Page 4 Science Study Guide for the ACT

Conflicting Viewpoints

Of the three passage types on the Science section, this is the most similar to a Reading Comprehension test. In the Conflicting Viewpoints section, you will be required to read and analyze two separate viewpoints relating to the same topic and then answer questions about the two passages. However, understanding the purpose and details of the section can help you to perform well on this portion of the test.

Given the question type, it should be clear that, for you to compare different viewpoints, it is absolutely necessary that you first have a good idea of what those viewpoints are. Prior to diving into any passage, you should always be of the mindset that you are on a hunt for information.

You are searching first and foremost for the main idea or argument presented in a piece of text.
Underlying this, you are concerned with the manner in which this argument or main idea is presented. What is the tone of the language used? What is the supporting evidence? How is the argument structured? Does the author appeal to your emotions or are objective details provided? These are all considerations you should train yourself to be on the lookout for when reading any text on which you will be tested.

Additionally, unless you are eidetic, it is highly recommended that you incorporate and refine your active reading skills. This entails reading with a pencil in hand and actively engaging the text with which you are interacting. Under timed conditions, it is most important that you focus only on the details on which you will be tested, but in general, a text will be easier to read and understand if you maintain an active dialogue with the text. This is not an easy skill to master, but the more time you spend practicing this style of reading, the more easily you will be able to digest the complicated texts you will be required to analyze when in college.

As you read through the viewpoints presented in this section, underline or make note of the main idea/argument as well as any supporting evidence you find. Because you are going into the text already on the lookout for this information, it should be easier to find it. But if you notice that you have trouble deciding on what the important information in a passage is, there are many places to practice doing just this.

After completing a passage, you should have a clear idea of what the author’s argument is, and how the argument is supported. You should have portions underlined and notes jotted in the margin that enable you to quickly access this information when a question specifically references the author in question. When reading through the second passage, utilize the same method of active reading. Note the main idea/argument, how it is supported, tone, etc., but also keep in mind any similarities or differences with the first author and jot these down as you continue reading. If you have trouble keeping track of information, outlining or drawing a quick sketch attributing the viewpoints and support to authors in different columns might prove beneficial. One of the skills that colleges look for in prospective students is their ability to organize and make sense of interrelated concepts and pieces of information, so refining your ability to organize information like this is not without worth.

Like the other sections, as you gain more familiarity with the style of both the passages and the questions asked, you will have a much clearer idea on what to focus on as you read.

A Final Note

Practice and preparation play a crucial role in your ability to regularly perform well on tests like this. Work through old examinations paying close attention to your weak areas and making note of your most common mistakes. Continue practicing until you are confident in the system you have developed to make it through each of the test’s sections without worry about the time limit while acquiring a majority of the information relevant to answering the questions correctly. The more time you free for the questions that pose you the most trouble, the more likely you are to work through to the correct answer and greatly improve your score.