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Thomas Broderick

5 Most Frequently Tested ACT Science Topics

A lot of students get a little nervous when they see that the ACT has a science section. “But I’m not a science person!” they moan. But there’s a very important distinction between the topics on the ACT Science Test and any other science test you’ve ever taken. The 5 most frequently tested ACT Science topics focus more on what you can do when given certain information, rather than what you know before coming into the test.

Though you need to be familiar with scientific terms to succeed on the ACT Science Test, the test’s true ‘topics’ revolve around certain skills. In this post, we’ll look at the 5 most frequently tested ACT Science topics so that you know what to expect on test day. (I’ll also point you in the right direction so that you you can learn more about each topic and raise your score.)

Reading Charts

Think of this as the ‘treasure hunt.’ Unlike similar questions on the ACT Reading Test, finding the right answer on the ACT Science Test depends on your ability to read charts, rather than passages. The key to success lies in recognizing labels. Skim the questions first, marking any term that looks important. Once you’ve matched a term in the chart to a term used in a question, you know exactly where to look for the answer. The rest of the information (most of it useless) will no longer confuse you or stress you out.

Using Charts

The chart treasure hunt is over. For this question type, you’ll be given a scenario (ex: a variable in the experiment has changed) and have to use the chart to figure out the possible outcome. Though you’re making an educated guess, the chart will provide all the information you need to answer the question successfully, so don’t let your guess stray too far from what you see.


While scientists use graphs to visualize data and see patterns in their results, graphs can present unique challenges to the ACT test taker. Questions involving graphs will likely ask you to use both a graph and a corresponding chart. As long as you’re focusing on the keywords mentioned in the question, the excess data should not confuse you.


5 Most Frequently Tested ACT Science Topics -Magoosh

Even in such a ‘busy’ graph, a question will typically ask you about a single line of data.


What Comes Next?

These questions will ask you to decide what the experimenter should do next. The key to these questions is knowing what the experiment is trying to do. Again, they don’t require any deep knowledge of science, only strong reasoning skills and an ability to “tune out” inessential information.


5 Most Frequently Tested ACT Science Topics -magoosh

If we look at the first paragraph, we see that scientists want to know about “high altitudes and the effects of the air pressure changes.” If that’s what the scientists want to learn about, our next step needs to have something to do with high altitudes and air pressure.


Comparing and Inferring

This last question type appears only with the the Comparing Viewpoints passage on the ACT Science Test. Ever do a compare/contrast activity in English or history class? If so, you know what you need to do to answer these questions correctly. If not, it all boils down to finding similarities and differences in the two opinions.

The hardest topic for many students is the inference questions. To improve your inference skills, spend extra time analyzing your results after taking a timed practice test. Good practice tests provide detailed explanations for each answer. If you consistently make mistakes with inference questions, analyzing the right answer will help you build the skill you need to succeed.

That’s all for now, ACT scientists. Good luck, and don’t let those graphs and charts psych you out!

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About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

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