Science is one of the most challenging sections in the ACT, compared with the SAT, PSAT, and other tests. ACT Science is often a race against the clock with just 35 minutes to read 6-7 passages and answer 40 questions. Especially if you don’t have a strong background in science, how are you going to answer all 40 questions? You only need a little knowledge of science to take the ACT Science section. So, you won’t need to memorize a lot of information to do well in this section. The three types of questions are as follows:

Table 1. ACT Science

TopicsDescriptionNo. of PassagesNo. of Questions
Data RepresentationThere should be one or two paragraphs about the studies and 1-4 visual data representations2-35 or 6 per passage
Research SummaryResearch summaries are similar to data representations, but they focus on one or two specific experiments2-35 or 6 per passage
Conflicting ViewpointsDifferent scientific theories or viewpoints presented in multiple short essays17 per passage

Table 1 summarizes the ACT Science Test. There are six or seven short passages with graphics and explanations. The passages can be divided into three main categories:

  1. Data Representation:
  • In each passage, 2-4 graphics are presented from a study or experiment.
  • Graphics and data reporting are heavily emphasized in questions.
  • Anatomical diagrams, maps, or complex graphics may be included.
  • You should skim the passage and move directly to the questions after reading it.

2. Research Summary

  • Charts, graphs, diagrams of an experiment’s setup are included in 2-6 graphics per passage.
  • You are asked to report and extrapolate data in questions.
  • Asks about the purpose of experiment procedures or how properties are related.
  • An effective strategy: Carefully check the setup and note each experiment.

3. Conflicting Viewpoints

  • Graphics can be either one or zero.
  • Provide two or three competing explanations for scientific phenomena.
  • You will be asked to identify key differences and similarities between the theories and to apply these theories to hypothetical situations.
  • An ideal strategy: Read each hypothesis carefully, but don’t assume any are correct.

To learn more about ACT, download ACT’s free e-book to learn more about the ACT. For a comprehensive diagnostic report, students can also grade ACT practice test bubble sheets online using Socrato’s test grading software.

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