Page 3 Science Study Guide for the ACT

Research Summaries

The Research Summaries portion constitutes the largest portion of the Science section as a whole, so it is wise to spend a greater amount of time familiarizing yourself with its makeup. This section will present to you a series of experiments along with all of the information relevant to the experiment, including the setup, data, and methods of experimentation. Just like the Data Summary section, it is imperative that you read very closely and carefully, paying attention to all of the details included.

While not critical to your success on the Science section, a basic understanding of the scientific method can help you assess and analyze the setup and purpose of an experiment.

The scientific method begins with an observation of a phenomenon or event that a scientist then wonders about before developing a hypothesis, or potential explanation, along with predictions relating to the phenomenon or event.

An experiment is designed, and the scientist collects data using objective measuring devices before analyzing the results and relating the conclusions of the experiment to the generated hypothesis.

If the conclusions verify the hypothesis, the scientist will ask another scientist to perform the same experiment to further validate the explanation. If the hypothesis is not verified, the scientist may formulate a new hypothesis and begin a new experiment to test it.

Along with the scientific method, it is helpful to understand the relationship between dependent and independent variables. To draw conclusions about the relationship between variables in an experiment, it is important that an experimenter can show causation or correlation between variables. To accomplish this, an experimenter will need to control one set of variables while changing one other variable and then examining the consequences of changing this single variable.

The variable that is manipulated by the experimenter is the independent variable and every other variable in the experiment is considered a dependent variable (these variables depend on the independent variable).
Conventionally, the independent variable is listed on the x-axis and the dependent variable is listed along the y-axis (though this is not always the case).
Always identify the dependent and independent variables in the experiments presented in the research summaries section.

Similar to the Data Representation section, the Research Summaries section will include visual components and text relating to the graphs. The same skills employed in the data representation section apply here, and it is critical that you read and understand each of the drawings provided. Look for, and note, any trends that you discover in your analysis. Underline and jot notes in the margin when you encounter information you deem important.