GED Science Practice Test: Analyzing Data and Drawing Conclusions

Trends and Patterns: When scientists analyze their data, they are looking for patterns between the independent and dependent variables.  From these patterns, scientists draw conclusions. Graphs are particularly helpful in making patterns visible to scientists.  Consider the following simple line graphs and their corresponding conclusions.  Remember that the independent variable is placed on the x-axis (horizontal) and the dependent variable is placed on the y-axis (vertical).

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However, not all scientific results are this simple or easy to interpret.  Some patterns are more complex:

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Outliers:  In addition to complex patterns, another thing that can make it difficult to draw conclusions is the presence of outliers.  An outlier is a data point that seems to fall outside the rest of the pattern.  Graphs can make the process of identifying outliers easier.  The following scatter plot shows two outliers, and one possible outlier.

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The challenge is to figure out the cause for an outlier.  In some cases, the outlier might be a mistake.  For example, a data point might be an outlier because of a mistake in a procedure, limitations in the equipment used in the experiment, or careless data collection. However, an outlier can also simply be random fluctuations in data, or they can be legitimate data points that do not follow the observed pattern.  The scientist uses many tools at his or her disposal to determine the cause for an outlier, such as background theoretical knowledge of the science topic, experience using data collection methods, and the trained eye of other scientists.

 

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