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Molly Kiefer

Top 10 Tips for the ACT Science Section | Video Post

The ACT Science section is the fourth section of the ACT, and the final multiple-choice section on the test.

During this section, you’ll be asked to answer 40 multiple-choice questions corresponding to six or seven passages. These questions focus extensively on scientific reasoning; only a handful will test scientific facts.

After the Science section, you may or may not go on to the ACT Essay…but unlike the essay, the ACT Science is a required part of the ACT–so it’s important to be prepared.

But don’t worry–in this video, Magoosh’s ACT expert Kat will give you her top 10 tips to help you ace the ACT Science section!

Liam got a 35 on the ACT. Get a higher ACT score with Magoosh.

Just click on the embedded video below to watch “Top 10 Tips for the ACT Science Section”.

…Or scroll down for a full video transcript. 🙂

What Will I See in the “Top 10 Tips for the ACT Science Section” Video?

In this free 11-minute video, Kat will explain her top 10 strategies for tackling the ACT Science section:

    1. Don’t panic!
    2. Don’t leave anything blank!
    3. Save the conflicting viewpoints passage for last!
    4. Skim, dissect, and analyze!
    5. Reference the right chart!
    6. Expect some weird charts!
    7. Be detail oriented!
    8. Understand “trends” questions!
    9. Draw your own charts!
    10. Don’t get bogged down by math

If you like the video, don’t forget to hit Like, and subscribe to the channel for more study tips. And if you have any questions about how to prepare for the ACT, write to us in the video comments section, and we’ll answer with advice! 🙂

“Top 10 Tips for the ACT Science Section” Full Transcript


Hi, I’m Kat, the ACT expert at Magoosh.

I have over 15 years teaching and tutoring students and I love helping students ace the ACT.

Today we’re gonna be going over 10 tips to help you on the Science Section of the ACT exam.

Tip number one for the science section is don’t panic, so it is true that you only have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions on the science section.

They’re split across six passages, but you know that now, right?

So when you actually go in to take the exam, there’s no surprises there, stay level headed, with enough prep, you can do really well on the section.

Many people including me say that this is actually the section where practice is going to raise your score the most.

So focus on good practice and focus on keeping a cool head on test day.

Tip number two bubble in an answer for every question.

So you might not know the answer for every question and there might even sometimes be a question where you can’t use process of elimination that well to narrow in on the correct answer or maybe you just find yourself running out of time.

But never leave anything blank and this is true of all the sections by the way you never get deducted points if you answer incorrectly, therefore you should always answer something.

Cuz you’ll have at least a 25% chance of getting that question right and actually I happen to believe that your chances are probably even a little bit above 25% through guessing, because your intuition kicks in a little bit.

So leave nothing blank and make sure you give yourself at least like 20 seconds at the end of the session so that you can go through and make sure there aren’t any blanks for that exam session.

Tip number three, save the conflicting view points passage for last.

So you’re going to see six passages on the a ACT science test and five of them are going to look very similar to one another, they’re gonna be findings from different scientific studies, you’ll probably see a lot of graphs, charts, diagrams, one of these passages is going to look very different.

It’s going to be almost all text and you’re going to be reading about different scientific perspectives around and given phenomenon.

So this takes a little longer, you have to go more slowly, you have to read the task more closely therefore you want to make sure that you get all the quick questions, answered first, so you have all those in the bag, before you go and devote that extra focus and time to the conflicting viewpoints, which you will answer last.

Tip number 4, skim, dissect, analyze.

Okay so what I mean by that is you want to skim the passage, don’t read the passage.

Skim the passage, and then, you dissect the actual question that’s in front of you, you try and make sense of what you’re being asked.

What do you analyze?

The analysis comes in when you actually go to the figures, and graphs, and charts, that relate to the question you’re being asked, okay?

And the reason this is really important is because a lot of students spend too much time reading the passage.

They run out of time and in contrast, they’re not reading the question itself closely enough.

So just keep in mind, you want to skim the passage, dissect the question, and analyze any graphs, charts or diagrams.

Tip number 5, pay attention to which numbers you’re given when they reference a figure number or a trial number or an experiment number.

So this sounds like a simple thing, right?

And probably a lot of you are maybe just rolling your eyes well, of course, I don’t wanna make a simple mistake.

But a lot of students make the mistake of accidentally referencing the wrong graph or chart.

Some of these passages have like five or six graphs and charts, and they purposely try and mess you up.

So they will talk about something with sodium phosphate and you remember, oh yeah sodium phosphate that was in experiment one, but if you read the question closely, they’re actually directing you to experiment two.

All right, so they’re going to really be testing you on how closely and carefully are you reading the instructions.

Tip number 6, when you’re interpreting a graph, look at the axes first, and this is really important because some of these graphs are set up in kind of weird, counter-intuitive ways.

We’re used to reading graphs that usually start kinda of in the bottom left and go up towards the right upper corner.

On the ACT sometimes the axis are going to be somewhat reversed.

They’re going to be almost rotated 90 degrees and instead of seeing a line that goes this way, you’ll see something like a squiggly line that’s going from top to bottom.

It’s purposely trying to disorient you and the way you make sure you don’t make mistakes on these is you look at the axis first, and you make sure you can figure out exactly which values are pointing horizontally and which values are guiding your eyes vertically.

So don’t get thrown off on the exam if you see a graph or chart that looks nothing like you’re used to seeing.

Tip number 7 is another detail point, and that is you want to make sure that you line up your values really precisely when you’re trying to read the numerical value for a given data point.

So we might see something that seems so easy or so exciting because it’s gonna be such a quick, easy question, such as at minute number 73, what was the temperature of sample B or something like that.

And then all you have to do is look at the minutes down here, the temperatures up here, and find where they intersect.

Unfortunately, if you look at the answer choices you’re given, it’s likely that they will all be just fractions of one number away from each other.

And so the way you want to keep this straight and make sure you get the right answer, I recommend If you actually use your scantron itself.

So here you have a perfectly straight line right in front of you, right?

So actually line it up with the lines on the graph, so that you know your answer is 82.6 and not 82.2.

This particular questions are actually testing you on how detail-oriented you can be especially under a time crunch.

Tip number 8, is understand what’s being asked of you when you get what’s called a trends question.

You’re going to see several questions that ask you something about the direction of a set of scientific findings, for instance, pressure or temperature.

They’ll ask you did the temperature between trials one and trial three increase only?

Decrease only?

Increase and decrease?

Or decrease and increase?

Something along that, lines, patterns.

The trick here, and the way sometimes students get a little bit tripped up, Is that they only look at what happened in the beginning, say in trial one and then what happened at the end, trial three.

And if they see that the pressure or temperature is higher in three, they’re inclined to choose the answer, increase only.

But you actually do need to pay attention to all the data points in-between those endpoints.

And if at any given point there was a decrease in temperature or pressure, your answer will not be increase only.

So it’s that extra word the word only, is important to pay attention to you will see it on the science section.

And you want to take it into consideration when you come up with your answers so that you don’t get tripped up.

Tip number 9, is to draw your own little charts when you’re being asked to compare one trial or experiment to another.

I’ve been noticing more and more questions like this on the ACT science test, where you’re basically having to synthesize like ten different data points.

They will say something like let’s look at these five different elements from trial one to trial two, and you tell me which of them converted from a gas to a liquid between trial one and trial two.

It’s not that complicated of a question.

But you have to pay attention to ten different data points and then figure out what the right answer is.

Always keep in mind that you can and you should write on your test booklet.

So whether this is crossing out wrong answers or drawing little charts, make use of your test booklet, draw on it, it’s yours to use.

Tip number 10 is don’t get bogged down by exponents or subscripts.

There will be some questions on the SAT science section that ask you to do a little bit of math, and a lot of times these are in the form of exponents.

So being able to say 6.3 to the negative 5th power, is that value larger or smaller than some other value over here?

However, most questions that show you exponents are not math questions at all, you don’t have to calculate anything.

So unless you’re being asked to slowdown and calculate something, don’t worry about the exponents too much, just see it as a symbol, focus on the graphs and the charts, and only slow down and do that math work when you need to.

And that leads me to the bonus tip for this video, which is don’t spend too much time studying science.

You might have noticed that these tips that I’m giving you are very little to do with science and a whole lot to do with synthesizing information and not making mistakes.

So the ACT science section does not test you on your scientific knowledge aside from a few core areas.

And if you go down below, you can see the link to the Magoosh flashcards, and there you can review all the science concepts that could potentially appear on the exam.

The most important thing is to get plenty of practice, practice under timed conditions, and keep a cool head, cuz you’ve got this.

If you like this video, follow the link in the description box below, and go to Magoosh.com, where you can join thousands of students who are already using Magoosh to ace the ACT.

And if you’re looking for more last minute tips, check out the videos on your left and I’ll see you in the next one.

Looking for some last minute ACT tips?

Why not check out some of our other free ACT resources for more strategies on how to prepare for test day?

Good luck on the test! 🙂

About Molly Kiefer

Molly completed her undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She has been tutoring the SAT, GRE, and LSAT since 2014, and loves supporting her students as they work towards their academic goals. When she’s not tutoring or blogging, Molly takes long walks, makes art, and studies ethics. Molly currently lives in Northern California with her cat, who is more popular on Instagram than she is.


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