Four Week Program for Science
Please download a free ACT exam to familiarize yourself with the test. We also recommend purchasing The Official ACT Prep Guide
Page through the science section and notice the three different passage types.
- Data representation (2): these have no headers, and only 6 questions. They tend to be the quickest passages.
- Research summaries (3): these have study/experiment/activity as headers, as well as figures and tables. They have 7 questions each.
- Conflicting scientists (1): these have two to four scientists or students with paragraphs explaining their opinions. These passages often take longer because of the amount of text.
There are 6 passages total, and of these usually 2 are on biology, 2 on chemistry, 1 on physics, and 1 on earth science or astronomy. You have just under 6 minutes on each passage, so these go by fast.
Take the test, timing yourself separately on each passage and taking note of how long each one takes you.
Analyze your results from the practice test. Check your answers, and make sure to read the explanation on any questions you got wrong. Try to identify your mistake — did you look at the wrong figure or paragraph, or did you misinterpret the data? Notice if there are any patterns to your mistakes.
You may notice that a couple of questions require some level of prior knowledge that the test-taker is expected to have. Usually, this prior knowledge is as simple as knowing that protons have a positive charge, or that opposite charges attract.
Rank the passage types by number of wrong answers. Which passage type, and which content area were hardest for you?
Next, look at your timing. Which passage type took you the longest? Which passages did you spend the most time reading or parsing the data? You will want to make a strategy for yourself for each passage type. For example, we recommend not reading at all on the data representation passages, and only reading the introduction on the research summaries before diving into the questions. You may also want to consider the order you complete the passages. If the conflicting scientist passage takes you the longest, you might want to start there and save the data passages for last, as they will be easiest to complete quickly.
Take another complete practice test, this time limiting yourself to 35 minutes. Try using your new reading and ordering strategies, and watch out for question types you missed in your last test.
Always look to eliminate answers, and when in doubt, choose the answer that seems closest to the one you would put. Use the information in the question to guide you to the figure or experiment you should focus on, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted with information that isn’t vital to each question.
If you find timing is still an issue, and you keep spending time hunting for the correct figure or scientist for each answer, consider making just a few notes early on for each passage. For example, write down two or three key words next to each scientist in the conflicting scientist passages, identifying which opinion they hold. On research summaries passages, write two or three words next to each experiment to identify what differentiates it from the other trials. This might help you cut down on reading time later. Just don’t go overboard reading and making notes, because you should be spending most of your time on the questions themselves.
At this point, practice and repetition are key. Make sure you know what strategies you need to use for reading and what order you want to complete the passages in. Then, take as many practice tests as you can, trying to increase efficiency and accuracy each time.