Guide to the Conflicting Viewpoints Passage on the ACT Science Test

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Not sure exactly how to tackle different parts of the ACT science test, especially the conflicting viewpoints passage? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article we will breakdown the conflicting viewpoints passage and run through practice questions to help you understand how to work through the passage. By the end of this article, you will be more than prepared to ace the conflicting viewpoints passage of the ACT!

 

Overview of the ACT Science Test

 

The ACT science test is 40 questions long and test takers are given 35 minutes to complete this portion of the exam. The science section does NOT specifically test your knowledge of advanced science concepts; instead, it tests your ability to solve scientific problems through analysis and reasoning. The science section covers materials related to biology, chemistry, physics and earth/space sciences. These concepts are covered over seven brief passages which are further divided among the categories of data representation, research summary and conflicting viewpoints. While we will be focusing specifically on the conflicting viewpoints passage, you can review Collegevine’s complete guide to the ACT Science Test to help understand the holistic test.

 

What is a Conflicting Viewpoints Passage?

 

The ACT science test usually only has one conflicting viewpoints passage which requires you to analyze and compare incompatible analyses based on different or incomplete data. Questions related to the passage will assess whether you understand the viewpoints given and can correctly identify what may need to be modified about each viewpoint. 

 

The conflicting viewpoints passage can appear at any point in the science test. This type of question is easily identifiable: it usually starts out with an introduction to a scientific experiment and is followed by one to four different viewpoints given by the same number of students or scientists. Look at the Conflicting Viewpoints Practice Questions section to see an example. 

 

Conflicting Viewpoints Practice Questions

 

Below we will review an official ACT conflicting viewpoints passage to understand how to work through the specific problem:

 

 

As you can see, the above conflicting viewpoints passage begins with an introduction to a scientific experiment. By reading the introduction, which is outlined in pink, we see that students (and the test taker) are provided a table, which is outlined in blue, consisting of 8 samples that are all completely solid cubes composed of a single pure substance. The data table provides the mass, volume, density, melting point and boiling point of each sample. The final problem statement, which is outlined in green, dictates that the teacher asks four students to explain how the data could be used to predict which samples are composed of the same substance. 

 

This problem statement is then followed by differing viewpoints of four students (Student 1, Student 2, Student 3 and Student 4) as outlined in red. We see that each of the students attempts to describe how the data could be used to predict which samples are composed of the same substance, however, they all vary in their theories. The goal of the conflicting viewpoints passage is to be able to analyze the different viewpoints and see how they compare/differ.

 

Here are questions that are associated with this passage as administered by ACT, Inc.:

 

Question 1

 

 

 

Correct answer: (C)

 

In this first question, we are asked to understand which two samples Student 1 believes to be the same substance. This question involves understanding Student 1’s perspective. Student 1 has the following viewpoint: 

 

“If 2 samples have the same values for all 5 properties, they are composed of the same substance. if 2 samples have different values for any of the 5 properties, they are composed of different substances.”

 

In summary, Student 1 believes that if all the data points in a row match that of another row, then they are the same substance. By looking at the data, we see that Samples C and D as well as Samples E and F have the exact same data points, thereby classifying them as the same substance based on Student 1’s perspective. We see that Samples C and D is an option (answer choice C) and is the option Student 1 would most agree with.

 

Question 2

 

 

Correct answer: (J)

 

This question is similar to Question 1, however, instead of asking for the opinion of Student 1, we are asked what two samples Student 3 believes to be made of the same substance. Student 3, as given by the problem statement, has the following perspective:

 

“If 2 samples have the same mass, volume, and density, they are composed of the same substance. If 2 samples have different values for any of these 3 properties, they are composed of different substances. Neither melting point nor boiling point, by itself, can distinguish between substances.”

 

Here we reach an interesting point: part of Student 3’s opinion is similar to that of Student 1. However, when working through the conflicting viewpoints passage, really try to understand where students (or scientists) differ on their opinions. The ACT can trick you and make it sound like two students are saying the same thing, but there will always be one slight difference! 

 

So, in this problem we know from earlier that Student 1 thinks that samples with all the same data are made of the same substance; however, Student 3 believes that only samples that have the same data for mass, volume and density (therefore not all the data points) are made up of the same substance. With this opinion, we see that samples A and B, C and D, E and F as well as G and H follow this trend (regardless of whether the melting and boiling point values match). We see that Samples G and H is an answer choice, thereby making J the correct answer.

 

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Question 3:

 

 

Correct answer: (J)

 

This question asks us to use the reverse thought process as the earlier questions to find the answer. In the other questions, we had to match up the student’s viewpoint with the correct pair of samples. Here, we need to find the students that would agree with the given statement.

 

The statement provided says that two samples with the same density, regardless of the other data points, will always be composed of the same substance. 

 

Another tip in solving the conflicting viewpoints passage, which we will use in this problem, is to make use of the process of elimination to save time. 

 

We already know that Student 1 believes that all data points need to match up for the samples to be made up of the same substance. This means that Student 1 does not agree with this statement since the given statement emphasizes that the other data points are not necessarily important as seen by the word regardless. However, Student 1 believes that all data points are important; therefore, we can eliminate answer choice F as well as answer choice H.

 

We also know that Student 3 believes that only the first three data points (density, mass and volume) need to match up for samples to be made up of the same substance. If 2 samples have different values for any of these 3 properties, they are composed of different substances. Therefore, we know that Student 3 would also not agree with the given statement since density alone cannot determine if the samples are composed of the same substance. This eliminates answer choice G since Student 3 does not agree.

 

Through the process of elimination, we see that the only answer choice left is none of the students.

 

Question 4:

 

 

Correct answer: (A)

 

For this question, we also need to understand the viewpoint of Students 2 and 4 (we already know the viewpoint of Student 3 really well by now).

 

Student 2 believes:

 

“If 2 samples have the same values for any 3 or more of the 5 properties, they are composed of the same substance. If 2 samples have the same values for fewer than 3 of the 5 properties, they are composed of different substances.”

 

This means that as long as two samples share at least three data points in common, Student 2 believes that the samples are made of the same substance.

 

On the other hand, Student 4 has the following perspective:

 

“If 2 samples have the same density, melting point, and boiling point, they are composed of the same substance. If 2 samples have different values for any of these 3 properties, they are composed of different substances. Neither mass nor volume, by itself, can distinguish between substances.”

 

Student 4 therefore believes that only density, melting point and boiling point need to be the same between samples for them to be the same substance.

 

Now that we understand the perspective of all four students, we can correctly answer the question. The question asks us which students, out of Students 2, 3 and 4, would agree that Sample A and Sample B are made up of the same substance. By looking at the table, we see that Sample A and Sample B only have mass, density and volume values (3 properties) in common while boiling point and melting point values differ. 

 

Since three properties have the same values, Student 2 would agree that the samples are made up of the same substance. Since Student 3 believes that only mass, density and volume need to be the same between samples, Student 3 would also agree the samples are made up of the same substance. Lastly, Student 4 would not agree that the samples are made up of the same substance since they believe that density, melting point and boiling point need to be the same between samples, which is not the case here since the two samples have different values for melting point and boiling point. Therefore, only Students 2 and 3 agree with the made statement.

 

Question 5:

 

 

Correct answer: (F)

 

Earlier in this article, we determined the viewpoints of Students 2 and 4. To solve this question, we need to determine whether Student 2 or 4, both, or neither agree with the statement that “two samples are made up of the same substance if they have the same mass, volume, density and boiling point.” 

 

We know that Student 2 believes that at least three of the data points need to be consistent; since the statement argues that four properties are the same, Student 2 would agree with the statement.

 

We also know that Student 4 believes that density, melting point and boiling point must concur between samples in order for them to be made up of the same substance. Since the question states that mass and volume must also be the same in order for the samples to be composed of the same substance, Student 4 would not agree with this statement. Therefore, only Student 2 agrees.

 

How Will the ACT Impact My College Chances?

 

As a result of COVID, universities and colleges have made submitting SAT and ACT scores optional. However, when universities and colleges do take into consideration your scores, they often do so as a predictor of your potential to succeed in college. An A at one school may translate to a B at another school; for this reason, standardized test scores are used as a universal guide to compare applicants. Sometimes selective schools use test scores and GPA as an automatic application filter, which could mean that your full application may not be reviewed if your test score does not meet their threshold. 

 

To ease some stress, our free chancing engine will help you assess your likelihood of getting into your dream school. Our algorithm takes into account your standardized test scores, GPA, background, extracurriculars, and more to determine your chances of acceptance. It’ll also explain how you stack up to other applicants and make suggestions to help you boost your profile! 

 

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Short Bio
My name is Thamira Skandakumar and I am from Vancouver, Washington. I am a current fourth year at UCLA studying Bioengineering with a minor in Electrical Engineering. In the summer, I will be moving out to San Diego to work at Medtronic in their Ventilator division.

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