ACT Science Tips
When preparing for the ACT, a lot of students feel like they hit a wall at some point. Maybe your practice test scores are stagnating, or even dropping—it happens. When it happens for an extended period of time, though, you might be in a rut. Help pull yourself off of that plateau with a few tips from one of the least-understood tests on the ACT: science.
Examine the Data
Rather than focusing extensively on your notes from chemistry and biology class as you study, try working with the data on the page in front of you before you even attempt to bring in outside knowledge. In fact, try to examine the data before approaching the questions. The vast majority of the science questions on the ACT can be solved by carefully reading the charts, graphs, and information provided. Furthermore, the scientific principles that are tested tend to be relatively simple. If you find yourself trying to recall tiny details from one chemistry lesson three years ago—stop yourself, go back to the data, and start again.
Rely on the Passage(s)
We can’t emphasize this enough: most of what you need to answer the ACT science questions will be found in the passage or passages. When you approach a question, pull out key words and phrases that will help point you towards the correct chart, graph, or section of the text. Sometimes you’ll have to return to multiple sections and make inferences, particularly on more difficult problems; that’s okay! As long as you’re relying on the right information in the first place, you’re off to a good start.
The ACT Science test loves to overwhelm you with information. Expect numerous charts, graphs, and texts to precede each question set. It’s a good idea to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with this material before approaching the questions. It’s an even better idea to jot down very brief notes, particularly about what distinguishes one text or chart from another (for example, “uses length as a variable” if one experiment does and another doesn’t) and circle or underline important pieces of information. This will help you return to the right parts of the passage to get the correct answer all the more quickly and accurately.
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About Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Rachel is a High School and Graduate Exams blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She has taught test preparation and consulted on admissions practices for over eight years. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London. Follow Rachel on Twitter, or learn more about her writing here!
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