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While the ACT Science Test usually assesses your ability to interpret charts and graphs, the Conflicting Viewpoints passage presents a different type of challenge. The passage contains two or more theories on the same scientific topic and asks questions about how the arguments relate to one another.  

Compared to the other science passages, the Conflicting Viewpoints section contains far more text. In fact, it may even look like a passage on the reading section. The sheer number of words on the page can seem intimidating, but the tips below will help you work your way through the passage as quickly and accurately as possible

  • Pay attention to the introduction.

If there’s an introduction above the theories, make sure to read it. While it can be tempting to cut corners and “save time,” the introduction defines key terms and provides necessary context for the hypotheses you’re about to read.

  • Focus on similarities and differences.

Don’t get too bogged down by the details in the hypotheses. You can refer back to the passage later if you’re specifically asked about them. Focus instead on understanding the scientists’ overall arguments, and pay careful attention to the ways in which they agree and disagree.  

  • Don’t make assumptions.

Unlike the other science passages, the Conflicting Viewpoints passage sometimes contains incorrect information. Frequently, multiple theories are just plain wrong! Make sure to answer questions based on what the text said – not what you learned last year in science class.

  • Use your pencil.

Underline the main idea of each theory, and underline/circle key terms in both the passage and questions.  Marking up your test booklet will help you keep the theories straight as well as help you get through the more challenging and wordy questions.  

The Compass Team

Compass is one of the world's leading providers of in-home and online, live one-on-one tutoring for high school students aspiring to attend selective colleges.

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