6 Great ACT Science Tips & Tricks to Boost Your Score In 2023

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MathTowne ACT Prep - ACT science section

What Science is on the ACT Science Section?

One thing to keep in mind is that the ACT ‘Science’ Test is not actually a science test at all! The passage types are structured to test your ability to comprehend a given research summary. You will also be expected to analyze the associated data/figures. 

Remember the following while going through the ACT Science practice tests, test prep, or even on the test day:

What is on the ACT Science?

The Science Reasoning Section tests the ability to comprehend diagrams and simple math.

You will be expected to accurately interpret charts, graphs, and tables that are related to given scientific experiments and studies. 

How long is the Science ACT?

Students have 35 mins to answer 40 questions. 

Maintaining focus is the biggest challenge. Time limitation is secondary.

It is recommended that students download full-length ACT Science practice PDFs and complete them in simulated test conditions.

What Do I need to know?

Remember that only about 10% of the questions (3-4 questions a test) require you to have any outside science knowledge.

Only simple scientific knowledge is needed to answer; for example, gas expands when heated.

How To Study for the ACT Science?

Your ACT Science prep process should not involve memorizing scientific knowledge.

Spend your time on ACT practice tests or preparations for other sections, instead.

How Tricky is the ACT Science?

Of all the sections on the ACT, the Science passages and questions are not meant to trick you. 

This is the most straightforward section with minimal unrelated information.

What about new terminology?

Jargon that you will come across will be clearly indicated and easy to figure out from context.

It will be italicized for you to identify when it first appears.

What is the best approach to the ACT Science?

You may be wondering how to improve your ACT Science score. Try these tips, and see how you improve!

Strategy #1

Don’t waste your time reading the passages

Many high school students try to read the passages on the ACT Science section. It is not the ACT Reading passages. Treating it as such will be a huge mistake.

While the Reading passages will contain useful information throughout the passage, the ACT Science passages are often the opposite.

Science passages are hardly useful. Most of the information there will confuse students. They are full of jargon that will not help you answer the questions. 

Avoiding the passage on the whole will help rather than hinder in most cases.

There are only 3 exceptions to this rule

  1. If the question asks you to reference the ‘passage/text/information provided’ 
  2. If the question asks specifically about the science jargon that will require you to reference the passage for definition
  3. If you cannot find the answer in the data visualization

Strategy #2

When using the passage, only scan

If you find yourself in one of the 3 exceptions and need to use the passage, just quickly scan for what you need.

You will never be asked main idea questions on the Science section, so you do not need to read for general information/understanding.

For the most part, what you need to do for this section is to scan for the correct answer. 

Pay attention to important phrases that will help you find answers. These phrases include phrases like the following:

  • Based on Table 1…
  • Based on Figure 2…

Strategy #3

Make sure you know what you’re looking for 

Cartoon figure reads text carefully with magnifying glass

Do not scan aimlessly. This is a time-waster and can lead you to traps. Use the following indicator to help you find answers: 

Units of measurement (i.e. distance, temperature, energy, mass, pressure, etc.) – Whatever the unit of measurement the question addresses, use it to find your answer by finding the unit of measurement in the data figure/table

Jargon – Questions that refer to science jargon can be answered using text in the passage near the same jargon

Tiles of Data (i.e. charts, graphs, tables, etc.) – Use the title to help you identify the purpose of the experiment

Labels of Axes – For questions regarding trends, the labels on the axes are a good place to start

Answer choices – Answers choices with words or phrases that are repeated from text or questions are more likely to be the answer you’re looking for

Strategy # 4

Trust the passage to help you. 

Unlike the ACT Reading section, these pointers are not a trick. Look where it’s indicated. Pay attention to phrases like the following and what they indicate:

Based on the results of the study… (indicates that the answer can be found in the data, not text)

Based on the study … (indicates that the answer is in the text, not the date figures).

Based on the passage/text/information… (indicates that the answer is in the text, not the data figures)

Strategy #5

Trends and patterns are important.

Since calculators are not allowed on the ACT Science section, don’t get stuck on the numbers in the data.

Pay more attention to trends and patterns. It is more important to notice if data goes up or down than the exact amount.

Don’t waste time doing arithmetic calculations. Calculations are not necessary to answer the questions. Estimate well and move on. For example, if you are asked to find the value of 4.9788m doubled, find the answer that is closest to 10.

Strategy # 6

Plug in your own words

Jargons and other specialized terminology can make the section confusing. Usually, these words are italicized the first time they appear in the text. Context is a great way to figure out the meaning of the words. Once you make a good guess on what a word refers to, just plug in your own word every time the jargon appears.

If you cannot identify the meaning, just plug in a blank or ‘x’ in place of the jargon. This is an effective way to move fast and move on.

How do I SAve time on the ACT Science Section?

The Science section is extremely fast-paced. You have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions

You have less than a minute per question. Aim to finish each section in about 5 minutes

If you don’t know, bubble and move on. Don’t ever leave a question blank. There is no penalty for wrong answers!

Eliminate and cross out wrong answers before making an educated guess. Even if you only cross off one answer option, this still increases your chances. 

When stuck, pick an answer and stick with it. If you figure out the question later or get unstuck, you can change your answer.

There is no increase or decrease of difficulty in the questions, so just bubble and move on. Even if you re-read the question, the question does not get easier. 

Students and parents look for answers to frequently asked questions about ACT Science portion

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to have a background in science to do well on the ACT Science section?

While having a background in science can be helpful, it is not necessary to do well on this section. The questions are designed to test a student’s ability to understand scientific concepts and methodology, rather than relying on prior knowledge.

Can I skip questions on the ACT Science section?

What’s the average ACT Science score?

Want to learn more tips and strategies to improve your ACT Science SCORE?

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