3 Steps to Rock Conflicting Viewpoints Passages on the ACT

In Conflicting Viewpoints passages, on the ACT Science Test, several different viewpoints or hypotheses will be presented on a specific scientific phenomenon.

The first few paragraphs will describe the phenomenon and the remaining paragraphs will 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!

Let’s look at some tips for handling Conflicting Viewpoints passages.

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 but don’t panic! 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.

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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 (if at all)? Underline this information, as well, 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.

Once you’ve located and underlined the basic theories of each scientist, identify what they are 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 “Student 1”, “Student 2,” etc.

Consider whether any of the supporting date is contradictory. For example, if Student 2’s theory is correct, does that make Student 3’s theory incorrect? If no support is provided for a theory, make sure to write “No Support” next to the paragraph.

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?

You may find yourself taking a little more time than usual on Science Test passages to understand all of the viewpoints before you get to the questions. Make sure you get plenty of practice with Conflicting Viewpoints passages before your test so you are comfortable and confident with the format.

You may feel more pressure on the Science test in terms of timing, but don’t skim the Conflicting Viewpoints passages – you’ll need to truly understand each viewpoint to correctly answer the questions.

Remember to start practicing now for the ACT Science Test! Even if Reading and Science aren’t your strongest subjects, you can still raise your score dramatically with careful practice! 🙂


By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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