The ACT differentiates itself from the SAT by including a science section along with the English, math and reading sections. The science portion of the exam is graded on a scale from 1 to 36 just like the other parts of the test and counts every bit as much towards your final score. You will have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions concerning 7 different passages. Because you have only a small amount of time to deal with so many passages, time management and efficiency are very important. Luckily, you do not have to know the first thing about science to score well on this test. Just follow these steps and you will have a solid grasp on the challenges presented by this section.
1. Know your passage types
The science section throws three basic passage types your way. You will encounter around three chart based “data representation” passages that tend to be easy in difficulty, about three experiment based “research summary” passages that are moderate in difficulty and one argument based “conflicting viewpoint” passage that is usually challenging in difficulty. Once you learn how to identify these passage types at a glance, you will be able navigate the section with a greater degree of confidence.
2. Know which scientific subjects you find the most engaging.
If you have a personal interest in a given subject covered by a passage, you will have a better opportunity to comprehend its text and data. A passage type’s difficulty tells us only so much. Your personal interests play a big part in determining which questions you find easy and which you find difficult. It does not matter if a passage on astronomy is generally seen as hard, if that subject is one of your favorites, you will do well on it.
3. Complete easier passages first.
You have a strictly limited amount of time to complete the science section and may not be able to attempt every question. Ideally any problems you do not have a chance to look at will be the most difficult on the exam. By combining the first two steps and gaining an understanding of the section’s structure and what your personal strengths are, you can order the passages so that you save the most difficult ones for last.
4. Look for patterns.
The charts and graphs on the science section act in only two roles, there will always be either a pattern in a given data table or correlation between that table and another also attached to the passage. There will also always be questions that test your ability to recognize these patterns. It is very easy for one to zone out when reading dry charts full of stuffy terminology. If you remember that you do not have to understand the scientific concepts in the charts and only have to find patterns, then you will save yourself a lot of time and mental strain.
5. Keep track of who says what in conflicting viewpoint passages
Conflicting viewpoint passages give students fits because they do not come with helpful charts and require test-takers to keep track of what two or more people/groups/theories say about a given topic. As you read these passages you should constantly take notes and/or underline text that helps you keep track of who says what. If you can stay on top of which author or theory makes which claims, you will be able to avoid the confusion that makes conflicting viewpoint passages “hard”.
Bonus: Never leave questions blank on your score sheet.
There is no guessing penalty on the ACT, so every time you leave a question blank you give points back to the test. It is good to be generous, but not in this case.
Did you find these ACT Science tips helpful? Which tip resonated with you the most?
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