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The ACT Science Test: Biology Breakdown

The good news is that while you do NOT have to be an excellent science student to score highly on the ACT Science test, some knowledge of the concepts tested and a familiarity with the presentation of certain concepts will almost certainly lead to better scores! 🙂

Passages dealing with Biology may involve body systems, cellular biology, photosynthesis, ecosystems, evolution, and genetics. If you are currently in Biology, or have an old Biology book, you may want to review these fundamentals so that you are comfortable with the terminology in the passages. Again, however, all the information you need to answer the questions will be presented in the passages. So there will be no questions such as, “what is the difference between mitosis and meiosis?”, unless that answer is to be found explicitly in the given text.

Let’s try a few Biology-themed questions on our own!


Passage I

Intense rainfall is one of several mechanisms that trigger landslides and debris flows. Some of the most destructive landslides over the past few decades have occurred during El Nino events. Many studies demonstrate the threshold effect of combined intensity and duration of rainfall for unleashing landslides. In one example, Cannon and Ellen identified thresholds of combined rainfall and duration that triggered thousands of landslides during a 32-hour rainstorm in the San Francisco Bay area in January, 1982.


The graph in Figure 11 depicts the circumstances that triggered landslides

(A) during El Nino.

(B) caused by earthquake shaking.

(C) as a result of volcanic eruption.

(D) during a 32-hour rainstorm in the San Francisco Bay area.

(E) in areas where vegetative cover had been destroyed by wildfire.

According to the text preceding Figure 11, it depicts “thresholds of combined rainfall and duration that triggered thousands of landslides during a 32-hour rainstorm in the San Francisco Bay area in January, 1982.” The correct answer is (D). Try another problem for the same passage!

The graph displays information about

(1) debris flow and erosion

(2) amount of rainfall and property damage

(3) rainfall intensity and duration

(4) duration and temperature

(5) amount of rainfall and temperature

The graph in Figure 11 displays information about rainfall intensity and duration. This can be found on the labeled x-axis and y-axis. The correct answer is (C).


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