Sunday, February 2, 2020

Preparing for the science test on ACT

Following are some tips and strategies for doing well on the science portion of the ACT test. This advice comes directly from several teachers, as well as a number of students and former students who have taken the ACT test in recent years.

The science portion of the ACT comprises a total of 40 questions, and you have a time limit of 35 minutes. According to this page on, "The ACT Science test will contain 7 passages...The passages fall into three categories: Data Representation, Research Summaries and Conflicting Viewpoints."

For starters, think of the science portion as being more of a reading comprehension and skills-based test, rather than as a science content test. Chances are you probably never learned or will remember half of the actual content (the various scientific vocabulary, concepts, ideas, etc.), if not more. We already know that, so don't let that fact spoil your confidence going into the test. But if you can read, and if you can analyze and draw conclusions from data presented to you at a basic level, you can, and you will, do well on the science portion of the test.

Now that we know to think of the science portion as more of a reading comprehension and skills-based exam rather than as a test identifying your knowledge of actual science content, and now that we've established the fact that you've never learned a lot of the science anyway, it's time to discuss skipping around in the test as a time-saving strategy. Don't just start answering the questions in order. This will most likely hurt you.

As soon as the test begins, take a little time to have a look around. This will help you settle in and get a general lay of the land. You'll want to avoid the conflicting viewpoints questions (they're arguably the most difficult and time-consuming) and instead go straight for the data representation questions. Take a good look at the data (the various charts, graphs, tables, diagrams, etc.) first, before even looking at the questions. Do you spot any easily-recognizable trends in the data right off the bat? Are numbers climbing up? Are they going down? Anything else you spot? Looking at the data first will ultimately help you save time and answer these questions with greater ease.

After you've gotten through the data representation section, you'll next want to tackle the research summaries questions. Save the conflicting viewpoints questions for last.

Some general guidelines and final thoughts here: As with any portion of the ACT test, remember not to take too long on any one question. You don't have time for that. Don't hesitate to guess with the "letter of the day method" if you need to, and just move on. Tying into that point as another general rule of thumb, go through the questions you're most familiar or comfortable with first. You can save the others for later. Don't be afraid to skip around. Like we said earlier, answering the questions in the order given will most likely end up working against you. Finally, remember what we established earlier - don't look at this test as being a science test. It's a reading and skills-based test. If you can read, and if you can answer questions based off of data that is being presented to you, you can, and you will, do well. Many of the answers in this test are right in front of you. You don't have to be familiar with the actual science content. In fact, we know you won't be.

Now go get 'em!

Visit this page for more ACT test strategies and learning resources.

Do you have any thoughts or observations about the ACT science test? Feel free to share your advice and strategies in the comments section below. We'd love to hear and learn from you!

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