What To Know About The Science Section Of The ACT

The science portion of the ACT is known to be one of the trickier sections, for good reason. It is tricky.  Content ranges from physics, chemistry, and biology to the Earth and space sciences (such as meteorology, astronomy, and geology).  Detailed knowledge of these areas is not necessary, for the the exam emphasizes scientific reasoning skills rather than recall of scientific facts, reading comprehension, or mathematical ability.  In other words, the key is not memorizing chemistry formulas or physics equations, but being able to understand exactly what a question is asking, and knowing how to figure out the answer. 

 Timing is always important on exams, but pacing yourself is especially important on this portion of the ACT. Students receive 35 minutes to complete 40 questions, many of which are difficult, time-consuming problems.

Scientific information is presented through one of the following three formats.

Data Representation comprises 38% of the science exam.  It measures skills in graph and scatterplot reading, as well as the interpretation of tables, diagrams, and figures.  The material in this section is similar to what would be seen in science journals and texts. 

Research Summaries make up nearly half (45%) of the exam.  In this format, descriptions of one or more related experiments are given, and questions focus on both the design of the experiment, and interpreting results. 

Conflicting Viewpoints covers 17% of the science section.  This format provides several hypotheses or views that are inconsistent with each other or false (since they are based on differing premises or on incomplete data).  Questions deal with understanding, analyzing, and comparing the alternate viewpoints or hypotheses. 

In order to succeed on the science portion of the ACT, students must be proficient in obtaining the correct information through graph-reading and data representation, as well as being able to comprehend research summaries and the presentation of conflicting viewpoints.  Scientific reasoning skills are what the ACT science section is all about. 

The ACT science category is often the one that causes students the most stress.  However, you can work to boost your ACT science score through improving your test-taking skills and problem-solving abilities.  The best way to do this is through using ACT practice tests and finding the method that work best for you, or working one-on-one with a dedicated tutor who will teach you the best test-taking strategies to insure exam day will be a breeze.