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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.
Welcome to research summary passages this is actually my favorite passage type on the ACT. So before we get started I want to tell you something really important I want to you print out the corresponding handout that goes with this section, we got a lot of really good strategies we're going to look at a real research summary passage type but it's only going to show up in parts on the screen and I want to you have that authentic experience like you're in really in the test looking at the whole passage. So print that out so you got all the graphs and tables all together okay. So in this episode I'm going to talk about a couple of things. First of all just what to expect a quick recap of the research summary section. Then we're going to talk about some amazing strategies for this section. These usually, these kinds of passage usually are what freak out students the most you're going to see a lot of terminology, a lot of scary graphs and charts don't worry about you're going to feel great after we are done. So let's get started.
Let's do a quick recap of the research summary passages. Three of them on the test, six questions in each passage and there's just going to be a few paragraphs some information about experiments that happened and some related graphs or charts. Let me show you an example just to refresh your memory here we got we got our intro and hopefully you have this printed out so you'll see the intro will come first a lot of scientific wording going on here and then you'll have experiment one, what happened in experiment one, a table about experiment one, a diagram and then experiment two. So that is what a research summary passage usually looks like. Let's talk about some great strategies.
So let's talk about some great strategies for the research summary passages here is the first one. This is huge don't read the paragraphs or look at the diagrams, how amazing is that? This is a huge time saver. Remember the example we just looked at we got a big paragraph here and we actually don't even need it I'll x it out. We had a whole like paragraph about our experiment you don't need that either and you got a diagram and it looked really complicated too you're wondering oh my God do I need that formula no don't worry about that either, very very cool. So on the research summary the major time saving strategy is that you know what, you can get by without reading any of the long text full of all these jargon and scientific terminology that you're really freaked out by. Instead the really important thing is to really pick apart the tables, the charts and the graphs that you'll see.
Okay really analyze the charts and graphs that's what you're going to want to do and after you do that you're going to head to the questions and answer the questions. Okay how do you really analyze the charts and graphs? Let's take a look you're going to ask yourself first of all what are they measuring things like what are the labels here, you know if it's a line graph what are the axis you know the labels on the x and y, things like just what's going on okay just what's happening in that table or that chart. Next patterns you're always always going to want to ask yourself are there significant trends happening here. The ACT will always nail you if you don't notice a major trend that's happening. So ask yourself you know as one thing increases does the other thing increase or you know as one thing increases does the other one decrease things like that about trends. Last how the tables and charts relate to each other usually there is going to be some sort of relationship so keep an eye out because they're going to ask you about it. Great, so that's how you look at a chart or a graph.
Okay, now what happens when you've read the chart or graph you feel really good about it, you head to the questions and the cool part is like we talked about in our science overview a lot of the questions just ask details from the chart and about trends, so you're set. What happens when you get to a question and you think I really picked apart that chart or graph, I still don't feel good about this question it might mean that I had to read the passage this will happen once in a while and this is when you have to ask yourself a couple of questions. First of all double check am I sure you know did I really have to read this to get it or is there a chance that I just didn't look at the chart or the table properly. Okay if you're sure you really did have to read that's when you're going to check your time is it even worth it for you to go back and do that reading or should you make a strategic guess and just keep going and sometimes the most efficient thing is just to keep going. Think about how much time you're saving by not reading at all and you almost don't want to mess that up you almost want to save that extra time that you have and just apply it to all the questions that you can answer now right, okay. Now here's the thing lets say you have time and you're like alright I do have time I should go back you're still in a really great position because now you're going to know exactly what you're looking for in the passage it's not like you're going to be [IB] all the terminology oh no I have to follow what's happening here, actually you know exactly what you're looking for you're looking for a very particular thing in the passage to answer this one particular question and you're going to go ahead over skim the passage ignore the irrelevant parts and look for that. Now that we've talked about some great strategies let's try them on a real passage.
Let's practice our strategies on a real research summary passage. So we start of we've got a lot of text remember we don't need it let's just skip that for now okay word text don't need that either. But we care a lot about our tables right and we're really going to pick them apart let's pick apart this table here. We know it's about the Northern Hemisphere we don't know exactly what's going on 'cause we didn't read and you'll see that's actually not important. But we got to look at the labels to see is there anything we can pull out of this chart to kind of a sense of what happened. Well we've got three days here so something happened over the course of three days right and other labels well we've got different times of the day. So looks like everyday they're looking what happens an hour after sunrise, what happens mid morning, what happens noon etcetera and we have in each day they're talking about the length of something and the direction that the shadow is pointing in. Trust me you're like what is going on you actually don't even know what's going on, just what's in this chart right here and we see here they gave us a hint it's the shadow of a one meter ruler perfect okay. So here we go shadow of one meter ruler and then each day we've got the length and the shadow direction changing as time progresses over the course of the day and that's all we need to know. Any trends happening here that you guys can see? Well let's look in day one let's look at length just check out the numbers it looks like the length is slowly decreasing and then increasing when you see a really prominent trend they're going to ask about it, so there we go. Shadow direction any trend here in direction nothing that I can see it's just pointing different ways. Here we go on day 2 the same trend your length is decreasing and then increasing and again in day 3 decreasing and then increasing, great. What about a trend going this way horizontally across the graph is there one let's check. From day 1 to day 2 to day 3 is there a pattern with how the length is changing. Well here it's going up from 5 to 8.6 and then down. Here we've got up and then down again we've got length is increasing from 0.3 to 2.3 and then back down for day three. So we're getting that same trend and that might be important too okay and this might be something you might want to mark up some students do some students don't just keep in mind where are the trends on the table. We're also going to ask about how the tables relate so we'll talk about that when we get to our second table.
We've go a diagram here remember it looks really awful we don't care about it, they're not going to ask so don't spend time panicking over what this formula means here or anything we don't need the diagram at all. So on to our next table and we've got table 2 here attached to experiment 2. Again now we know where all the labels are we don't have to go over those again we got it you know I'm seeing exact labels on the top and on the bottom. Trends let's look for trends in this table. Same trend as before right you're going to be decreasing and then right around noon the length starts to increase again great so the same trend. Maybe the same trend shows up horizontally as well like we talked about before let's look. So here we had our length from day 1 it decreases down to 5 increases so we got that decrease and that increase. Let's see if it keeps happening mid morning yeah it decreases and then increases again noon decreases and then increases and same thing okay. So throughout we've got two prominent trends happening here we've got decreasing and then increasing length downwards as the time passes over the course of the day and then same thing as the days pass from day 1 to day 2 to day 3 it looks like the length is decreasing and then increasing again you can bet they're going to ask about that on the questions. Now the question of how this table relates to the other table? Okay well if you noticed that first table said Northern Hemisphere this one says Southern Hemisphere there we go it looks like even though again we didn't read we don't know exactly what happened with this experiment they were measuring in two different hemispheres the first table was talking about the results in the Northern Hemisphere this one is about the results in the Southern Hemisphere great. Now that's all you need to know, think about how much time we saved skipping over all that scientific terminology and now we can spend more time focusing on the questions. So let's move on and look at those questions.
First which of the following was a constant in both experiments? So let's look at those tables again what was it that stayed the same? Was it the length of the stick, the shadow, the day of the year or the shadow length? So what was same between both of these? We know that shadow direction just kept changing right? And we know the length kept changing and that was one of our patterns that we talked about. What was our other option? Day of the year changing too. But what was always the same? How long that ruler was right? That didn't change at all and that was the constant in both tables which is how they could compare to each other. They were testing the length of the same length stick perfect. Okay so in this case the answer would be length of the vertical stick that was the thing that stayed the same. And you see that's totally apparent from just looking at those two tables.
Great let's keep going number two if the experiments were repeated after pounding the stick further into the ground so that only point five meters was exposed, how would this affect the shadow length? This is one of those question types we talked about that's kind of scientific method thinking about how the experiment is conducted. You have the one meter stick right? We know that from our previous question which we got just from looking at the tables. Think about it if you pounded that stick again so instead of being a meter long it was only half a meter long, what would you think would happen to the length of your shadows? So again so we didn't have to read anything this is something you can think about. Probably if the stick is half as tall the shadows will be half as long right? That's what kind of makes sense let's see if that's an answer choice? We can just say they would be twice as long definitely not if you're stick is shorter. They would be one and one-half times totally out there. They would be one half as long perfect that makes sense.
Okay let's keep going to question three. When the sun is at an altitude forty five degrees above the horizon, a vertical object will cast a shadow with a length equal to the object's height. Which of the following days included a measurement taken when the sun was in altitude of forty five degrees? This sounds really confusing but it's really powerful that you know that you probably didn't have to read so probably we can cut through all this information and it would be something really simple that just showed up in your table. So just to break this down when the sun is at forty five degrees okay? A vertical object casts a shadow with a length that's equal to the height well how long is out vertical object? It's a meter remember we talked about that straight from our table. So if we want our vertical object to be the same, have the shadow be the same length as the height we're also looking for a shadow that's one meter long does that make sense? Okay so now let's see where that took place we've got some choices was it day one, was it day two? Let's look it over where do we have that our shadow length was one meter? So the same as the one meter ruler nowhere here in table one do we have lengths where we have just one meter. But in experiment two here we go ta dah found it. So here again without reading anything just looking at the table here we go we have in day three we had a time when the shadow of length was the same as the ruler's height. Perfect and we've answered that question let's keep going.
Number four based on the results of experiment one and experiment two at approximately which time of day would a shadow tend to be least noticeable? Great trend question we talked about this remember? How there was a time when the shadow length got shorter let's find out when that is. So if you want your shadow to be the least noticeable it's going to be the shortest where did that happen? Well we looked and we saw predictably around noon is when we had the smallest length to our shadow meaning the least amount was appearing perfect. Okay so if we go back that was noon and that would be our answer here.
Moving on to number five which of the following descriptions correctly characterizes the relationship between shadow length and time of day as shown in experiments one and two? Another trend question and we did talk about this where we just said it tends to we'll have a look. As we just said it tends to decrease when you get to noon and then pick back up right? So you've got a decreasing and then increasing. Let's check out the answer choices as the day progresses a shadow appears longer. Well we know no actually it goes down and then it comes back up right? So not A, B as the day progresses a shadow appears shorter again that's not it. As the day progresses a shadow increases and then decreases now is that what happened? No it decreased and then it increased right? That was our prominent trend so D is the answer. As the day progresses a shadow decreases and then increases in length perfect let's move on.
Number six based on the shadow directions in these experiments which of the following best describes the difference between the apparent path of the sun as seen from the observation points in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres? So this is one way you look at it and you're thinking path of the sun? You know what we talked about shadows in our tables did we talk about the path of the sun and how that relates to the shadows? No so it's going to be a time where it's pretty clear you might have to read. And this is going to be when you think do I have enough time to make it even worth it for me to go back and dig through the passages to find the right answer or should I guess and keep going? Now we got the time so let me show you how you would quickly go back and look to find the relevant piece of information. So we care about what happens with the path of the sun and what do we know about it as we look in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere? And if you look that we want to know how that relates to the shadow directions. Okay so let's look we're going to really quickly read through this and just look for things about the sun's direction and the shadow 'cause that's what we care about. The sun's path from sunrise to sunset varies with the time of year. The earth revolves around the sun every three hundred and sixty five days in an elliptical orbit lots of stuff here. I'm just kind of get a scan for the word shadow and talk about how the sun direction and shadow relate. This plane of orbit is called the ecliptic plane wow this is really boring I'm glad I'm not getting caught up in this. To examine the changes in the sun's path a student perform the following experiments on three clear sunny days at three or four month intervals throughout the course of the year to study the path of the sun through the sky. Okay we're probably getting to the path of the sun through the sky and how it relates to the shadows that the student measures.
Okay moving on at a chosen Northern Hemisphere location, student places his ruler into the ground so that we have it one meter above the ground. The student knew that the length of the shadow uh huh was related to the height of the sun above the horizon and that the shadow would point away from the direction of the sun we found it. Okay so we know that the shadow I'm actually underline this, the shadow points away from the direction of the sun. And here we go we found that piece of information let's go back to the question and now we'll answer it. So based on the shadow directions which of the following best describes the difference between the path of the sun as seen from the observation points in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. So let's look at the shadows and see and remember that the sun's direction is actually the opposite of the shadow direction as we just read. So we have that in the Northern Hemisphere the shadow directions tend to be kind of here they were kind of all over the place South and then North and then East, South-East really not a relevant pattern at all. North-West here we got a lot of North actually on day two. Not so match on day three alright we've got some little trend here that looks like maybe the sun at some point is in a more southerly direction because we have a lot of Northern shadows and we know it's the opposite. Let's look at the next table here we've got a lot of Souths so again not a ton but predominately I would say South shows up more often. So it looks like maybe in the Southern Hemisphere actually the sun is traveling in a Northern direction making shadows that are going in the Southern direction.
Great let's try to answer this question now. So based on the shadow directions which of the following best describes the difference between the sun's path in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres? So probably because we saw more Southern stuff going on in the Northern Hemisphere the sun's actually going to be in a more Northern path. Let's look the sun travels a more southerly path in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere really confusing so let's think about this. If the sun travels in a more southerly path that means that the shadows will have more Northern kinds of stuff going on. Is that what we saw in the Southern Hemisphere more Northern kind of things? I think we did let's go back and check. Here we go, in the Southern Hemisphere uh no Southern Hemisphere is mostly South so we know that in the Southern Hemisphere the sun is mostly going North. Let's keep going it's not going to be A, what about B? The sun travels a more northerly path this looks good in this Southern Hemisphere then in the Northern Hemisphere perfect. Although Southern shadows means the sun traveling in a Northern path we got it. So really confusing question type you guys and by the way just a tip on the research summary passages and actually sometimes in data up as well the last question in each of the passages tends to be the most difficult and most time consuming one and here is a great example of that but we answered it. And this is when again on your test that you would think to yourself should I answer it or should just guess is it worth the time to look back or not. But we got it and I hopefully you feel really, really good with all the different types of questions that you would see on a research summary passage.
Just to recap we talked about the three how there's three research summary passages that you'll see on the ACT science section. We talked about how there're six questions in each passage for a total of eighteen and we took a look at what they looked like. And then we talked about some great strategies most importantly just not to read all the scary looking stuff. And then we practiced on a real passage. So hopefully you feel great now take a deep breath this passage type is going to be no problem for you. Just remember do a lot of practice this is very different from what you're used to seeing so you just want to keep practicing, and practicing and practicing and then you're going to do great.
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