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David Recine

How to Study for ACT Science


It’s confession time. Although I love science now, I wasn’t always a “science person.” In high school I really struggled to get good grades in my science courses, and while I did pass my science classes in college, it was never my favorite undergraduate subject. However, I still did well on ACT Science and you can too. The trick is knowing how to study.

Studying for the ACT Science Test

As you study for ACT Science, it’s most important to understand that the ACT Science exam tests skills, not specific science content. This means that even if you’ve struggled in past science classes, you can still do just fine on the ACT Science section. Also, your preparation for the exam will help you build science reasoning ability so that you can do better in future science classes!

Study How to Read Tables and Charts

Perhaps the most important part of ACT Science study is to cultivate your chart and table-reading skills. Infographics are at the very core of the ACT Science test. It’s very uncommon to see a passage that doesn’t include a chart (ACT Science Tables and Graphs, Part 1: Understanding Tables) diagram (ACT Science Tips) or graph (ACT Science Tables and Graphs, Part 3: Understanding Graphs). If there are infographics in an ACT passage, all or nearly all of the questions will be directly related to the information in the images. So make sure you practice “reading” visual information and learning to really understand it.

To practice your scientific visual literacy, seek out research-related charts and graphs, and read them. There are a number of really great websites for that. I especially recommend Information is Beautiful, a website full of different infographics. A detailed explanation comes with each graph and chart. Besides the great ACT practice it provides, the information itself is often fascinating. Sites like Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and The Economist, also have some articles with graphs. To quickly seek out the infographic articles, do a custom Google Image search within a website. (If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s what a custom Google Image search looks like for The Economist. To search a different site, just change the URL in the search field.)

Study Science Related Passages

You should also get comfortable reading science-related passages in general and try to find scientific articles that you’re genuinely interested in. Even if you’re not a science person, science covers a lot of things that are relevant to your life and the world around you. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that you enjoy learning about if you search the web for science articles. The specific scientific subject you read in practice may or may not come up on the exam, but the academic vocabulary, the tone, and the scientific logic you see in practice reading will be important on the ACT Science section.

Study the Other Parts of the ACT

Above all, understand the close relationship between ACT Science and the other parts of the ACT as you study. ACT Science requires the same kinds of critical thinking and attention to detail as ACT Reading, and ACT Math demands a similar level visual literacy. If you can understand the various diagrams in the Math Section, you can apply those visual reading skills quite well to the graphics in ACT Science. So make sure you do your ACT Science prep alongside preparation for the Math and Reading sections.

Also, don’t’ forget to use actual ACT-style prep questions along with your other practice study materials. Third party services like Magoosh ACT are very useful and official ACT prep materials are a must-have.


About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

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