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Conflicting Viewpoint

Teacher/Instructor Devorah Goldblatt
Devorah Goldblatt

Case Western Univ., summa cum laude
Perfect scorer on the SAT & the ACT

Devorah is the founder of Advantage Point Test Prep and the author of the book “Boost Your Score” The Unofficial Guide to the Real ACT.

Let's take a look at the conflicting viewpoints passages. Now on our other episodes we talked about how generally in the science you don't really have to read anything, it's on the charts and the graphs that are really important and you don't have to worry about the paragraphs. On the conflicting viewpoints however, you do have to read, unfortunately there actually aren't any charts or graphs so you're stuck reading that's all you've got. So in this episode we're going to actually talk about some really, really good strategies for conflicting view points, so you can nail this section on test day.
Let's recap and talk about what a conflicting viewpoints passage looks like. Well you're going to have only one of them, so remember you have your three data representation, your three research summary and your one conflicting viewpoints all mixed up together. You're going to have seven questions on the conflicting viewpoints passage, so you really want to do well in this passage because with this one passage you can get seven out of the fourteen questions. And you're going to have two conflicting points of view on a general topic; you can have two scientists just fighting about something, something scientific. Let's take a look so you see what I mean.
You're going to have a paragraph about scientist one who has some kind of opinion about something scientific. And then you're going to have scientist two who is always disagreeing that's why it's conflicting viewpoints. And then you're going to have seven questions, some of them will ask only about scientist one, some of them will ask about scientist two and some of them will ask you about both theories together. Alright let's take a look at some strategies for how to tackle these. Well students often look at the conflicting viewpoints and they say, 'Okay scientist one, scientist two, let me just read them both.' Never do this, let me tell you why, they have conflicting view points and there's a lot of scientific wording. What happens is you'll read scientist one, then you'll read scientist two and you know what? You're thinking, 'Oh my gosh, who said what?' You get really confused and the other thing is the ACT people think you're actually going to read them all together scientist one, scientist two and then head to the questions. And what happens is they put a lot of scientist two's stuff as the tempting wrong answer choices for scientist one and vice verse because they think, oh it would be fresh in your mind, you're not going to be sure and you'll be really confused about who said what? And you'll pick the wrong answer. So best strategy for conflicting viewpoints, first read theory one just what scientist one has to say don't even look at scientist two. And then head to the questions and you'll scheme really quickly and find which ones of them are only talking about scientist one, you'll answer those questions. And then you're not going to be tripped up about those wrong answers that have to do with scientist two 'cause you won't even know what scientist two has said.
Then you'll read theory two and answer those questions talking just about scientist two. And last you'll skip around and do what's, left which is going to be the questions that ask about both theories. When you're looking at the passage what should you be looking for? Well a couple of things first of all mark it up. Now you don't want to be really compulsive about marking it up, but you want to look for a couple of things. You're going to want to look at the first line of each of the passages because you know what? That's usually on a [IB] your point's passage especially, exactly when the scientist is going to tell you his or her point of view, what's the opinion? Is this person agreeing, disagreeing, promoting, discouraging? That will usually be in the first sentence and the last sentence, well actually usually you should wrap it up. So keep an eye out for the first and last sentence when you're looking at each paragraph. Also, cause and effect relationships the ACT loves to ask about these. So, on the passage when you see one thing causing another thing, I would underline it or at least make a mental note. So these are some strategies, let's head to an actual passage and we'll put them into practice.
Here we have a real conflicting viewpoints passage. We've got scientist one and remember scientist two comes next but we don't even care about scientist two. We're going to start with scientist one and then answer the questions just about scientist one. Okay and remember also first line usually very important, usually just tells you what the entire passage is going to be about. Here we go, 'Genetically engineered crops have the potential to help protect and preserve the environment by increasing crop yield and reducing reliance upon chemical pesticides and herbicides.' Okay this is what the scientist is going to talk about it sounds like he's promoting genetically engineered crops, that's your first sentence. You could underline it, you could also just remember. Okay, let me underline some key words like, 'Potential to help protect and preserve the environment.' That seems to be his main concern how? Cause and effect well, by increasing crop yield, uh huh, reducing reliance. So, 'Reducing chemical pesticides and herbicides.' Okay try to preserve the environment how? Reducing the chemicals sounds good. 'Crop losses from insect pests can be staggering resulting in devastating financial loss for farmers.' Another cause and effect you don't need to get too neurotic marking these 'cause you'll draw a lot of them, but keep in mind we kind of know this 'crop losses' that would be devastating. And it's 'Crop losses from insect pests,' okay, 'resulting in devastating financial loss. Farmers typically use many tons of chemical pesticides and herbicides annually. Growing GM foods can help eliminate the application of these chemicals, thus reducing the cost of bringing a crop to market and then environmental impact of these chemicals.' Now we know since he's promoting genetically engineered crops, this might be a cause and effect thing that's going to be important.
What does he say? He says 'growing the foods' what's that going to do? It's going to help eliminate the chemicals which then will reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market and the environmental impact. I would underline some of these terms as a prominent cause and effect going on in his argument. He's saying, 'uh huh growing GM foods what does that do?' Eliminate application of the chemicals, okay which therefore reduces the cost of bringing a crop to market and the environmental impact, great. Okay what else do we see here? Well in addition, there are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. 'Plant biologists have created genetically engineered plants resistant to these diseases.' Okay so we have another thing, oh by the way you know you've got the genetically engineered plants and they're resistant to the diseases that are out there. 'Genetic engineering is the inevitable wave of the future and we cannot afford to ignore technology that has such enormous potential benefit.' Okay, again remember the last sentence is usually great too it's kind of sums it all up. And that's what we've got here he's saying this is great, this is my prospective, we can't afford to ignore it. Okay, so we got the gist out of these paragraph here. Remember scientist two comes next but we don't even want to read him, let's head straight to scientist one questions.
Alright well the first question is just about scientist one. 'According to scientist one what would be the expected benefit of genetically engineered plants?' Well remember we talked about this, he was saying genetically engineered plants great idea for a bunch of reasons right? Reducing pesticides usage was a big deal, all that environmental stuff and then things like reducing the amount of time it would take a crop to get to market, so it would be cheaper. Let's see if any of these things talk about his main idea which was mostly about environmental impact. And he also said that part of the end about the diseases right? And how these genetically engineered crops have less disease. Well which of these answer choices sounds best? 'Genetically engineered foods have the potential to solve many of the world's hunger and malnutrition problems.' Did he even talk about hunger and malnutrition? No he didn't right? Okay we can cross off A. B, 'A reduction in environmental hazards due to reduced pesticide and herbicide use by farmers.' That sounds good; we know that was his main focus, 'Reduce those pesticides,' right? Let's just check C and D just to make sure. C, 'Introducing foreign genes into food plants has an unexpected and negative impact on human health.' Again totally out there. Now by the way we might find scientist two said some of these things that seem out there to us, but because we haven't looked at it yet we have no idea. So we know C can't be correct either, that leaves D. 'Development of new technologies that have enormous potential benefit.' Now he just talked about how this is a great technology, it has enormous benefit but that's not an expect benefit of genetically engineered plants. So keep in mind, even if something sounds correct in the answer choice make sure it's answering the right question. Okay D is not correct, so the answer choice is B he said, the expected benefit of genetically engineered plants it that it would reduce environmental problems that you have from the pesticides and the herbicides.
Let's keep going, this one is about scientist two, so again we're going to skip it and go back. Both scientists let's skip this one. Here we go another scientist one question. 'The position taken by scientist one involves the assumption that what?' Okay well for this you kind of have to look through the answer choices we don't know what assumptions they're talking about. Let's look does he assume that governments examined the potential impacts on genetically engineered foods and determined that the benefits out way the cost? Huh not really because he said he's in the promotional stage he's just saying 'this looks really good' he doesn't say anything about government. So this is kind of out there too although he does talk about benefit but again the government piece just doesn't work. Okay what about B? 'Genetically-engineered plants require less pesticides and herbicide application.' Huh? That does sound like that's one of his assumptions, he's saying, 'we need this because then we'll reduce our problem with pesticides.' So the implication is that these crops require less pesticide usage. So B looks pretty good, but then let's look at C and D just to check. C, 'Genetically-engineered plants produce Oxygen through photosynthesis.' You'll see this once in a while, totally out there. We didn't even talk about Oxygen, we didn't even talk about photosynthesis, can't be C either. What about D? 'Introducing foreign genes into food plants has an unexpected and negative impact on human health.' Interesting, we've seen genes come up a couple of times; I'm betting that's what scientist two was talking about. But scientist one wasn't, we know, totally out there, not the right answer. So B is the correct answer choice here.
Let's find some more with scientist one. Okay, here we got both of them, here, another scientist one question. 'Which of the following studies would bolster the argument presented by scientist one?' So which of this studies would just make scientist one's argument look stronger? A, 'A study of the types of genetically-engineered plants that make the most nutritious foods.' Not really that would be kind of cool but that one really bolsters his point. Remember his point is, we need this because it's better for the environment and also better for crops to resist disease and also cheaper had a little bit of that in there but mostly environment. B, 'A study of the environmental benefits experienced by firms growing genetically engineered plants.' That's really that environment piece he was talking about and he was talking about farms and how you know, hopefully they'll have environmental benefits if they have this crops, because then they need less pesticides and herbicides. So again, B looks pretty good. Let's head to C and D. 'A study of potato plant mutations in North America.' Potato plants, definitely not, we never talked about those. And it wouldn't boost his argument and all. And D, 'A study on the most commonly used pesticides by farmers in developing countries.' This is tricky because you see pesticides, 'Aha, I saw that on the passage, maybe it's right.' But if you had to study about the pesticides it doesn't say, does it say that this pesticides are good? Does it say that there's a lot of them? Does it say that there's not a lot of them? And it's not, so it's not specific enough to boost his argument, right? This study might say something like 'oh pesticides in developing countries, no problem,' that would ruin his argument so this is a really tricky one because it's not specific enough to be the right answer choice but it does have that detail thrown in from the passage about the pesticides. So it's tricky, but this is incorrect. So again our answer choice is B.
That was number six; let's see if number seven is about scientist one and it's not, it's about scientist two. So now time to read the passage about scientist two.
Scientist two; let's start reading; 'Genetically-engineered crops have enormous potential to solve many hunger and malnutrition problems.' Okay, we said the first sentence is important. It sounds like he's promoting, I'm going to be a little suspicious here because so was the other guy, so let's see if there's a little more to this picture. 'Before supporting the use of genetically-engineered plants we must first consider the environmental hazards, human health risks and economic repercussions.' Aha, so actually he's pretty cautious about it, he says sure they have benefit but before supporting their use, we need to consider then environmental hazards, human health risks and economic repercussions. I might actually even underline that 'cause that seems to be his meaning just right here, before supporting them we need to first consider environmental hazards, human health risks and economic repercussions related to the genetically-engineered crops. Interesting, so he's not a fan, or at least he's saying we need to be more cautious and we know that just from the first couple of sentences.
Next, 'Many children in the US and Europe have developed life-threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. There's a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or causes an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.' Okay cause and effect here, so keep it in mind. Possible that introducing a gene into a plant creates a new allergen, or causes an allergic reaction in people. Okay what else? 'There's also a growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have been unexpected and negative impact on human health.' Okay, not as specific so far but he's saying just generally, growing concern that you know what foreign genes might just have negative impacts on human health and maybe we haven't thought about. That's another cause and effect so introducing foreign genes, negative impact on human health, cause and effect.
Next, 'A recent article study examined the effects on GM potatoes on a digestive tract in rats.' Let's just get through an example. 'This study claimed that there were appreciable differences in the intestines of rats fed GM potatoes and rats fed unmodified potatoes. Governments must proceed with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to human health and the environment as a result of our enthusiasm for this powerful technology.'
Okay, so we has a cause and effect with the potatoes, probably not as major as his overall point 'cause it's just in a little example, so I'm not going to mark it, but the cause and effect was, huh, this guys were fed that GM were Genetically Modified Potatoes and you know what, there was some appreciable differences in their intestines, interesting. And then he ends with kind of a cautious note, so governments and here's where the government came in right, 'Governments have to proceed with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to the health and the environment when we use this genetically modified crops.' So that's scientist two, now let's go back to the scientist two questions. We did this one, here, scientist two. 'What is the opinion of scientist two with respect to the problems of genetically-engineered plants?' So remember what we said, he was; he said there are a lot of really good things that could happen with these but we need to be really cautious and maybe problems with human health and maybe environmental hazards with actually using this crops.
So let's look through the answer choices. A, 'Governments need to examine the potential impacts of genetically-engineered plants and food on human health.' Great, this is actually almost straight from the paragraph and you'll have these once in a while. It'll be really nice to you and it's going to be something straight in there just answering the question. But let's drop through B, C and D just to double check.
B 'Genetically-engineered plants do no harm so no action is needed.' That's the opposite, he was saying it might do harm or maybe the study shows that could at least do something, so we need to take action, Okay, not B. C, 'Studies examining the effects of food derived from genetically-engineered plants show that this foods affect the digestive system of rats.' This is tricky 'cause this again, straight from the passage but is it answering the question? We want to know his overall opinion with respect to the problems, so yeah it might cause a difference in their intestines but that's not his whole opinion, that's just an example he brought to bolster his opinion. So C is too narrow of an answer choice to be correct. D, 'There are no substantial effects of genetically modified foods on human health.' Again, opposite of what he was saying, he was saying there probably are or they're maybe, so we have to look into it further, so A is our correct answer choice here. Let's find some more with scientist two. This one's for both, this one was scientist one and last, number seven is another scientist two question. 'What further development would weaken the case made by scientist two?' Okay, before we look through these technical answer choices, let's think about it for a second. What was his point? His point was we have to be cautious right? There might be some problems and you know what? When you introduce new genes sometimes there's allergies and we have some studies that show that people's intestines are maybe it was rats, intestines changed a little bit, so we've got to be cautious. What would weaken his, that this case? Maybe something saying 'Hey, these foreign genes not so bad.' Or 'The changes in the human body not so bad.' Right? That's that would weaken his case. So which of these answer choices says something like that?
Okay, A. 'The development of new medications that help reduce the symptoms of peanut allergies in children.' A really trick one right because he did talk about peanut allergies but think about it, would it, would it weaken his case to say 'Aha, we have a new medication for people with peanut allergies.' Not really 'cause he's saying, 'We don't want them to get the allergies at all.' So be careful when introducing this new crops. So A is not correct, what about B? 'An article in the leading medical journal highlighting the negative effects of pesticide exposure on children.' Tricky because this goes back to scientist one. He was the one saying 'pesticide is a problem,' right? Environmental impact, maybe that's for people. But scientist two really not talking about pesticides, so B is not going to be correct. What about C? 'A study by a reputable university that foreign genes have predictable and positive effects on human health.' Huh? This might be it. There's a study that shows, you know what this foreign genes are predictable we don't have to worry about them and not only that the effects are positive, that would truly go against his point which is that we have to worry, what's going to happen when we introduce foreign genes into the human body. So C looks great but let's just look at D. 'A leading economist findings that reducing pesticide usage does not affect the cost of bringing a crop to market.' Huh, again, they pulled this from scientist one right? But totally not what scientist two was talking about. Great, in the answer choice, C will be correct. Now we're going to go back and just do the one or two questions that ask you to compare both scientists. So let's go back to the beginning, three is the first one about both of them. One is a point which both scientists agree. Alright, well let's think about it for a second. They didn't have a lot of agreement, the first scientist really for it, the second scientist really weary right about it. But we did have that beginning where we weren't even sure about scientist two's point of view because he said something like 'There really are a lot of benefits that we could get' and then he said 'but' and that was the rest of his point, we have to be careful. So really the only thing we can think of that they do agree about is that there are some benefits that maybe could happen with these genetically modified crops. Let's take a look at the answers.
First, 'The evidence to support the use of genetically-engineered plants is inconclusive.' Well scientist one never even got into whether they were conclusive, inconclusive, he was just saying, 'Great idea let's do it.' Right? So it was just scientist two saying, 'We got to be a little careful here. We're not too sure about the studies.' What about B? 'Insecticides really do not do much damage.' So again not something that they'll both agree on, the first scientist said these are a huge problem. Insecticides, when do you get rid of them? And scientist two didn't really talk about them so much.
What about C, 'Genetically-engineered plants have the potential to solve problems.' This one sounds really good. Because remember, scientist two before his kind of discussion about all the problems that are possible, he did have a little bit of a nod to the other side saying "huh, you know? 'This really could be great but...' So C looks good 'cause you know scientist one totally thinking it's a great idea. So they both thought that they had put the potential to solve problems. What about D? Just to check. 'Distraction of plants by insects increases the cost of bringing a crop to market.' So again that was just scientist one saying gosh it's really costly and that's why we need this genetically modified crops. But Scientist two didn't really mention that at all, so we know answer choice C is correct. Let's look for the other question about them both.
Here we go: Number five. 'To refute scientists two's opinion, scientist one might note that what?' Alright let's stop and think about this for a second. Scientist two's opinion right, we have to be really careful, problems with the foreign genes, maybe problems with the human body. Okay what can scientist one tell him to refute his opinion. Let's look through the answer choices. So A, 'Studies show that the negative effects of pesticide application, outweigh the potential hazards associated with foreign genes.' This is an interesting one. If scientist one said to scientist two 'Hey, listen. You know what, I'm worried about the pesticide exposure and I'm telling you here's some studies that show actually, it's worse to have pesticide application, that's more of a hazard than it is to have foreign genes, so my hazards are worse than yours.' That might be good to refute his opinion that we need to be really weary about introducing this crops. So A looks really good but let's just check B, C and D.
B, 'It is widely known that pesticides are harmful to human health.' Huh? I mean that doesn't really refute Scientist two's opinion, he's not saying, they're harmful, they're not harmful, he's just saying we got to be careful about genetically modified crops. So B is not going to work. C, 'It is possible to preserve the environment through organic farming techniques.' Huh again, kind of out there right? Not really a relative to what's been talked about here. And then D, 'Foreign genes in food cause the appreciable differences in the intestines of rats fed GM potatoes.' So that was a little example, but even if scientist one said 'Aha, foreign genes caused the differences.' Well that actually bolsters scientist two who's saying this might be a problem because we had a study where the genes cause problems for the rats intestines. So D can't be the answer choice here either. And that leaves us with A. Great, that's it for conflicting viewpoints passages. Make sure to practice this on a lot of sample passages at home, so you get a really good idea of how to use the strategies.
Let's recap, we talked about strategies for answering the conflicting viewpoint passages, how you want to read the first scientist then do those questions, second scientist then do the questions. Then the ones about both and we talked about why that's a great strategy. We talked about what to look for in the passages, the important things to mark up so you can easily answer the questions. And last, we talked about how important it is to practice, so that you feel really great about these strategies on Test day.