ACT® Science Prep: Practice Tips for Science

How to Practice for the ACT Science Test Section

The ACT Science section might seem difficult but having strategies in your back pocket will make this section of the test less scary! Learn more about what to expect from the ACT Science test, then check out Sylvan’s ACT Science tips below.

All questions on the ACT Science test are multiple-choice and cover biology, chemistry, physics and earth and space sciences. You do not need to know any of these topics in great detail, because each passage will always give you enough information to answer the questions without any previous knowledge. It is broken down into 6 or 7 test units, each consisting of a scientific passage and passage-related questions. Each section will be comprised of 5-7 questions.

There are 40 multiple-choice questions, and you’ll have 35 minutes to answer them. The 3 types of passages you will be tested on include:

  1. Data Representation. Questions focus on skills such as graph reading, interpretation of scatterplots, and interpretation of information presented in tables.
  2. Research Summaries. Questions focus on the design of experiments and the interpretation of experimental results.
  3. Conflicting Viewpoints. Questions focus on understanding, analysis, and comparison of alternative viewpoints or hypotheses.

13 ACT Science Tips to Help You Practice

Data Representation Tips

Data Representation passages are usually the simplest of the 3 types. Each passage describes an experiment or observation and provides obtained data. For these questions, skim the text and quickly move to the questions.

Typically, the questions ask you to:

  • Read a value from the information.
  • Identify overall trends and general relationships between variables.

Tip 1, Data Representation: Focus on the Main Idea

You do not need to know a lot of scientific facts! Instead, you need to read carefully and think logically. Your goal should be to think about the main idea and not worry about the details.

Tip 2, Data Representation: Mark up the Passage

This will help you locate information quickly.

Tip 3, Data Representation: Pay Attention to Footnotes and Parentheses

The test often asks questions about these subtle details!

Tip 4, Data Representation: Note Scales on Graphs

Pay attention to the scale on graphs and make note of any differences between graphs.

Tip 5, Data Representation: Note Trends

Make note of general trends in the data presented.

Tip 6, Data Representation: Look for Direct Relations

Look for whether the items have a direct relation (when x gets bigger, y gets bigger) or an inverse relation (when x gets bigger, y gets smaller).

Use these tips to approach the ACT Science passage.

ACT Science Data Representation Passage
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Research Summaries Tips

Research Summaries explain one or more experiments or observations and may include charts or graphs to show the findings. Questions based on research summaries may ask you to:

  • Relate the experiments to each other.
  • Improve the experiments.
  • Formulate scientific results based on the observations.

Tip 7, Research Summaries: Think Like Scientists

Put on your science goggles and think like a scientist to figure out the flaws and strengths of the experiments!

Tip 8, Research Summaries: Consider Validity, Strengths and Weaknesses

Think about the validity of the results and what sort of new evidence would strengthen or weaken them.

Tip 9, Research Summaries: Think About How

Look at how the data relates to the results.

Tip 10, Research Summaries: Support is Essential

Remember that all answers must be supported by the passages.

Use these tips to approach the ACT Science passage.

ACT Science Research Summary Passage

Conflicting Viewpoints Tips

Most students find that the Conflicting Viewpoints passage is the most time-consuming of all the passage types. You will need to read quickly and effectively to answer these questions.

Tip 11, Conflicting Viewpoints: Save the Conflicting Viewpoints Passage for Last

If you are running out of time, do questions that only deal with one hypothesis at a time.

Tip 12, Conflicting Viewpoints: Mark Up the Passage

There will always be two different viewpoints presented. Mark the passages so you do not confuse the differing hypotheses!

For example, Identify the points where the hypotheses agree and disagree. Write a note in the margin to identify the viewpoint. Circle or underline the supporting evidence. Distinguish the two viewpoints by making a note in the margin. A “+” or “–” is effective when the viewpoints are either for or against a particular scientific theory.

Tip 13, Conflicting Viewpoints: Don't Worry About Which Viewpoint is Correct

Do not worry about which viewpoint is correct. The test will never ask you to determine which viewpoint is correct. Simply identify which is which.

Use these tips to approach the ACT Science passage.

ACT Science Conflicting Viewpoints Passage
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