How to Rock Data Analysis on the ACT Science Test
The key to data analysis is fairly easy: actually take the time to analyze the data! Most people skip parts of the information and go straight to the questions, but you’ll need to know where to look for the correct answer!
Don’t Ignore Labels
Lots of students ignore the labels and go straight to the questions – don’t! Mentally categorize each graph, chart and table. (EX: “This is a chart that shows the relationship between opacity and density for various minerals.”) Do not just skip the statistics entirely and go straight to the question! While you may think this will save you time, it actually significantly decreases your accuracy. Data Analysis questions are like an open-book test. You wouldn’t skip an ACT Reading passage, so don’t skip the data. Make sure you read every tiny piece of writing on or near the data, including titles, the labels for the x and y-axes, column names, and even footnotes.
Pay Attention to Units
Once you understand the labels, take special care to note the units (mph, m/sec, cm2, etc.). Are we dealing with seconds, minutes, or hours? Does one graph represent the month of June, while the other graph represents the entire year? The units may change from graph-to-graph or chart-to-table, and some ACT Science questions might ask you do simply conversions.
Use the Right Data
One of the most common mistakes on the ACT Science Test is using the wrong data. You don’t have to rush to answer. The data you need is in the passage, you just have to know where to look. Make sure you first understand what the question is asking, then stop and consider which table, graph, or chart provides the information you’ll need to solve for the correct answer. Harder ACT Science questions will require you to use more than one statistic. Don’t rush through the analysis! The questions may be multi-step, so look closely for key phrases in the question that refer to the labels you carefully studied earlier.
Find the “Direction” Behind the Reasoning
Look for the general direction behind the reasoning. Most scientific reasoning either goes from broad to specific, or from specific to broad. It can be helpful in certain Conflicting Viewpoints questions whether the scientists are using a specific instance to make a generalization, or whether they are trying to apply a generalization to a specific rule.
Put these Data Analysis skills to the test on this free ACT Science Test!