Varsity Tutors always has a different ACT Science Question of the Day ready at your disposal! If you’re just looking to get a quick review into your busy day, our ACT Science Question of the Day is the perfect option. Answer enough of our ACT Science Question of the Day problems and you’ll be ready to ace the next test. Check out what today’s ACT Science Question of the Day is below.

Question of the Day: ACT Science

In the 1980’s, an epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, swept through cattle herds in the United Kingdom.   Scientists and veterinarians were troubled and had a difficult time managing the disease because it spread from one animal to another, and behaved differently than other diseases in the past. 

When infectious material from affected animals was treated with high levels of radiation, for example, the material remained infectious.  All known bacteria or viruses that carry disease would have been killed by such a treatment.  Additionally, some animals developed the disease without first being exposed to sick animals. Perhaps most frustratingly, among those animals that are exposed before becoming sick, it can take many years after exposure for illness to appear.

There quickly emerged two distinct explanations for the disease. 

Scientist 1:

Mad cow disease is unlike any disease we have handled before.  It is increasingly clear that the best explanation for the disease’s dynamics involve proteins, called the protein-only hypothesis.   These protein molecules are likely causative of the disease, and they lack any DNA or RNA.  It is damage to these DNA or RNA molecules that kills bacteria or viruses when exposed to high levels of radiation.  The most important observations that made scientists consider a unique, protein-only model for this disease involved its resistance to radiation.  Remarkably, this would be the first example of an infectious agent copying itself without DNA or RNA to mediate the process.

Moreover, some animals develop the disease spontaneously, without physically being infected by another animal. This suggests that internal disorder among protein molecules is a potential route to developing disease, and may be accelerated by exposure to other sick animals.

In fact, this is consistent with the proposed mechanism. It is likely that proteins fold incorrectly, and then influence proteins around them to take on this errant conformation.  Some proteins may fold incorrectly by chance, which explains spontaneous disease development.  It also explains the long course of disease, as it takes many years for enough proteins to fold incorrectly and result in observable disease.

Scientist 2:

The suggestion that mad cow disease is caused exclusively by protein, in the absence of DNA or RNA, is such a dramatic departure from accepted biological processes that it warrants careful scrutiny. Additionally, other more conventional explanations should be thoroughly investigated before coming to such a conclusion.

Some scientists have shown that very small particles resembling viruses are visible in infectious material under powerful microscopes.  Additionally, these viruses are consistent in size and shape with known, highly radiation-resistant viruses called polyomaviruses.  It takes much higher-than-typical doses of radiation to cause enough DNA damage to inactivate these viruses.

The observation that mad cow disease occurs spontaneously in some animals is also explained by the viral explanation. Many viruses exist in animals and humans for years, undetected and no causing any observable disease. Sickness or stress can make these viruses reactivate, offering the illusion of spontaneous illness.  All of these observations are consistent with the viral hypothesis.

The observation that some known viruses are radiation resistant and able to go undetected for years is provided in the passage to:

Support the plausability of the protein-only hypothesis

Show that other diseases exist known to be caused by only protein, without DNA or RNA

Neither support nor refute either hypothesis, and is provided strictly for background

Support the plausability of the viral hypothesis

Refute the viral hypothesis

Facing the ACT is stressful for even the best students. You know that this test can have a major impact on the success of your college applications. Unlike your GPA, extracurricular activities, or letters of recommendation, the ACT Science test is totally objective. For example you might attend a school that grades students with far more rigor than another. A university needs an objective measure to distinguish your transcript from a student with the same GPA, but from a less rigorous program. The ACT is just that tool. 

You also know that the ACT is not like tests you have taken in classes. Instead, it is testing the development of your critical thinking skills over the past four years. Four years on one exam day! Whether you need ACT Science tutoring in New York, ACT Science tutoring in Chicago, or ACT Science tutoring in Los Angeles, working one-on-one with an expert may be just the boost your studies need.

That’s a lot of material to test. Because of just how much material there is, many students can feel lost about where to start. You may look at the sections included on the test, and panic when you see Science listed . . . especially if you are one of the many students who struggled in some of their high school science courses! Will you have to answer questions about that frog dissection from two years ago? Will you need to identify rocks from your Earth Science class? That might as well have been a lifetime ago.

Hopefully it calms your nerves a little bit to recognize that none of these things will be directly tested. You won’t have to dig up the details of your classes from several years back, nor will you be facing questions about advanced quantum physics or rocket science. Varsity Tutors offers resources like a free ACT prep book to help with your self-paced study, or you may want to consider an ACT Science tutor.

The ACT Science exam tests exactly what the rest of the ACT tests: your ability to think critically, analyze provided material, and draw inferences. It is far more a reading comprehension test, in fact, than a science test. It just so happens that you will be asked to comprehend passages based on science, which makes some students immediately anxious. This anxiety, unfortunately, does not set a good foundation for success on the exam!

Clearly, familiarizing yourself with the ACT Science exam before your actual test day is critical. Appreciating the exam for what it is, is critical. You may want to consider working with tutors, teachers, or in a test-preparation program to help you overcome the anxiety many students feel, and appreciate that your success on this exam is based on the same principles that you would need to succeed on any reading comprehension test.

It’s also important to consider that the time you spend on improving your performance on the ACT Science test doesn’t just pay off on test day. Precisely because the test is asking you to draw inferences, make conclusions, and think critically, you are developing skills that will be demanded in a wide variety of later academic pursuits. The time you spend preparing for the ACT Science exam can be thought of as a broad investment in your future performance across many disciplines.

Without a doubt, proper preparation for the ACT Science exam is essential. Overcoming anxiety is probably the first step. Varsity Tutors’ free ACT Science resources, and specifically our free ACT Science question of the day, can help you take the next step of making studying for your exam a habit. Our daily featured ACT Science problem provides the correct answer and a full explanation when answered; if you get it right, you gain confidence in your abilities, and if you get it wrong, you have the opportunity to fine-tune your understanding. In addition to the ACT Science Question of the Day and ACT Science tutoring, you may also want to consider taking some of our ACT Science practice testsWith practice questions, strategy, and proper perspective, you can achieve a great score and be well on your way to your dream college!

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors