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Interpreting Evidence on the ACT Science Test

In Data Representation, Research Summaries, and Conflicting Viewpoints passages, you will need to be able to understand how scientific evidence is presented and answer questions based on this evidence.  These are a lot like “Detail” questions on the ACT Reading Test. To answer “Interpreting Evidence” questions correctly, ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. What type of evidence am I looking at? Start by locating the evidence in the passage. Which specific paragraphs or sentences contain the given information? Is in in words only, or is it presented in a combination of description and data, such as tables or graphs.

 2. What does the evidence show? If there is more than one scientist or student, such as in a Conflicting Viewpoints passage, make sure you match each piece of evidence to the correct individual.

 3. Are there any general trends in the data not mentioned in the passage? This may not be specifically stated in the passage, so you will need to connect the general trends among the results to each hypothesis.

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Let’s put your interpretation skills to the test with a practice ACT Science Data Interpretation question!


Which of the following statements best describes how the abundances of the 8 major elements listed in the table change with increasing atomic number?

A) The abundances always decrease or remain constant as the atomic number increases

B) The abundances usually decrease or remain constant as the atomic number increases

C) The abundances usually increase or remain constant as the atomic number increases

D) The abundances always increase or remain constant as the atomic number increases

We know this is an “Interpreting Evidence” question because it refers back to where the evidence is located, the table. Now, what does the evidence suggest? We can see that the atomic number in the third column always decreases as you move downwards. Reading down the second column, the abundances also decrease or remain constant, with one exception: the abundance increases when going downward from N to O. The answer is (B).


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