Everyone wants to know how best to prep for the ACT Science Test. If you read about the ACT Science section as a whole, you know what to expect but how do you study for the section? Fear not — we have 7 ACT Science prep strategies for you, and they’re all easy to follow.
The 7 Best ACT Science Prep Strategies
Finishing all 40 questions in the 35 minutes will require practice. And then a lot more practice. Quantity is important, but so is quality. Do your best to incorporate the strategies below and make the most out of your practice.
1. Know your graphs!
Graph questions are, by far, the most common type of question on the ACT Science Test. They ask you to find data points, interpolate or extrapolate them, identify variable relationships and analyze patterns in data. In your ACT Science prep, familiarize yourself with line graphs, bar graphs, pie charts, double Y-axis graphs, and stacked bar charts. The best way to get familiar with all of these graphs is to practice with authentic ACT practice tests (or previously released exams).
2. Know your tables!
Like graphs, data tables are also very common on the ACT Science Test. Some data tables are small, with just two columns and a few rows, while others are made of several columns and rows. Being comfortable finding information in data tables, small and large, is a crucial skill on this test. Again, practicing with actual passages in your ACT Science prep will be the most help to further develop this skill.
3. Identify Trends and Patterns
Taking the ACT Science Test means identifying trends and patterns in the data. Many Data Science and Research Summary questions ask you to determine how variables change over time or compare one variable with another. Become familiar with certain terms, like direct relationship, indirect relationship, bell curve, slope, that concern identifying trends in graphs.
4. Review the Scientific Method
It is true that the ACT Science Test doesn’t actually test much science knowledge, but one concept that should be well understood is the scientific method. There are usually one or two questions on the test that directly ask a question related to the scientific method (such as "what serves as a control in this experiment?"), but there are several more that ask you to evaluate the procedure discussed in the passage. Understanding how an experiment should be set up, the importance of a control group, and how to identify constants are all aspects of scientific method that may come up on the test. Most high school science courses discuss scientific method at some point, so you are likely to be pretty familiar with this topic and may already have notes or a textbook from a course that you can look over to help jog your memory.
5. Time Yourself
Timing is crucial on the ACT Science Test. As discussed in this article about the format of the test, you get a measly fifty-two and a half seconds per question (and this doesn’t include the time it takes to read the passage and look over the visuals). When you begin preparing for ACT Science, use a timer to see how long it takes you to complete each passage and the section overall. Did some of the passages take a lot of time? Keep track of the passage types and the science material on them. Hopefully you will begin to see a pattern. Perhaps you really struggle with biology passages. Do one of the passage types — Data Representation, Research Summary, or Conflicting Viewpoints — really give you difficulty? Once you know your weaknesses, you can address these directly.
Naturally, as you practice more and more, the time you need to finish the test will decrease. If it seems as though you are still running out of time near the end of the test, then you will need to change your approach. Try some new techniques to help you with your timing. Don't underestimate the power of consistency! However, if all else fails and you find your progress stops after a while of practice, consider getting some professional help through an ACT prep class or with an individual tutor.
6. Create Vocabulary Flashcards
The ACT Science Test uses a lot of scientific vocabulary. Knowing the terminology ahead of time isn’t necessary, but it makes reading the passages easier and quicker. You will thank us when you encounter text-heavy Conflict Viewpoints and Research Summary passages. As you take ACT Science practice tests, make a note when you see terms you don’t understand. When you are finished with your practice session, create flashcards for the terms you marked. Review them frequently in the weeks leading up to the exam — you’ll have them memorized in no time.
7. Review Scientific Equipment
On most of the ACT Science passages, you’ll be given graphs and tables but also diagrams of the experimental set-up. To visualize how the experiment actually works, you need to understand the diagrams you are seeing. Review the function and purpose of the different science equipment you see on the practice tests. Much of this information will be online or likely in any science textbook you have from school. Like specific vocabulary terms, it may be helpful to make flashcards of any equipment you aren’t familiar with.
The ACT Science Test is a test of problem solving, graph interpretation, and data analysis. With these tips and a lot of focused practice, you’ll be well on your way to a great score. Good luck!
Read our Ultimate Guide to ACT Test Prep — it summarizes everything you’ll need to know, whether you are preparing to take the ACT next month or in a few years.
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