Most ACT Science sections contain one “conflicting viewpoints” passage. This passage, which resembles a reading comprehension passage, contains an introduction followed by two lengthy and conflicting viewpoints on a scientific topic (“Scientist 1” and “Scientist 2”). Unlike the other passage types, there are no tables, charts or graphs included. The two arguments are labeled and presented in sequence, i.e. Scientist 2’s argument follows Scientist’s 1’s argument.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way you can navigate and do well on this type of passage. In each of these passages, Scientist 1 and Scientist 2’s arguments are presented in parallel structure. Whenever you have to compare the two viewpoints, simply look to the same paragraph—often even the same area of that paragraph—in each viewpoint to find the relevant arguments. It’s that simple.
As with any science passage, of course, make sure to answer any questions about an individual passage section immediately after you’ve read that section and before moving on to the next one. Sometimes conflicting viewpoints questions even ask about the passage introduction, so make sure to check for any relevant questions before moving on to Scientist 1’s argument.
As you read both viewpoints, jot down a few words that capture the basic argument of each scientist. This will help you to both read more actively and keep track of everything when it comes time for the questions.
When asked to compare the two viewpoints, make sure to use the parallel structure of the arguments to find the relevant information quickly and accurately. You’ll buy yourself both time and points by doing so.