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Test PrepACTScience

ACT Science

The Science Test strikes fear in the hearts of many ACT test-takers. Why? Possibly because it is unique to the ACT; the SAT has no such section. Or perhaps, it's simply because science just seems like it will be difficult. In truth, the Science Test can be challenging, but it is manageable with practice and familiarity. The skills required are interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving within the context of the natural sciences.

The Breakdown

The ACT Science Test is a 40-minute, 35-question test. Just as in the other tests, you’ll receive an overall Science score of 1-36 based on your performance. No subscores are reported. Questions focus on scientific information presented in one of the following formats:

  • Data representation (38%)
  • Research summaries (45%)
  • Conflicting viewpoints (17%)

Strategy Talk

Your strategy will be dependent on your current score, the score you hope to achieve and the gap between the two. If you have yet to take the ACT, you can use your PLAN score to predict your performance. Be realistic. Boosting your score significantly will require dedication and practice.

Time management will be critical. Unless you are aiming for a top score, you don’t need to answer every question. In fact, you’re likely better off focusing on fewer questions and increasing the percentage you answer correctly than rushing through all of them with much less accuracy. Look at it this way: there are 35 questions on the test. Say you power through and take a stab at every one, only getting 20 correct in the process. You are significantly better off only attempting 30 of them and increasing your accuracy to 22 or 23 correct. If you’re less rushed, you can greatly reduce careless errors. Of course, this does not mean you should leave questions blank. Since there is no guessing penalty, you’ll want to provide answers to all the questions even if it means just bubbling in a letter of the day at the end.

A two-pass system works well here. On your initial pass, first tackle the question types with which you’re most confident. For example, if data representation is a strong suit for you, those should definitely be first up. If they cause you problems, leave them for last or, potentially, skip them altogether.

Preparation Tips

The Science Test content covers biology, chemistry, the Earth/space sciences and physics, but no prior knowledge in these areas is actually needed. For success, you want to focus on scientific reasoning. Certainly, you should familiarize yourself with scientific material prior to your test day. Do your best to “amp up” your comfort level by reading scientific articles regularly. We recommend the science section of the Sunday newspaper or some popular magazines focused on the natural sciences.

You’ll also want to focus on actively reading the passages or information preceding the questions. Indeed, understanding how to accurately dissect the information presented is critical to performing well on this test.


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Don Munce