Tips for the ACT Science Section


Unlike the SAT, the ACT has a science reasoning section. However, nothing about this section has much to do with science. This section is essentially part reading comprehension, part logic, and part identifying patterns. Since counting numbers is technically math, the science reasoning section is really just an extension of the reading and math sections (READ: “ACT Tips From a Private Irvine Tutor“). Many students find this section to be overwhelming because they weren’t expecting to be tested on science. However, students who will be taking the ACT sometime in 2014 or 2015 need not worry about this. Take a look at these few steps to success on the ACT science reasoning section.

One – Learn to see past all of the numbers that you don’t need.

The charts and graphs are full of different numbers, many of them with multiple commas or decimal points meant to confuse you. Students who have a great deal of focus will have better success on this section. I simply mean focus as in focusing in on one small set of numbers (READ: “Ask a Nerd! SAT Subject Tests“).

Two – Look for patterns.

If you generally have a little bit of extra time on your practice exams, then try to spend a minute or two looking at the two different charts or graphs and look for patterns ahead of time. This might help you find the right answer more quickly once you read the questions. However, if you find that pacing is an issue, look for the number patterns only after you have read the questions and discover which part of the chart and graph that you need to look at.

Three – Annotate the paragraphs.

Oddly enough, the paragraphs in the science reasoning section can be approached in a similar way that students would in order to solve the SAT long reading passages. This is unusual because they’re not only to different exams but there are two different sections on the exams. However, the science reasoning section has a bunch of information that you simply don’t need; it is there to confuse you and make your life harder as a student. It is a college entrance exam after all so it’s not going to be easy. Your job is to quickly and efficiently annotate these paragraphs and either box or circle information that you need or cross out the information that you don’t.

Four – Try reading the questions before reading the paragraphs.

Many students struggle with finishing each section on time. The ACT doesn’t give you a ton of time to finish the amount of questions that are required. Thus, it is important to make sure that you’re not spending too much time on one chart or graph or on one set of questions. If you read the questions before reading a paragraph you may find that you actually didn’t have to read the entire passage in the first place. This could save a student anywhere between three and seven minutes depending on how quickly they can skim and comprehend a passage (READ: “Ask a Nerd! Are the SAT and ACT Similar?“).

Five – Use common sense.

Many students take a practice exam and end up disappointed with their score. Later, when they go back and look at the answers that they got wrong, they discover that they almost picked the right answer. It’s very easy for students to think that the test is much harder than it actually is. This makes sense because teachers, tutors, and parents stress the importance of this test night and day. However, the ACT wants you to pick a trick answer; in reality sometimes the most straightforward and simple choice ends up being the correct answer. Just use common sense and logic and most likely your practice score will go up.

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