• Robin Glembotzky

ACT Science Tips

So, you're studying for the February ACT exam. As we all know, the biggest obstacle on the ACT exam is time.


So, I'm going to give you a few tips on how to save some time on the Science part of the ACT exam. First, remember this section is more about reasoning and less about how much science you know. Yes, you need to have a base of knowledge. But it's on par with the base knowledge you need for the Reading section. In reality, there are roughly 4 questions, on the exam, where you need to know science. The rest of the questions? If you're carefully reading the passages, understanding the graphs, you'll be fine. You'll be able to pull the answers you need from those areas. First, I'll tell you the same thing I tell every one of the students I work with.

I know, I know! You've been taught to read the instructions since you were little. But, at this point, you've done a practice exam (hopefully more than one!) and have read:


Trust me, they are not going to change by the time you sit down at your exam. If the ACT.org does make a change, there will be many announcements. Yes, it's short and wouldn't take a bunch of time. But, remember, you need every second to finish this test. At this point (section 4 of the exam), you're tired. You just want to be done. But don't slack off, the end is in sight! This is the last section (unless you're taking the Essay but that's to be addressed on another day). So, let's jump right in, shall we?


ACT Science Tip #1: Don't get stuck on the "Sciency" words.

On the 2019-2020 ACT, the first passage, in the Science section, says, "A teacher asked each of 4 students to describe the molecular shape (the geometrical arrangement of the atoms in a molecule) of each of 4 molecules...." Yes, they gave you the definition!! That happens. A little further down the page, they use the term, "trigonal planar". While the ACT.org folks don't give you a definition, they do give you a picture. And more than likely you know that tri means three and that planar means "in the same plane". So, you can reason out the words you are unfamiliar with.


ACT Science Tip #2: Do the Conflicting Viewpoints passage last.

Remember you have 7 passages to go through. The conflicting viewpoints passages always take the most time. Why? There are no graphs or tables. It's two theories or scientists or students who have opposing views. The questions are going to be about the differences and similarities presented. That will take time to sort out and understand. Save it for last.


ACT Science Tip #3: Do the Data Representation passages first.

But which is a Data Representation passage and which is a Research Summary? Data Representation will have more visuals. Research Summary passages are just that, a summary of the research. You'll see the words "experiment 1, experiment 2" or "study 1, study 2". Skip that and get the Data Representation passages done quickly. Remember, these passages are all about the graphs or tables (data), so be careful. One thing the ACT folks like to do is show two similar-looking graphs but the scales are different on one of the axes. Look out for this. Put a mark to remind yourself they are not the same. Remember: The visuals contain the answers!


ACT Science Tip #4: Eliminate the wrong answers first.

Remember you are going to be tired, a bit stressed and want to be done. Draw a line through the answers you KNOW to be wrong. That will help you narrow your choices down. Plus, you will eliminate the visual possibility of marking the wrong answer because you looked at one or two words that were in the sentence above (or below!).


ACT Science Tip #5: Bubble in any blanks at the end. Remember you do not get penalized for guessing. Don't leave any bubble blank. You have a 25% chance of guessing the correct answer. I have had students who have guessed on a couple of questions and they got the correct answer. You do not know. Just don't leave blank bubbles.


ACT Science Tip #6: Don't complicate or overthink the passages.

Most students taking this exam have been taught that none of the questions "can be that easy". Be careful not to overthink your answer. Remember this is about reasoning and paying attention to the details.


Ok, to recap.


As always, if you need some extra help, fill out my contact form!

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