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Simplifying the Science Section of the ACT

The Science portion of the ACT is one of the most dreaded tests on the ACT. All of the graphs, charts, and tables can be a bit overwhelming, especially considering that you take this portion of the test towards the end. By the time you begin the Science section, you’re likely mentally drained from the previous hours of testing. Instead of calling it quits and making a half-hearted attempt to answer the questions, consider a few tips to help simplify the Science section.

 

1. The Science section is really just the Reading section with graphs and charts. Think about it - the Reading section of the ACT requires you to read information, analyze it, and answer questions about it. This is basically what the Science section requires you to do, except the Science section adds in graphs, charts, and tables. Data presented in a graph is really just telling a story. The story might be that heating a chemical causes it to expand, so the graph illustrates in what way the chemical expands. When you begin a Science passage, do not overanalyze! Practically all of the information you need in order to answer the questions is right in front of you.

 

2. Remember T.I.G.

T.I.G. stands for tables, italicized terms, and graphs. These three things will often tell you exactly what you need to know in order to answer the questions. Italicized terms are usually terms that the test defines for you, so they help you understand the information you’re presented with. Tables and graphs contain trends and variables that you should pay attention to. Always check the graphs and tables for trends, such as “when x increases by 5, Y decreases by 2”. Identifying general trends will help you answer questions more quickly.

 

3. Choose Your Own Pace.

Many students struggle more with one type of passage than another type of passage on the Science test. The data representation (5 questions) passages tend to be easier for most students, while the experimental (6 questions) and conflicting viewpoints (7 questions) passages tend to be more difficult for most students. Prior to taking the ACT, take a few practice Science tests to determine which sections are easier for you. Then, on the actual ACT, start with the science passages that are easier for you, saving the tougher passages for later. Also, don’t assume that the conflicting viewpoints passage is difficult. The conflicting viewpoints passage will often mirror the nature of the Reading section very closely, so you may want to begin the Science section by completing the conflicting viewpoints passage if you do well on the Reading section of the ACT.