It’s been decades since the first ACT test was written, and yet every year, students still describe the ACT science questions as challenging. Look, if it was a person, it’d be about 66 years now, and that’s a pretty long time to know anyone. While a lot has changed about the exam over the years, not much has changed about the student’s approach to the science questions. They are mostly faced with fear, anxiety, and, in some cases, even panic attacks.
Yet, tests can be a joyful (well, almost) experience as well as a great opportunity to assess your abilities and skills on a subject. This is especially true if you take the time to prepare, go through many practice questions, and learn how to handle test anxiety. Also, since the ACT tests have been around so long, you can find people willing to share the hacks that worked from them. Still, you need to be able to vet what’s useful and relevant in 2023 and what’s outdated. To save you time and energy, we have done that heavy lifting for you. Here are some proven techniques to help you navigate the questions with ease.
What do ACT Science Questions look like?
Wondering what to expect from the ACT science questions? We got you. The science questions cover a broad range of scientific processes, including analysis, reasoning, evaluation, interpretation, etc. It will test your knowledge across different scientific topics. These are further divided into three categories:
Category #1. The Interpretation of Data
In this section of the ACT science test, you are expected to study given data in tables, diagrams, or graphs and interpret the meaning of the information. The questions in data representation can be factual or based on identifying trends, and some might require you to whip out your calculator. This is why it’s important that you pay attention to the instructions and understand what you are required to do.
Note that the goal is not to know how many definitions or terminologies you have memorized but how well you can make sense of given data and draw thoughtful conclusions. Here is a sample of what a question in this category might look like.
Category #2. Scientific Investigation
These tasks will test your knowledge of experimental tools and processes and how well you are able to predict outcomes if test conditions are changed. Again, for these science questions, you want to pay attention to the details mentioned in the passage. Your ability to comprehend given information will go a long way when answering the question. Some students who have spent a lot of time doing scientific reading might find these sections easier than others.
Remember that these passages are largely research summaries that critically review a couple of experiments performed by a group of scientists or students. Your role may be to analyze and compare different experiments or studies. With adequate preparation, this can be one of your favorite sections of the ACT science questions.
Category #3. Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results
This category assesses your ability to logically evaluate scientific information and draw the right conclusions. Since it’s important not to go in blind to take the test, you want to ensure that you have taken the time to discover all relevant details about the ACT test sections and samples of the questions. This gives you a good grasp of what you must do in each section and uncovers some good tactics for better performance.
For example, the ACT science questions in this section might require you to look at two or more conflicting viewpoints passages on a phenomenon and identify the inconsistencies. You need to be able to understand each point of view and notice any subtle differences or similarities in those perspectives. A good tip is to circle or underline the main idea as you read so it’s easy to find it when you are answering the questions. Here is an example of what the questions might look like.
How to Improve Your ACT Science Score
For many students, the ACT science section is hard and quite confusing, but this doesn’t have to be your experience. You can begin optimizing your studies now to have enough time to build confidence for the test. Here are some practical tips that can help you improve your ACT score.
- Practice a lot. We can’t stress this enough. Yet, the best way to enhance your scores is to take lots of ACT science practice tests. You can practice using the examples you find on the official ACT website. Yet, if you’ve already done that, you can try leveraging online test prep solutions, which offer unlimited questions. This is also a good time to work on your time management skills ahead of the test day.
- Know your gaps. A good chunk of your ACT science prep plan is trying to identify your areas of weaknesses so you can fix them before the test day rolls around. Don’t be afraid to ask for a personal tutor if that’s what you need.
- Focus on understanding rather than memorizing. You don’t have to be a perfect science student to get high scores on this exam. Focus on understanding what the test entails and how best to apply yourself.
- Manage your time. The ACT science questions have a multiple-choice format, and you only get 35 minutes to complete the exam, so try not to spend more than 60 seconds on any question.
- Grasp the main idea. The same goes for the passages. Don’t waste time trying to get every single detail in the ACT science passages. Instead, skim the text for the main points or gist and go straight to the questions.
- Follow instructions. This sounds obvious, but it is easy for students to miss it and end up with the wrong answer.
- Stay calm. Try as much as possible to reduce your fears and stress over the ACT test. The more calm and composed you are, the easier it is for you to actually think or process things faster.
- Pay attention to the clues in the questions. Don’t overcomplicate things. If a question is based on table 2, then the answer is in that specific table.
- Use the elimination method. If you don’t know the answer to a question, there’s no need to get stuck there. You can try eliminating the options that you’re sure are not the answer until you have the most likely option. If that doesn’t work, just guess or skip it.
The ACT science questions can be terrifying or easy based on the choices you make now. While every student wants to succeed, the truth is that the only way to get a good score is by putting in some work and effort. It might seem like an endless pile of work, but don’t focus on that. Instead, start making small steps one by one until you actually climb that pile with all the needed knowledge to increase your score.