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More ACT Science Tips

Students are often intimated by the ACT Science section. The very word “science” conjures up images of tedious lab classes and densely-worded textbooks packed with advanced terminology. Yet, the ACT’s concept of science is relatively straightforward and follows the same set of “rules” as every other multiple choice section of the exam. In a previous lesson, we provided tips to help you to understand how ACT Science differs from “real” science. Building on that lesson, here are two new tips (plus an updated take on an old one) that will help make the Science section considerably easier.


Related Concepts are Interchangeable

For all of its emphasis on precision data identification and interpretation, the Science section has a tendency to conflate scientific terminology. In particular, terms that are related but not directly equivalent in real science are often treated as if they mean exactly the same thing. This usually manifests in questions that ask you to make inferences or assumptions about units of measure.


For example, a question might ask you to make an inference about weight based on mass, or vice versa, in a way that would not be acceptable in an actual science experiment. When you encounter such a question, just pick the answer with the closest related concept. Don’t worry about any subtleties in the relationship between the concepts that the test is glossing over.


You don’t have to completely understand the passages

Much like the Reading section, you don’t have to understand every single concept presented in the text and data presentations in a passage to answer all of that passage’s questions correctly. The multiple choice nature of the ACT makes it possible to “work around” what you don’t understand to eliminate wrong answers, thereby leaving you with just the correct one.


For instance, if you are having a difficult time understanding a series of text descriptions of multiple experiments, just focus on what the experiments have in common and how they differ. Recognizing these patterns can get you most or all of the way to the correct answer on many of the questions.


Likewise, if a passage contains a series of particularly dense charts, graphs, or tables, focus on patterns and trends in the data of each. Then examine how these trends are similar and different across the graphics. Know something as basic as “figure 1” is trending upward but “figure 2” is trending downward can be enough to work out a question about the relationship between the figures based on the answer choices that the question provides.


There isn’t that much actual science

We already covered this in our previous Science tips lesson. However, it bears repeating: there is surprisingly little actual science on the Science section. In fact, there are so few questions require knowledge of scientific terminology that you can miss these questions entirely and still earn a score in the 32-33 range.


Unfortunately, closing that gap from 33 to a perfect 36 can be a bit hit or miss. The few true science questions draw on completely random scientific concepts. Because they cover so much potential ground, there isn’t really a way to effectively prepare for them. Even with a broad knowledge of basic scientific terminology, it’s entirely possible to encounter the odd term that you are unfamiliar with. Accordingly, it’s better to focus on perfecting your skills with the types of questions that you can prepare for and that make up the vast majority of the Science section.




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