Welcome to the ACT Science test, where you’ll see complicated graphs, dry text, and arguing scientists. The big secret to the ACT Science test is this: it’s a glorified reading test. There’s very little actual science knowledge you’ll need to know to succeed on this section.
The test is 35 minutes long, consisting of 40 questions split over 7 passages. The passages you’ll see on the ACT Science Test can be sorted into three different categories:
Research Summary, which asks you to evaluate the design, data, and conclusion of an experiment. There will be three Research Summary passages on the test.
Data Representation, which asks you to interpret charts, tables, graphs, and diagrams. There will be three Data Representation passages on the test.
And finally, Conflicting Viewpoints will present two or more theories on a scientific topic. There will only be one Conflicting Viewpoint passage on the test.
Check out TutorMe’s ACT Preparation Course for in depth breakdowns and strategy for each of these categories.
Here’s the best strategy for attacking the ACT Science test on test day. Always answer the easy and medium questions first. In general, the questions in each passage will increase in difficulty as the questions go on. Skip any questions you can’t answer immediately. Then come back to the problems you’ve skipped at the end. Make sure to guess on all the remaining questions. Remember, there’s no penalty for incorrect answers on the ACT Science test.
Don’t skip around passages. Answer every problem in a passage (even if this means guessing) before you move to the next one. Skipping around from passage to passage can be detrimental to your score, as all the experiments will start to blend together. It’s important to focus on one at a time, without skipping back and forth between all seven.
Don’t try and memorize anything in the passage. Remember, the passage is not going away, it will always be there for you. This isn’t a memory test. Don’t spend valuable time trying to remember specific values and results in every experiment.
Look for patterns. Identify the purpose, method, and results. These are the three most important parts of every question. Ask yourself: What are the scientists trying to find or prove? What method are they using to try and prove their theory? And, what were the results of the experiment? Were they right or were they wrong? What did the experiment show about their theory?
Let the questions guide you through the passages on the ACT Science test. This is an important note. Just like the reading test, some questions will tell you exactly where to look for the answer. For example: “In figure 1,” “In the second paragraph”, “In the third experiment”. When you see that, head directly to the part of the passage that the question references.
Try and match words and numbers. If you see them in the question, look for them in the passage, and you should find all the context you need to answer the question correctly.
Let’s look at an example: According to Figure 1, Method 2 has an output of 0.5 KG when D is closest to:
This question tells you exactly where to look in the passage. When you see According to Figure 1, you should refer to it immediately. Don’t waste time looking through the rest of the passage when you have already been told where to look.
Use the answer choices to determine what you’re looking for. If you’re confused about what a question is asking you to find, look at the answers for a hint.
Here’s an example: In Method 1, compared to Method 3, the input was:
A. Always greater B. Always smaller C. Greater at large distances and less at small distances D. Less at large distances and greater at small distances
You can tell from the answer choices that the question is asking about whether the size of the input.
Much like the reading test, all the answers are found in the context of the passage and figures. This means everything you’ll need to succeed on the ACT Science test is in the test.
Remember, this is a glorified reading test. You won’t be asked about any prior science knowledge. Don’t stay up the night before going over Physics equations, the table of elements, or basic biology. While these topics may be covered, they’ll be covered only in the context of the passages and experiments you are given.
Good luck! And don’t forget to check out TutorMe’s ACT Preparation Course for in depth breakdowns and strategy for every aspect of the ACT Science test.
If you need help on the other tests, check out our posts for the English, Reading, and Math tests.