Low Stress Tips for Conflicting Viewpoints Questions in ACT Science

conflicting viewpoints act science -magoosh

The first time you see conflicting viewpoints passages on ACT Science, it can be overwhelming. Not only are you reading two passages instead of one, but you have to put together information from both to answer the questions. But like a lot of the ACT, these questions get a lot easier with plenty of practice (and careful practice!). In this article, we’ll take a look at what conflicting viewpoints questions ask you to do–and how you can ace them with no stress.

What Are Conflicting Viewpoints Questions 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. These passage are also known by some students as the “fighting scientists” passage because one of its trademarks is the presentation of two or more scientists or students duking it out over their theories.

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!

That’s what conflicting viewpoints passages look like in general.


Click here to unroll a specific example of this question type in the ACT Science section from Magoosh’s ACT Science practice questions!


Scientists concerned about significant long-term effects of global warming discuss a geoengineering proposal to cool the planet.

Scientist 1

Solar Radiation Management (SRM) could reverse global warming by seeding the stratosphere with sulfuric aerosols (SO4), recreating past periods of global cooling caused by volcanic activity. Naturally reflective sulfate aerosols resulting from this seeding would be dispersed by atmospheric winds, forming a layer of fine particles that would reflect about 1% of sunlight back into space. On the basis of computer models, scientists have predicted that SRM would reduce the amount of sunlight entering earth’s atmosphere, thereby reducing global average temperatures.
Atmospheric CO2 levels were around 275 parts per million (ppm) prior to the Industrial Revolution. A level of 350 ppm is the critical threshold beyond which significant global warming occurs; current levels are around 400 ppm. Since CO2 remains in the atmosphere for a very long time, even eliminating all CO2 emissions immediately would leave global temperatures elevated far into the future. Reducing CO2 emissions alone is not enough to preserve our climate; further action is needed. Preliminary research suggests SRM may be a way to stop or even reverse global warming.

Scientist 2

More research needs to be conducted before seriously discussing the injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere. It will do nothing to affect CO2 levels, and unintended consequences of SRM are so severe that that it should not be considered as a possible “solution” to global warming. There is no way to experimentally predict the consequences of manipulating the atmosphere on a worldwide scale, as climate patterns simply cannot be isolated and manipulated on a local scale.


Injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere would increase acid rain and have a drastic impact on Earth’s protective ozone layer. One study concluded that artificial injections of sulfates could destroy between one-fourth and three-fourths of the ozone layer above the Arctic. This could affect a large part of the Northern Hemisphere because of atmospheric circulation patterns.The sulfates would also delay the expected recovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic by about 30 to 70 years, or until at least the last decade of the century. A healthy ozone layer is critical for life on Earth because it blocks dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Adapted from: Rotman, David. A Cheap and Easy Plan to Stop Global Warming. MIT Technology Review. 8 Feb 2013. AND National Science Foundation Press Release 08-069. “Injecting Sulfate Particles into Stratosphere Could Have Drastic Impact on Earth’s Ozone Layer.”

1. Both scientists would most likely agree that the distribution of fine particles throughout the upper atmosphere is largely maintained by:

A. high levels of CO2 in the air.
B. global cooling caused by volcanic activity.
C. circulation caused by wind.
D. injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.

Top Low-Stress Trips for Conflicting Viewpoints Questions

So what can you do to get conflicting viewpoints questions in ACT Science correct? These tips will help!

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.

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 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 data 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?

Answering Conflicting Viewpoints Questions with ACT Science Tips

With those tips in mind, let’s go back to the question we looked at earlier in this post. As a reminder, here’s the question:

1. Both scientists would most likely agree that the distribution of fine particles throughout the upper atmosphere is largely maintained by:

A. high levels of CO2 in the air.
B. global cooling caused by volcanic activity.
C. circulation caused by wind.
D. injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.

(Click here if you want a passage refresher!)

Now, let’s walk through how you can use the tips to answer this question.

1. Identify what’s being studied.

In this case, the authors are providing information about a particular way of addressing global warming, through the distribution of sulfur aerosols.

2. Figure out the opinions.

Scientist 1 writes, “sulfate aerosols… would be dispersed by atmospheric winds” and Scientist 2 writes, “artificial injections of sulfates could destroy between one-fourth and three-fourths of the ozone layer above the Arctic. This could affect a large part of the Northern Hemisphere because of atmospheric circulation patterns.”

3. Circle any relevant data.

In this case, there isn’t any relevant data, as there’s no accompanying chart or graph. Now, you can us the information from the first two steps to work out the answer!

In this case, you already know that it can’t be B, because Scientist 2 doesn’t include any information about volcanic activity. Based on the passages, D doesn’t make sense either; sulfite aerosols are an example of fine particles and unlikely to be the cause of their own distribution.

That narrows it down to only two answer choices, but it’s clear that only one answer fits best. Click here to find out which one!

A Final Word on Conflicting Viewpoints Passages in ACT Prep

Even though these passages only come up once per exam, it’s important to master them well beforehand in your practice (and on at least one ACT practice test!). Even if ACT Science is one of your strongest subjects, in terms of timing, you may still find these passages a challenge. But with regular practice with solid study materials, you’ll get used to the way these questions ask you to think and ace them on test day–and boost your ACT score. Good luck!


  • Rachel Kapelke-Dale

    Rachel is a Magoosh Content Creator. She writes and updates content on our High School and GRE Blogs to ensure students are equipped with the best information during their test prep journey. As a test-prep instructor for more than five years in there different countries, Rachel has helped students around the world prepare for various standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, and she is one of the authors of our Magoosh ACT Prep Book. Rachel has a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Brown University, an MA in Cinematography from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. in Film Studies from University College London. For over a decade, Rachel has honed her craft as a fiction and memoir writer and public speaker. Her novel, THE BALLERINAS, is forthcoming in December 2021 from St. Martin's Press, while her memoir, GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND, co-written with Jessica Pan, was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House. Her work has appeared in over a dozen online and print publications, including Vanity Fair Hollywood. When she isn't strategically stringing words together at Magoosh, you can find Rachel riding horses or with her nose in a book. Join her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

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


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