Acing the ACT Science Section Part 2: Three Types of Questions

Young active people are studying and preparing project togetherIn Part One of this two-part series, we discussed the value of understanding the scientific method, a cornerstone of scientific reasoning. We looked at examples designed to illustrate this step-by-step process, which is used to test hypotheses and establish facts.

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we will look at three categories of science passages encountered on the ACT: Data Representation, Research Summary, and Conflicting Viewpoint. It is to your advantage to be familiar with these categories. Quickly identifying the type of passage you are working on allows you to more easily anticipate the questions that will be asked. This, in turn, may help you to eliminate wrong answer choices with more confidence.

Summit Educational Group’s The ACT Course Book is the test prep source preferred by A+ tutors. This text does an excellent job of breaking down the science passage categories for the reader. A few of Summit’s helpful observations are summarized below.

  • Data Representation. These passages, according to Summit, “describe scientific phenomena.” A data representation reading will probably ask you to decipher a chart, graph, or table. The most common skill tested by these passages is the ability to compare or contrast. For example, data representation questions might ask you to compare speeds of objects dropped from different heights. They may expect you to decide whether the relationship between two animal populations is direct or inverse. You could find yourself analyzing a chart displaying the characteristics of each atmospheric zone.
  • Research Summary. A typical research summary selection details how an experiment is set up, conducted, and evaluated. Questions focus on “design, execution, and conclusions.” A research summary passage could discuss testing soil composition or measuring the effectiveness of a medical treatment. You must understand and work with concepts such as control groups and dependent and independent variables.
  • Conflicting Viewpoints. Conflicting viewpoint passages and questions ask you to evaluate “two or more theories about various scientific phenomena.” You will need to understand competing theories, but you will not be required to declare one valid and one invalid. You might be asked to assess two opposing readings on robotic design or life on other planets.


Remember, the better you know the test, the better your chances are for earning your best possible score. It’s all about practice and learning to recognize patterns!

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our focus is always on you. Our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you would like more information, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.

Posted in Test Prep, ACT

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