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The Conflicting Viewpoints Passage


This ACT Science video, from your friends at Magoosh is all about the Conflicting Viewpoints Passage. If you haven't already watched our video on the ACT Science passage types, I would suggest you watch that one first, for a little bit of information on the conflicting viewpoint passage, and how it fits in with the other passage types on the ACT Science Test?

But, just a recap a little bit here, what is this passage about? The conflicting viewpoints passage presents a scientific phenomenon, and then, provides two or more alternative theories, hypotheses, or view points on this observable phenomenon. Now, these hypotheses may simply be stated as hypotheses, or theories. But more often, they are labeled Scientist 1 and Scientist 2, like you see on your screen, or Student 1 and Student 2.

Sometimes, there may even be three different viewpoints presented. The researchers, or students presenting these perspective may agree on some points, but they always disagree on some major points. And, your job is to understand their viewpoints, and how they compare, or what would happen to the validity of their arguments, if new information was discovered, or if information was changed.

For many students, the conflicting viewpoints passage is, is the hardest passage of the ACT science test, and so, it's worth spending a little bit of extra special time here, figuring out your strategic approach for it. First of all, you really do have to read this passage, but there are a couple different strategies you can employ, for what order you wanna read things in. However, I would suggest you always start with reading the introductory material of the passage.

This is where you'll find the background material, and the context that will help you understand the two, or more hypotheses that follow. After you do this, some students like to preview the questions to see, what they're going to be asked about. Doing this can help the relevant parts of the questions jump out at you. However, this strategy is not for everybody.

Some students feel like they don't remember any of the questions when they go to read the passage anyway, or they don't understand them, until they have read the passage, and so, it's wasted time for them. Some simply don't have that extra 30 seconds it takes, to read the questions first, and build this in to their timing. So, it's something that, you'll have to check out for yourself in your practice.

So, I'm marking that, an optional step. When it comes to reading the rest of the passage, however, you have two basic approaches that I would suggest. Of course, this is all assuming that you aren't running out of time. And, if you are running out of time, we'll talk about what to do then, at the end of this video.

So, your first approach is to read just the first viewpoint, and then answer all the questions that pertain, only to that viewpoint. Then read the second viewpoint, and answer all questions on that viewpoint. If there are more than two viewpoints, you would continue this process of reading the viewpoints individually. Answering their respective questions, until you've read them all.

And then finally, you would answer the questions that are on more than one viewpoint. The second approach is simply to read the entire passage at once, and then go on to the questions. Making quick decisions about the order, in which you'll answer the questions. If question one seems really complicated, you'll go on to question two, and come back to question one at the end of the set, and so on.

So, a lot of students always wanna ask me, how do they know, which strategy is for them? And, this is a really difficult question to answer, because it's really difficult to categorize students into one column, or the other, as you see on your screen.

The best way to determine this honestly is through practice, to try both methods, see which makes the most sense to you, which helps you to make the best use of your time. But, to help you out a little bit here, I've created this chart of characteristics, so you can see, whether you feel like, you have more characteristics that fall into the, One at a time category.

Or reading the passage, All at once category, and see if that helps you decide, what might be the best approach to you? There's a few things to consider here. How fast of a reader are you? How much do you retain, what you read? How much do you like reading about science, and how much of an issue is time for you, on the ACT science section?

For many students, it can be less overwhelming, and help with their focus, and attention span to focus, on only one viewpoint at a time. Others, prefer to get all the reading done at once. So, they can just focus, and then, go into the questions, and they've got a good overall sense of the passage. There's no hard, or fast rule here, so, like I said, I suggest you try both approaches and practice, so, that you can discover which one you feel most comfortable with.

And then, stick with that approach on the actual test. So, let's talk about, what you wanna be looking for, while you read? You'll wanna be looking for, a few key things. First of all, what is the main point? What is the major hypothesis of each viewpoint? Second, you'll wanna notice any similarities between the viewpoints that you find, and perhaps a bit more important, the differences between the viewpoints.

There will absolutely be questions that will test you on your understanding of the similarities and differences. And finally, know that there will be quite a bit of information that you don't need, so, don't worry about getting everything. Hone in on the main idea, and the major similarities, and differences between the viewpoints.

So, let's walk through an example passage, and talk about how to annotate, and mark up the passage to focus on these key points. So, first of all, let's take a look at the introductory material that appears before the hypothesis. Go ahead, and pause the video, so, you can read this, and then click play when you are ready.

Okay, so, this intro information really just helps orient ourselves to the viewpoints, that are going to follow. The important thing to notice is, what's the topic? What are these hypotheses going to be presenting, potential explanations for? So, in this case we know that, this is going to be hypotheses, from geologists who know that the Earth's continents have moved, over the course of the planet's history.

So, we can guess that, the different explanations, the different viewpoints are going to present different ideas, of how this has happened. What caused these continents to move? So, here are our Hypotheses. Once again, hit Pause on your video, and take a couple minutes to read through them, and then we'll talk about annotating these passages.

All right, so, obviously, it's a little difficult to mark similarities, and differences, when your only reading the first Hypothesis. So, for the first one, what we are gonna do is, just do our best to mark the major points. So that, when we read Hypothesis 2, we have a good understanding of Hypothesis 1 in our mind, and we can make these comparisons.

Remember that, we are primarily focused on what makes a continent shift, so, we wanna be looking for this in our response. So, we can see Hypothesis 1 here, talks about the Earth being progressively cooling, and contracting. So, that's shaping the Earth. The outer crust of the Earth is solid because it cools more quickly, and the core is molten.

The features of the crust including the mountains are created by the crumbling, and shifting of the core as it cools, and contracts, so, that is also contributing to the shaping of the Earth. Volcanoes are expelling matter, the planet can't contain, and here's our key point here, and these often appear at the end of each hypothesis on the test in general. Because the planet as a whole is shrinking, the continents are moving in relation to one another, gradually getting closer together.

Okay, planet shrinking, continents getting closer. So, as we read our second hypothesis, I want you to pay particular attention to anything you notice that is similar to, or different from Hypothesis 1. I suggest, you use some type of symbol to note them. I like to use numbers, pairing, the related points with numbers 1 ,or number 2, you can use shapes, letters, stars, something that's easy for you to remember, but stick to your strategy once you find it.

So, I noted a few things here, that are similar. In Hypothesis 2, we talk about a molten core. So, there was also a molten core referred to, in Hypothesis 1. So, I'm gonna mark those, as a related point with a number 1. I also noticed a key difference here. Hypothesis 2 talks about radioactive decay.

But, there's nothing in Hypothesis 1 that talks about that. So, that's a key difference. And, we can bet that the test is gonna ask us something about that. Another key similarity is they both reference volcanoes. There's volcanoes here, and there's volcanoes in the second passage right here.

So, I'm going to mark that with a number 3. And finally, the key difference here, and once again, is at the end of the passage. The Earth is expanding over time, pushing the continents further apart, and that is a really key difference, from our first one, which said that the Earth was shrinking. So, the point here is not to over think.

Your reading out this passage. You simply don't have time to do that, so just note, what you can as you read. This helps you to read actively, and be prepared for the questions, and you can bet that several of them are gonna ask you about these key similarities and differences. So, this is gonna save you time, when you get to the questions themselves.

Okay, so, what do you do if you're running out of time? This often happens, particularly, if you're leaving the conflicting viewpoints passage for last, like many students do. So, if you have less than 5 minutes, you can definitely, still, get to some of this. So, first of all, skim the questions to determine which viewpoint has the most questions on it?

Then, read that viewpoint, and answer these questions. So, if it's Hypothesis 2, or Scientist 2 had, and that one has four questions on it. Forget about reading the first one. Read the second one, so, you can get the most questions, with the least amount of reading.

And then, do this with the other viewpoint. Answer the questions on that one, and so on. If you have time, answer questions on both of them, and remember to have something bubbled in for every answer, before time is called. If you have less than one minute, that's not a lot of time, but you can still do something here.

First of all, bubble in guesses for everything. You don't wanna be stuck, with having unanswered questions. Finally, find the easy detail questions, the questions that simply ask you to report on a detail in a hypothesis, and answer those, not the ones that are big inference questions, just the ones that says, what does scientist one say about this?

Those are ones you can tend to do a little bit more quickly, and you can hopefully, then erase your guess, answer the right answer, and maybe pick up one, or two questions here. Okay, so, just to recap on the conflicting viewpoints passage, you want to first know in advance, what your reading strategy is going to be? Are you gonna read it in parts, and answer questions, or are you gonna read it in full, and answer all questions.

Second, you wanna make sure you are thoroughly annotating the passage, noting any of the similarities, and differences on the page as you read. And finally, if you're running out of time, which happens more often than it doesn't, use the questions to help you figure out what to read first, so, that you can answer as many questions as possible. And finally, make sure you are practicing, the conflicting viewpoints passage only gets easier with lots of practice.

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