How to Ace the ACT Science Section

The ACT is an entrance exam in the United States which is used for admissions in most undergrad colleges. It is used to test the student’s preparedness for college. It acts as a standard yardstick to compare all aspirants.

What is tested in the ACT Science Section?

It is meant to test a candidate’s science reading skills in five areas namely interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving.

  • Interpretation – This includes observing scientific data in paragraphs, charts, and graphs of data. Subsequently, a candidate is requested to explain the meaning of the data as it is shown. It will require expertise in reading tables and/or graphs as well as a basic understanding of scientific concepts.
  • Analysis – A candidate’s analytical skills are tested to understand whether he/she can extract information and understand the same. This encompasses studying the complete data and breaking down the importance of each part.
  • Evaluation – This skill will focus on the evaluation of the inferences and concepts existing in passages and data.
  • Reasoning – It will highlight your skill to work out scientific problems and processes logically. Like for instance, a candidate might be asked to explain a discrepancy arising between two reports about the same phenomena.
  • Problem Solving – The last but not least skill to be used is Problem Solving. Using data and information to resolve problems puts a candidate’s knowledge to work. Not only is the candidate expected to understand the data and information given, but to decide how to use the same in a particular scenario.

The ACT Science section is an exam filled with all types of questions which can be really tricky and challenging and hence it is essential to get a few tricks up your sleeve whether you’re taking the exam for the first time or it is possibly a second (or third!) attempt. So here are a few essential tips to help you Ace the ACT Science Section.

Tip #1:- Start with the Data Representation Passages

The Justification: On the ACT Science section exam, there are three different types of passages: Data Representation, Conflicting Viewpoints, and Research Summaries. Data Representation passages are the easiest among them as they require the least amount of reading. It’s basically asked to understand coordinating tables, draw conclusions from graphics, and analyze other diagrams and figures. In some cases, the first DR question can be attempted directly and correctly without reading any illustrative material whatsoever. It may just be required to refer to one chart! Thus it makes a lot of sense to score as many points as possible right out of the gate by attempting those questions first before laboring through the lengthy Conflicting Viewpoints or Research Summaries passages.

Something to ponder: The Data Representation passage can be identified by seeing several large graphics like charts, tables, diagrams, and graphs. If there is a lot of data in paragraph format, then it probably is not a DR passage!

Tip #2:- Usage of Shorthand Notes In the Conflicting Viewpoints Passage

The Justification: One of the passages in the ACT Science section exam involves two or three different takes on one theory in physics, earth sciences, biology, or chemistry. The key is to understand each theory to identify its main components and find the similarities and dissimilarities between the two. It is difficult to do, especially when the theories could be about radioactivity or thermodynamics. The terms start getting confusing. Therefore use an ACT Science trick! As soon as you start reading, make notes in plain English on the side of the paragraph. Summarize each theorist’s basic idea. Make a list of the key components of each. List complex processes in order with arrows showing causality. You will not get delayed in the language if you summarize as you go.

Something to ponder: As the Conflicting Viewpoints passage contains seven questions versus the Research Summary’s six, complete this passage right after the Data Representation passages. You’ll get a higher possibility of points (7 vs. 6) with this set of data.

Tip #3:- Cancel Out Information which is not required

The Justification: The ACT Science section exam authors sometimes include information that is needless for solving any of the questions. For example, in many Research Summaries passages, where there are two or three experiments to consider, some of the data inside additional tables, charts or graphs may not be used at all. Let’s say there are four questions, all about the Red Apple, and none about Green Apple. If you’re getting all the Apple data confused, you can cancel out the unused portions!

Something to ponder: It may be useful to write a sentence describing the basic summary of each experiment, especially if it’s complex. This way, there would be no need to reread the passage to figure out exactly what happened each time.

Tip #4:- Concentrate On the Numbers

The Justification: Although this is not the ACT Mathematics test, still it is required to work with numbers on the Science Reasoning exam, which is why this ACT Science trick is critical. While a lot of experiments or research will be explained numerically in a table or graph, these figures could be explained in millimeters in one table and meters in another. Accidentally, one should not count the millimeters as meters, else there would be big trouble. These abbreviations need to be examined with care.

Something to ponder: Look for big numerical changes or differences in tables or charts. If Weeks 1, 2, and 3 have similar figures, but Week 4’s figure has been spiked, there would be a question asking for a reason for the change.

So, it is not that difficult to get the marks that you want in the ACT Science section. You need not be a science whiz kid to get a score in the high 20s or 30s in this exam. All you need to do is pay high attention to the details, keep a track of the time so as to not get behind, and keep practicing before your exam. All the best!

What’s Next?

We have a lot more useful guides to raise your ACT score. Read our blog on How to plan your ACT Math Test, written by Manya-The Princeton Review expert.

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