If there’s one section of the ACT that initially terrifies all my students (and their parents), it’s the ACT “science” section. On top of all the comprehension, math, and grammar tricks you need to know for this test, you’re expected to know science, too!? Fortunately for you, the ACT science section has absolutely nothing to do with science — and once you realize the key approach to beat it, it’s an absolute breeze. This article will show you a basic approach that’ll cut your ACT science time in half and double your accuracy in less than two rounds of practice.
“Science” is an Inaccurate Name
The ACT science section requires zero knowledge of physics, chemistry, or biology. I was a horrible science student in school, and I still don’t know a thing about genetic combination, flora vs. fauna, or friction in a vacuum — yet I can still get a perfect score on the ACT science section. Once you learn the approach in this guide, you’ll be able to, too.
The ACT “science” section should actually be called the accurately using graphs, tables, and numbers in a really short period of time section. If you can rapidly grab relevant information in the most efficient way possible and use it to kill the available answer choices without making any silly errors, you’ll get a perfect score. You don’t need to know or even sort of understand any of this stuff — you just need to be able to find it and use it. No actual “science” knowledge required. Let’s get to it:
The Step-by-Step Approach to Crushing the ACT Science Section
To get a perfect ACT science score, you need to focus on one thing, and one thing only: time. Given enough time, anyone can get a perfect score on this section. But you have less than a minute per problem. You need to get just the information you need without wasting a single second reading or interpreting irrelevant information. Finding that balance is everything. Here’s how to do it:
1. Go right to the questions. NEVER read anything in the science passages up front. Go right to the questions. You won’t use 99 percent of the information in a given science passage, and because it’s all so abstract, you won’t remember 90 percent of what you read anyway. Go right to the questions and save yourself the time.
The one exception to this rule is the “reading” passage in each science section — the passage that contains pure text. Skim that first for the main idea of the “argument.” For all other passages, go right to the questions.
2. Once you read the questions, read the answer choices. You’ll never have any real idea of what the questions are getting at unless you figure out what types of answer they’re looking for. For instance, if a problem asks: “What happens to the bog chlorahydryl levels when the temperature rises?”, realize that you aren’t expected to know what the heck bog chlorahydryl is, so trying to “come up with an answer on your own” is suicide. Instead, look at the answers and figure out what type of information they’re asking you for.
Remember — the answer choices are all that matter. The right answer will be in one of the four choices available, so check the form of the answer choices and figure out precisely what information you’re supposed to look for.
For instance, they might be:
A) The PT5i rises
B) The PT5i falls
C) The GBH7 rises
D) The GBH7 falls
Now you know to look for temperature, bog chlorahydryl, and PT5i or GBH7. If the answers look like this:
F) Volcanic activity rises
G) Volcanic activity lowers
H) Volcanic activity isn’t affected
J) Volcanic activity rises, then falls over time
You need to look for blog chlorahydryl levels, temperature, and volcanic activity. By checking the answer choices, you’ll see exactly which info (and what aspect of it) you’re expected to reference.
3. After reading the answer choices, look at the passage, find the EXACTLY RELEVANT information as indicated by the answer choices, and eliminate the three wrong answer choices.
Your job isn’t to pick a right answer — it’s simply to kill the three answer choices that don’t match up to the tables, graphs, and figures in front of you.
The real key here is to live in the answer choices. Don’t start thinking — that’s a horrible idea. Just look at the insanely specific, small amount of information you’re being asked to research by each individual problem and use the indicated info to cross out the three false answers.
The answer choices will give you all the clues you need to eliminate them. Your job is to get familiar with them, do the research, and then kill everything that proves false.
That’s all there is to it!
There are plenty of more intricate tactics and tips for this section, but if you just stick with this basic, three-step approach, you’ll see a renaissance in your overall science performance. You’ll spend less time reading irrelevant info and graphs, less time thinking of answers that may or may not even be relevant, and more time getting right to the heart of each problem — the potential answers, and the specific, random information they contain.
Give this a shot on a practice ACT “science” section and see what you think. After two or three trial runs, you’ll realize that there’s nothing challenging about this section at all — you’ve just been tricked into thinking that this section had something to do with science. In fact, all it has to do with is time and efficiency.
This article was written by Anthony James Green, standardized test expert at Test Prep Authority.