How to ace the ACT science section?

How to ace the ACT science section?

Table of Contents

The ACT is a standardized test that plays a crucial role in college admissions. Among its sections, the ACT Science section often proves to be a challenging area for many test-takers. With its emphasis on data interpretation, scientific reasoning, and critical thinking skills, achieving a high score in the ACT Science section requires a targeted approach and effective strategies. Let’s look into a range of proven techniques and tips to help you maximize your performance in the ACT Science section and aim for an impressive XYZ score. By understanding the unique characteristics of this section, practicing key skills, and employing effective test-taking strategies, you can enhance your chances of success

Understanding the ACT Science Section

Overview of the ACT Science section

The ACT Science section is designed to assess a student’s ability to understand, analyze, and interpret scientific information. It consists of 40 multiple-choice questions that need to be answered within a 35-minute time frame. The section does not require specific scientific knowledge or in-depth understanding of complex scientific concepts. Instead, it focuses on evaluating skills related to scientific reasoning, data analysis, and critical thinking.

Types of passages and question formats

The ACT Science section typically includes seven passages, each accompanied by a set of questions. These passages cover various scientific disciplines, such as biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences. The passages may present experimental data, charts, graphs, tables, or conflicting viewpoints. The questions associated with each passage assess a student’s ability to understand the information presented, draw conclusions, make predictions, and evaluate hypotheses.

The question formats in the ACT Science section can vary. Some common question types include

Data Representation

These questions require the interpretation and analysis of graphs, charts, or tables to extract relevant information and answer specific queries.

Research Summaries

These questions assess a student’s ability to understand experimental procedures, hypotheses, and results presented in a passage.

Conflicting Viewpoints

These questions present differing perspectives on a scientific issue, and students must evaluate the arguments and draw conclusions based on the presented information.

Time management considerations

Time management is crucial in the ACT Science section due to the limited time available. It is essential to allocate an appropriate amount of time to read each passage, analyze the data, and answer the associated questions. Here are some time management strategies to consider

  • Skim passages initially Rather than reading each passage in detail from the beginning, quickly skim through the passage to grasp the main idea, identify any visual aids (charts, graphs), and get a sense of the overall structure.
  • Prioritize passages Not all passages in the Science section are of equal difficulty. Identify which passages appear easier or more familiar to you and tackle those first, leaving the more challenging passages for later.
  • Answer easier questions first Within each passage, start with the questions that you find relatively easier and can answer quickly. This way, you can accumulate points efficiently and leave more time for the more challenging questions.
  • Manage time within passages Each passage in the ACT Science section typically has 5-7 associated questions. Avoid spending too much time on one question; if you encounter a difficult question, it may be more productive to move on to the next question and revisit it later if time allows.
  • Pace yourself Regularly check the time remaining and adjust your speed accordingly. Remember that each question is worth the same, so it is better to answer all questions with reasonable accuracy rather than spending excessive time on a few difficult questions.

Building Essential Skills

Enhancing data analysis skills

Interpreting graphs and charts

Improving your data analysis skills involves effectively interpreting the information presented in graphs, charts, tables, and other visual aids. Practice identifying the variables, axes, units of measurement, and the relationships between different data points. Pay attention to the scales, labels, and any trends or patterns that emerge from the visual representation.

Identifying trends and patterns

As you analyze data, look for trends, patterns, or correlations that may exist within the information. Pay attention to the direction and magnitude of changes, any outliers or anomalies, and how different variables may be related to each other. This skill will help you make connections and draw meaningful conclusions from the data.

Making accurate inferences

In the ACT Science section, you’ll often be required to draw inferences based on the given data. This involves going beyond the explicit information and making logical deductions or educated guesses. Practice identifying cause-and-effect relationships, predicting outcomes, and making reasonable inferences based on the evidence provided.

Strengthening scientific reasoning abilities

Understanding experimental design

Developing strong scientific reasoning skills involves understanding the basics of experimental design. Familiarize yourself with concepts such as control groups, independent and dependent variables, and the importance of controlled experiments. This knowledge will help you better understand experimental procedures described in the passages and answer related questions accurately.

Analyzing cause-and-effect relationships

The ACT Science section often presents cause-and-effect relationships, where changes in one variable lead to changes in another. Practice identifying these relationships and understanding how changes in independent variables influence dependent variables. This will enable you to accurately interpret experimental results and make logical connections.

Scientific reasoning requires drawing conclusions based on the evidence provided. Practice using the data, experimental results, and other information presented in the passages to draw valid conclusions. Be cautious of making unwarranted assumptions and ensure your conclusions are supported by the given evidence.

Developing critical thinking skills

Evaluating competing viewpoints

In the ACT Science section, you may encounter passages that present different viewpoints or hypotheses related to a scientific issue. Develop the ability to critically evaluate these viewpoints, consider the evidence and reasoning presented, and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each argument. This skill will help you answer questions that require comparing and contrasting different perspectives.

Recognizing flaws in arguments

Developing critical thinking skills involves being able to identify logical fallacies, inconsistencies, or weaknesses in arguments. Practice recognizing common flaws such as circular reasoning, hasty generalizations, or unsupported claims. This skill will help you select the most valid and reliable answer choices when evaluating arguments in the Science section.

Applying logical reasoning

Enhance your ability to apply logical reasoning when analyzing scientific information. Practice identifying cause-and-effect relationships, making logical deductions, and using deductive and inductive reasoning to arrive at conclusions. Logical reasoning skills will assist you in selecting the most reasonable and accurate answer choices.

Effective Test-Taking Strategies

Skimming passages and identifying key details

When you first encounter a passage in the ACT Science section, start by quickly skimming through it to get a sense of the topic, main ideas, and structure. Pay attention to headings, subheadings, and any bold or italicized text. Identify key details such as variables, experimental procedures, and significant findings. This initial scan will help you gain a general understanding of the passage, which can guide you in answering related questions.

Prioritizing questions and tackling them strategically

As you begin answering questions, it’s essential to prioritize and tackle them strategically. Start with the questions that you find easier or have a better grasp on. This allows you to gain confidence and momentum early on. If you come across challenging questions or those that require significant calculations or data analysis, consider marking them and revisiting them later. This way, you can maximize your time and ensure you answer as many questions correctly as possible.

Utilizing process of elimination

The ACT Science section often presents multiple-choice questions, making the process of elimination a valuable strategy. Even if you’re unsure about the correct answer, eliminate any clearly incorrect choices to increase your chances of selecting the right one. Look for inconsistencies, contradictions, or information in the passage that directly contradicts each answer choice. This approach narrows down the options and improves your chances of selecting the correct answer.

Time-saving techniques for data interpretation

Data interpretation is a crucial component of the ACT Science section, and managing your time effectively in this aspect is crucial. Focus on understanding the purpose of the data presented and the overall trends or patterns it reflects, rather than getting caught up in minute details. Use shortcuts such as focusing on the axes and labels, rather than reading every single data point. Look for patterns, significant changes, or outliers that may help you answer questions without spending excessive time on data analysis.

Managing anxiety and staying focused

Test anxiety can negatively impact your performance, so it’s important to manage it effectively. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualization before and during the exam to calm your nerves. Maintain a positive mindset and believe in your abilities. Stay focused and avoid getting too absorbed in any single question. If you find yourself stuck on a question, move on and come back to it later. Remember that maintaining a steady pace and keeping a clear mind will help you perform at your best.

Also read How To Score 30+ On Your ACT Exam?

Practice Makes Perfect

Data Representation Questions

These questions are based on graphs, charts, tables, or other visual representations of scientific data. Strategies to tackle Data Representation questions include

  • Read the title, labels, and axis descriptions to understand the nature of the data.
  • Analyze the patterns, trends, and relationships displayed in the graph or chart.
  • Pay attention to units, scales, and intervals to accurately interpret the data.
  • Use the data to support your reasoning and answer choices.

Research Summary Questions

These questions assess your understanding of scientific experiments or studies described in passages. Strategies to tackle Research Summary questions include

  • Skim the passage to understand the experimental setup, variables, and purpose.
  • Pay attention to control groups, independent and dependent variables, and key findings.
  • Identify the main idea or objective of the research.
  • Analyze the data and results to draw conclusions and answer the questions.

Conflicting Viewpoints Questions

These questions require you to analyze different scientific viewpoints or hypotheses presented in the passage. Strategies to tackle Conflicting Viewpoints questions include

  • Identify the contrasting opinions or perspectives presented in the passage.
  • Pay attention to the arguments, evidence, and reasoning provided by each viewpoint.
  • Look for common ground, weaknesses, or potential flaws in the arguments.
  • Consider alternative explanations or viewpoints mentioned in the passage.
  • Evaluate the implications and consequences of each viewpoint.

Let’s look at a sample ACT science passage with the types of problems mentioned above

Questions 1,3 and 4 encompass data representation questions while questions 2 and 5 are about research summary questions and question 6 conflicting viewpoints questions.

Effect of Temperature on Enzyme Activity

Enzymes are biological catalysts that facilitate chemical reactions in living organisms. The activity of enzymes is influenced by various factors, including temperature. In this experiment, the effect of temperature on the activity of the enzyme amylase was investigated.


Temperature (°C) Enzyme Activity (mmol/min)
25 2.1
30 3.5
35 4.8
40 4.6
45 3.9
50 1.5

Scientists A and B have different interpretations of the data presented above.

Scientist A argues that enzyme activity is positively correlated with temperature. Based on the data, they claim that as the temperature increases, the enzyme activity also increases. They believe that the highest enzyme activity observed at 35°C supports their argument.

Scientist B, on the other hand, disagrees with Scientist A’s interpretation. They argue that enzyme activity is not affected at all by temperature. According to Scientist B, the data trend shown cannot support any statements regarding the effect of temperature and enzyme activity.

1) Based on the data, at which temperature was the enzyme activity the highest?

A) 25°C

B) 30°C

C) 35°C

D) 40°C

Solution C) 35°C 

Explanation By examining the data, we can see that the enzyme activity reaches its peak at a temperature of 35°C. At this temperature, the enzyme activity value is 4.8 mmol/min, which is the highest value among the given temperature points.

2) Which of the following statements is supported by the data?

A) Enzyme activity increases linearly with temperature.

B) Enzyme activity is highest at extreme temperatures.

C) Enzyme activity is highest at room temperature.

D) Enzyme activity decreases with increasing temperature.

Solution D) Enzyme activity decreases with increasing temperature.

Explanation The data shows that as the temperature increases from 25°C to 50°C, the enzyme activity decreases. This trend indicates that enzyme activity is negatively affected by increasing temperature.

3) What is the trend in enzyme activity between 30°C and 40°C?

A) Enzyme activity decreases

B) Enzyme activity increases

C) Enzyme activity remains constant

D) Enzyme activity fluctuates

Solution A) Enzyme activity decreases

Explanation Between 30°C and 40°C, we can observe a decrease in enzyme activity. The data shows that the enzyme activity value decreases from 3.5 mmol/min at 30°C to 4.6 mmol/min at 40°C.

4) Which temperature(s) resulted in enzyme activity below 2.0 mmol/min?

A) 45°C and 50°C

B) 25°C and 30°C

C) 30°C, 45°C, and 50°C

D) 40°C, 45°C, and 50°C

Solution A) 45°C and 50°C

Explanation Looking at the data, we can see that the enzyme activity is below 2.0 mmol/min at temperatures of 45°C and 50°C. These two temperature points have enzyme activity values of 3.9 mmol/min and 1.5 mmol/min, respectively, both below 2.0 mmol/min.

5) What is the overall trend in enzyme activity with increasing temperature?

A) Enzyme activity increases

B) Enzyme activity decreases

C) Enzyme activity remains constant

D) Enzyme activity is unpredictable

Solution B) Enzyme activity decreases

Explanation The overall trend in enzyme activity with increasing temperature is a decrease. As the temperature increases, the enzyme activity values consistently decrease, as evidenced by the data provided.

6) Which of the following statements best describes the conflict between Scientist A and Scientist B?

A) Scientist A and Scientist B agree on the relationship between temperature and enzyme activity.

B) Scientist A and Scientist B disagree on the interpretation of the highest enzyme activity observed.

C) Scientist A and Scientist B disagree on the relationship between temperature and enzyme activity.

D) Scientist A and Scientist B agree on the decreasing trend in enzyme activity.

Solution C) Scientist A and Scientist B disagree on the relationship between temperature and enzyme activity.

Explanation Scientist A argues that enzyme activity is positively correlated with temperature, while Scientist B argues that enzyme activity is negatively correlated with temperature. They have conflicting viewpoints regarding the relationship between temperature and enzyme activity, making option C the most appropriate choice.

Resources at Your Disposal

Some resources that students can take advantage of are

Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers a comprehensive collection of free online lessons and practice materials for ACT Science. Their interactive lessons cover various science topics, and they provide practice questions to reinforce your understanding.

ACT Online Prep

The official ACT Online Prep program includes interactive tools and practice tests specifically designed for ACT preparation. It offers a variety of resources, including practice questions, instructional videos, and personalized study plans.

Magoosh ACT Science Flashcards

Magoosh offers a set of digital flashcards specifically focused on ACT Science. These flashcards cover key concepts, vocabulary, and data interpretation skills necessary for success in the ACT Science section.

Pocket Prep ACT Science

This mobile app provides a range of practice questions and detailed explanations for the ACT Science section. It allows you to track your progress and identify areas that require further improvement.

Prepfactory ACT Science

Prepfactory offers an interactive platform with video lessons, quizzes, and practice questions for ACT Science. It provides a personalized learning experience and tracks your performance to help you focus on weak areas.


Quizlet is a popular online learning platform that allows users to create and access flashcards, quizzes, and study sets. Many users have created ACT Science study materials on Quizlet, providing an interactive and collaborative learning environment.

PrepScholar ACT Science Prep

PrepScholar offers a comprehensive online course for ACT Science preparation. Their program includes interactive lessons, quizzes, and practice tests, along with detailed explanations and score tracking.

Mastering the ACT Science section is a journey that requires dedication, practice, and a strategic approach. By familiarizing yourself with the section’s structure, honing essential skills, employing effective test-taking strategies, and engaging in targeted practice, you can increase your chances of scoring XYZ in the ACT Science section. Remember, success in this section is not solely based on scientific knowledge but also on your ability to analyze and interpret data, reason logically, and think critically. With consistent effort and a growth mindset, you can confidently approach the ACT Science section, achieve your target score, and unlock exciting opportunities for your academic journey. So, embrace the challenge, implement the strategies outlined in this blog, and let your potential shine in the ACT Science section!

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