One of the seven passages on the ACT Science Test is categorized as Conflicting Viewpoints. This passage will be followed by seven questions relating to the information presented in the passage. The viewpoints of two scientists with opposing ideas are presented, and while you will be required to understand and reason through each perspective, you will not be asked to choose which scientist is “correct.” Certain questions from the Conflicting Viewpoints passage will be Comparing Viewpoints questions. These questions will require you to understand the similarities and differences between the arguments presented by each scientist. While basic knowledge of science is helpful, this category primarily tests your comprehension and attention to detail.
Reading the Passage
For the Conflicting Viewpoints passage, it is helpful to have a solid understanding of the passage before beginning the questions. Be sure to be on the lookout for answers to the following questions as you read through the passage, and feel free to underline or make a note of this information. This will help you to be able to find answers to the questions more quickly.
Questions to Consider
Don’t spend a lot of time trying to find the answers to all of these questions; rather, have these questions in the back of your mind so you can easily underline the information if you find it.
The Conflicting Viewpoints passage will begin with an introduction that presents the topic discussed by each of the scientists.
The first scientist discusses their point of view of the scientific topic described in the introduction. One scientist will generally present an argument, which the second scientist will then directly refute.
The stance of the second scientist will always be opposite that of the first scientist. It is important to clearly understand their point of view as well as the evidence that they use to support their claim.
Now that we have read over the passage once, we can move to the questions. Some questions will test you on your basic understanding of the passage, while others will ask you to make inferences based on the provided material.
The topic of this passage was about the surface features of Europa, and whether or not they are caused by liquid water. This question is testing your understanding of each scientist’s viewpoint.
If you go back to your notes on the passage, you will see the claim of Scientist 1 is that the craters were removed through liquid water oozing through cracks and freezing, while the claim of Scientist 2 is that there are few craters due to sublimation.
Based on our comparison of the two viewpoints, the answer is B. There is no mention of wind in the passage.
The two scientists may agree on certain facts, even while differing in their central argument. These types of questions will require you to understand where the scientists are in agreement before branching off to their respective points of view.
Generally, the information provided in the introduction paragraph will be undisputed, as it provides the background for the central disagreement. The answers to questions regarding agreement can usually be found in the introduction paragraph, and supported by each scientist’s paragraph.
Europa’s surface ice is resmoothed and reshaped, which shows there is substantial amounts of ice covering its surface.
Scientist 1 Evidence
The surface ice is referenced again, with the visual of the polar ice on Earth providing additional imagery.
Scientist 2 Evidence
The surface ice is referenced various times, implying that it makes up a substantial portion of the surface of Europa.
The answer choice that is best supported by the passage is H. The diameters are not discussed (and Europa would be smaller than Jupiter), so E is wrong. A rocky surface is not mentioned, and the surface temperature is said to be −160℃ by Scientist 2, so F and G are wrong.
Some questions will require you to infer things about the opinions of the scientists that may not explicitly be stated in the passage. When answering an inference question, make sure that you are choosing an answer that still relates to the topic of the passage and can be supported by the passage.
This question asks you to make an inference based on a provided assumption and the passage. In this case, we are inferring which would be the least likely on Earth, given that the information Scientist 2 provided was correct.
This evidence demonstrates that the features of Europa’s surface and the glaciers of Earth are very similar.
This evidence states that there are few meteorite craters on Europa’s surface. If Europa’s surface has very few craters, and it is similar to Earth’s glaciers, it would be unlikely that Earth’s glaciers would contain craters.
Therefore, the answer is C.
While you don’t actually need to have an extensive scientific background for the ACT Science Test, you may be required to have an understanding of basic scientific principles.
This question does not require an analysis of the passage, but rather draws on your general understanding of science: in this case, the knowledge of what elements make up water. Most people know that water, also known as H2O, contains hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Since none of the answer choices are hydrogen, the answer must be D.
You may be asked how to strengthen the argument of one of the scientists, or what additional information would refute the point of view of one of the scientists. Make sure that any strengthening or weakening of the arguments is based on the original points found in the passage.
Sublimation is the central claim of Scientist 2, so an answer choice supporting sublimation would weaken the claim of Scientist 1, so it cannot be A or D.
The existence of high winds would not aid in Scientist 1’s argument, since they argue that liquid water is responsible for the surface features, so it cannot be C.
The existence of an additional heat source could be used as a counterargument to Scientist 2’s statement that the heat from gravitational tides is quickly lost to space. A heat source is necessary for heating of the subsurface to create liquid water, so choice B is correct.