Hey there and happy TuesdACT! This week we are rounding out our ongoing series of top tips for each section of the ACT. Let’s cut to the chase: what can you do to see the biggest increases in your ACT Science score?
Tip 1: Don’t read the passages first (except the Conflicting Viewpoints passage)
There’s only one passage on the ACT Science test that you have to read in its entirety, and that is the one that provides you with conflicting opinions of two theories, scientists, or students engaged in a debate. This one you do have to read because the questions are going to ask you about the different ideas and reasons presented in the discussion.
But the rest of the passages include loads of information you will never need to answer the questions. Most of the answers are going to be found on the accompanying data tables and graphs. Sometimes you will need to read a small section of the text, but you should only read when the question requires it (and then stop when you find the answer). The Science test is just too time-pressured to do anything else, so forget about reading the passages first and go straight to the questions.
Tip 2: Use key terms
This strategy is about training your brain to look for the words and numbers in the questions that you actually need to look up in the figures and tuning out all the fluff. Basically, letting go of actually trying to understand the question and just honing in on what you need to look up in the passage.
Here’s an example question to illustrate this:
Based on the results in Figure 1, which of the following could be the absorbance values for samples containing 4 ppm of chromium and copper, respectively?
a. Copper: 23%, Chromium: 25%
b. Copper: 23%, Chromium: 34%
c. Copper: 13%, Chromium: 25%
d. Copper: 13%, Chromium: 34%
And here’s that question with the key terms highlighted:
Figure 1, absorbance, 4 ppm, chromium, copper. Boom. That’s all you are looking for. Now we are just going to look for those words on Figure 1 and match them up:
We are just going to look for what chromium is doing at 4 ppm and what copper is doing. If we follow the lines at 4 ppm, the line for chromium would be at about 34% and copper 13%. And then we go back to the answer choices to find these numbers. So then we see our answer is D.
By underlining and focusing just on the key terms and ignoring the question, you will be able to plug through the Science test much more quickly. This takes some practice–check out our video lessons on Magoosh ACT Science for more on how to do this!
Tip 3: Take timed practice sections
Once you are familiar with the format of the ACT Science test, make sure to practice sections as much as possible with the clock ticking. This is the best way to condition yourself to the uncomfortable feeling of moving a little faster than you’d like to (which is necessary for the Science test) and gain confidence that you are probably doing better than you think you are. Taking timed sections can also help you determine whether or not you need to concentrate on doing fewer passages and guessing on the rest to get your best score, and that is totally fine too!