here.

1. Identify what’s being studied

This information is usually located in the very first paragraph. What is the main subject the students or scientists are studying? This paragraph will often include unfamiliar scientific terminology. They are trying to confuse you, but you don’t have to worry because any new vocabulary will eventually be defined by the passage. Locate and underline the phenomenon before you move on to the viewpoints.

2. Figure out the opinions

Each student or scientist will have a basic theory in regards to the phenomenon. This opinion can usually be found in the first sentence underneath the person’s name. Try and put yourself in each scientist’s shoes. Ask yourself, how are the basic theories different? How are they similar? Underline this information, so you can easily reference it later. You could even jot down a quick summary of each scientist’s viewpoint, so you don’t forget.

3. Circle any relevant data

After you have located and underlined the basic theories of each scientist, identify what they data they are using to support their theory. Are there any graphs or figures involved? Make sure to draw on the figure exactly what is described by each theory and label it.

The main goal of conflicting viewpoints passages is for you to understand what the argument or conflict is about, and determine what is different about each point of view. As you carefully read and understand the phenomenon, basic theories, and support, it is also helpful to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. What needs to be true in order for each theory to be correct? What assumptions are the scientists making?