The ACT Science Section – Strategies and Tips to Prep
Want tips for preparing for the ACT science section? You’re probably used to standardized test questions on mathematics, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and English grammar. The ACT exam takes it one step further with its section on science; here are some tips to master it, regardless of your scientific background:
Know the types of ACT science section passages:
- 3 Data Representation passages, which test your ability to understand charts, tables, and graphs
- 3 Research Summaries passages, which test your ability to identify distinctions amongst various experiments and their results
- 1 Conflicting Viewpoints passage, which tests your ability to compare multiple hypotheses or experimental designs for a given topic
The answer is in front of you! The ACT chooses complicated science topics and uses unfamiliar jargon, but you don’t have to be a scientist to succeed in this section. Each passage gives you all you need to know; it is your job to play detective and determine what information answers each question. Think of this as more of a reading comprehension activity rather than an assessment of your technical background. A calculator is not allowed, so you will not be asked to solve complicated equations. Even if you don’t understand the content itself, it is simple enough to notice trends and correlations within tables and figures. Taking practice exams will help you improve your confidence in this area.
Beware of extra information. There is more information provided than is necessary to answer the questions. Don’t obsess over every fact; let the questions guide your attention to the relevant details.
Timing is key. You have 35 minutes to go through 7 passages. On average, that gives 5 minutes per passage. Move to the next passage only when you know you are done with the previous one. It will waste valuable time to go back, reread the passage, and try to find answers. Remember, there is no guessing penalty in the ACT, so you will not lose points if you answer incorrectly. Leaving a question blank is leaving points on the table!
Keep your energy up. Science is the last section of the ACT exam. By the time you reach the science questions, you’ll have been sitting in a classroom for over two hours, and your brain will be functioning differently. Be sure to go through a full-length diagnostic at least once before test day so you know what to expect. Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test, and bring snacks and water to sustain you on the big day.