ACT Science Practice | 7 Strategies For Test Day Success

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Every section on the ACT counts, so doing well in the Science section is definitely important to your overall score. Some students worry about the ACT Science section, but you don’t have to do so. ACT Science practice isn’t too scary when you know what to do.

Bearing that in mind, here are 7 ACT Science practice strategies that will make a difference on test day.

Besides the Science section, here are additional ACT score improvement tips that will help you prepare for your test day experience.

ACT Science Practice Strategies To Use

Get Familiar With ACT Science Passages

Your first goal is to understand what the Science section tests through its passages.

ACT Science passages break down into three categories:

  • Research Summary – You’re presented with a series of experiments
  • Data Representation – You’re presented with information about a specific topic
  • Conflicting Viewpoints – You’re presented with multiple theories about one single topic

Format-wise, the Science section presents 6-7 total passages. Each passage then requires you to answer 5-8 related questions.

You’re allowed 35 minutes to complete the entire section. Once time’s up, you need to move on, whether you like it or not.

Review Basic Science Concepts

Going back over very basic areas of Science will make the test easier for you.

To be fair, you don’t need prior Science knowledge to get a 36 on the Science test. All the necessary information is in the passages.

But, if you go into the exam knowing some basic terms and concepts, you’ll save yourself time by not having to look for context clues.

Concepts (and associated areas of science) to review include:

  • Biology Concepts
    • Cell biology
    • DNA
    • RNA
    • Ribosomes
    • Natural selection
  • Chemistry Concepts
    • Basic molecule structure
    • Freezing and boiling points of water in Celsius
    • pH scale
    • Molar mass concepts
    • How charges interact
    • Phase changes
  • Physics Concepts
    • Gravity
    • Density formula
    • Density rules

Don’t feel that you have to relearn each of these subjects in order to do well. It’s perfectly fine to review old notes or look up information from trusted educational sources online.

The point is to give yourself a feel for them, so on test day, you don’t have to guess about passage question context.

Practice Answering Pacing

Make sure you can answer questions fast enough before your test day arrives.

Again, there are only 35 minutes to finish the entire Science section. That’s roughly 5 minutes per passage to answer 5-8 question sets.

That means you have roughly a minute or less per question. The best way to approach answering them is by building up a consistent pace to tackle these kinds of questions.

Start working on your pace at least one month in advance. Set a timer and then run through a few practice passages under real-time constraints.

Then tackle additional passages with a 6-minute time limit for answering. When you’ve answered everything, review your answers and accuracy.

Your goal here is to find the right balance between both speed and accuracy. Fast answers don’t do any good if they’re wrong.

Strategically Skim Passages

Don’t memorize everything at once.

You won’t be able to remember everything when reading the passages first-time out. There’s too much data and the pace won’t allow you to ponder. Instead, try the following:

  • Skim the passages to absorb main points and familiarize yourself with data charts
  • Refer back to the passage for specific information when absolutely necessary

Again, when you’re skimming along and notice keywords or important phrases or sentences, go ahead and circle them for quick reference. Chances are good you’ll need that information for a question or two.

Work On Graph Interpretation

Practice reading a lot of graphs.

Data representation is huge in the Science section. A third of the questions you’ll answer will test that ability.

You need to work on interpreting data visually and drawing conclusions from that information To best prepare for it:

  • Take multiple practice tests with realistic data interpretation questions and graphs
  • Review scientific studies that include charts and graphs

The goal is to train your brain on how to quickly break down visual data and pull conclusions from it accurately.

An additional strategy here is quickly look over a graph without reading the associated study/article and try to figure out the trend(s) it’s illustrating.

Afterward, read the text. If your guess is accurate or close, you’re on the right track.

Go To The Questions First

Don’t sweat reading the entire passage immediately.

Remember, many questions provide you with citations of where the answer is located. You don’t have to read the passage first. For those questions without citations, use keywords in the question to help find the lines.

Good keywords are located in either the answer choices or the question itself. When skimming the passage for information, lock onto those words for clues.

The only exception here is the conflicting viewpoints passage. In this passage, you will compare and contrast two scientists’ views and then answer questions. For these questions alone, you should read the passages then answer them.

Take Notes For The Passages

Mark up your test booklet.

Use your test booklet to quickly write down notes and mark up the passages, as necessary. Examples include:

  • Underlining keywords
  • Circling sentences
  • Writing down notes in the booklet itself

Don’t worry about getting in trouble, because your completed Scantron answer sheet is what counts. Taking notes can help you on test day in two important ways:

  • Keep your brain focused
  • Keep you on pace with finishing the questions

For example, taking down similarities and differences between experiments saves time because there’s no need to refer back to that passage section. These ACT Science practice strategies

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