The ACT Science test evaluates your knowledge and skills in introductory and natural sciences. Unlike the SAT, which does not feature a science test, the ACT will test you on scientific procedures, concepts and interpretation of data. Before you start studying for the ACT science section, be sure to book your and create an ACT study schedule. In this blog, we’ll look at what’s on the ACT Science test, study strategies to help you ace it and practice questions you can use to apply yourself before the test!
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The ACT Science test evaluates you knowledge and critical thinking in the natural sciences. You’ll be given a number of passages describing scientific scenarios or experiments, followed by multiple-choice questions. The ACT science section covers content in biology, chemistry and physics, as well as Earth sciences such as meteorology, geology and astronomy.
All of the knowledge you need to ace this part of the ACT will be found in the foundational concepts, scientific practices and skills in introductory science courses. You don’t need to have advanced knowledge of any one scientific discipline to complete the test and get a good ACT score.
? How many questions are in the ACT science test? The science section contains a total of 40 questions, and you will have 35 minutes to answer them all. The ACT science test is split into 7 text passages, each followed by 5-7 questions related to the text.
Note that you are not permitted to use a calculator on this section of the ACT.
ACT Science Test Breakdown
The content of the ACT science test is broken down into 3 main categories, and each of these categories are given their own score, on top of the entire science section score. So, when you receive your ACT score results, you’ll see 4 separate scores for the ACT science test.
The 3 categories for the ACT science section are:
- Interpretation of scientific data – 40-50% of total questions
- Scientific investigation – 20-30% of total questions
- Evaluation of models, inferences and experimental results – 25-35% of total questions
Let’s explore these categories in more detail.
SAT vs ACT
If you’re not sure whether you want to take the , or you’re wondering if instead of the ACT, the two tests are quite similar. However, the SAT does not have a science section like the ACT, and instead features a longer section. For students who are more confident in their knowledge of science, the ACT might be clear winner between the two. It’s a good idea to review the content of both tests, including the , and ACT Math sections before you make a final decision.
To learn , you need to start with getting a solid grasp on the structure and content of the test. From there, it’s all about practicing your skills and applying your knowledge to practice questions. Below, we’ve included some tips on how to study for the ACT science section, and then we’ll dive into some practice questions to get you started!
1. Review the ACT Science Content
First things first, get to know the content and structure of the ACT science test, which we outlined above. In particular, review your course notes from your introductory science classes, including scientific experiential procedures, foundational concepts in biology, chemistry and physics, and data and statistics.
The majority of your ACT studying should involve content review and practice. Take regular practice tests to measure whether you’re improving, which questions are most difficult for you and which are easiest, and whether you are understanding the material covered on the test.
2. Improve Your Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is critical skill for the ACT science test. Many of the questions will have text passages accompanying them; either descriptions of experiments or explanations of scientific procedures and phenomena. You’ll need to read through these passages carefully, since the answers to some questions may be found right there in the text. Clues to the correct answer might be reasoned from within the text, so it’s important to understand what you’re reading.
You can improve your reading comprehension of complex scientific texts by reading scientific articles, journals and discussions of scientific experiments. The more you practice reading the language and the scientific terms used, the better you’ll be able to connect foundational scientific concepts with passages in-context.
3. Know How to Interpret Data
Since a majority of the ACT science questions present you with complex data represented in charts and graphics, it’s important to get comfortable reading and interpreting these visuals in a fast and effective way.
An easy way to practice reading and interpreting different visual representations of scientific data is to read scientific texts. Scientific articles and journals often include visual data to represent what is being discussed in the text. Try reading about various experiments and connect what you’re reading to the data represented on the chart or graph. Make note of the clear trends or patterns that emerge and what conclusions can be drawn from it. Does that article make the same conclusions? How are the authors using the data in the context of the experiment?
It may take some time, but the simplest way to get comfortable with reading data is exposure. So break out your science textbooks, scientific journals or practice ACT questions!
4. Work on Your ACT Timing
Lastly, the ACT gives you a very small amount of time in which to answer 40 questions. Fortunately the questions are grouped together so you won’t need to read a new passage or interpret a new graph for every single question, but you’ll still be pressed for time.
Take timed and untimed practice tests to gauge how quickly you are answering questions and whether you are answering them correctly. With practice and familiarity with the test, you’ll become faster at analyzing a passage or graph, reading the questions and reasoning out the answer.
If you’re struggling with time management, use the process of elimination for multiple-choice questions by striking out one or two wrong answers. You can also try tackling easier questions first before returning to more difficult ones. And remember, there is no penalty for guessing on the ACT, so don’t leave any questions blank, even if you’re not 100% sure of the answer.
1. Interpretation of Scientific Data Sample Questions
Sample Passage: A Study on Enzyme Activity
In a complex biochemical study, researchers explored the activity of an enzyme, amylase, in response to different pH levels and substrate concentrations. Amylase is an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of starch into simpler sugars. The experiment was conducted at multiple pH levels and substrate concentrations, and the researchers measured the rate of amylase activity using an indicator.
2. Scientific Investigation Sample Questions
Sample Passage: In a biology experiment, researchers investigated the effects of varying light intensity on the growth of a particular species of plants. Plants rely on light for photosynthesis, and the amount of light they receive can have a significant impact on their growth.
The experiment used two variables: light intensity and plant growth rate. Light intensity was manipulated using different light sources at three levels: Low (100 lux), Medium (1,000 lux), and High (10,000 lux). The researchers measured plant growth by recording the increase in height of the plants over a period of one week. The results are as follows:
- In the Low light condition (100 lux), the average plant growth was 2 cm.
- In the Medium light condition (1,000 lux), the average plant growth was 10 cm.
- In the High light condition (10,000 lux), the average plant growth was 30 cm.
3. Research Summaries Sample Questions
Experiment 1: The Impact of Soil pH on Plant Growth
In Experiment 1, researchers delved into the relationship between soil pH levels and plant growth using a diverse range of plant species. The experiment involved altering the pH of soil in several plots within a greenhouse. The soil pH in each plot was adjusted to one of three levels: Acidic (pH 5), Neutral (pH 7), and Alkaline (pH 9). The researchers carefully controlled for other factors such as light, temperature, and moisture content. The experiment spanned over two months, with regular measurements taken.
The results revealed a complex pattern. Some plant species thrived in acidic conditions, while others preferred neutral or alkaline soil. Furthermore, certain plants exhibited optimal growth at a pH level different from the surrounding soil. The researchers noted the intricate interactions between plant species and soil pH, suggesting that the relationship is species-specific.
Experiment 2: The Influence of Soil Microorganisms on Nutrient Uptake
In Experiment 2, a different group of researchers focused on the role of soil microorganisms in nutrient uptake by plants. They performed a controlled greenhouse experiment using a single plant species, tomato plants. The researchers manipulated the presence of soil microorganisms in two groups: one with a rich population of beneficial microorganisms and the other with a sterile soil environment. All other environmental factors, including soil pH (maintained at pH 7), remained constant.
The researchers measured the nutrient uptake efficiency by analyzing the nutrient content in the tomato plants over several weeks. The results showed that the plants in the presence of beneficial microorganisms exhibited significantly higher nutrient uptake compared to those in sterile soil. This finding suggests that microorganisms play a vital role in enhancing nutrient absorption by plants.
4. Conflicting Viewpoints Sample Questions
Sample Passage: Researchers have been studying the phenomenon of "Global Warming" for several decades. While there is a consensus among scientists that the Earth's average temperature has been steadily increasing, there is still debate about the primary causes and potential consequences of this warming. Two scientists discuss the potential causes of global warming.
Scientist A: It is well-known within the scientific community that the primary cause of global warming is the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). This is largely in part due to human activities, such as agricultural practices and deforestation. The emphasis on personal transportation in the last century has led to a significant increase in the burning of fossil fuels. Pollution that was once reserved for power plants can now be found on every major road. All of these factors have led and continue to lead to a significant rise in CO2 levels. These unprecedented levels of CO2 are responsible for global warming, resulting in rising sea levels, extreme weather events, increased temperatures, and disruptions to ecosystems.
Scientist B: While it may be easy to blame human activities for global warming, natural processes are the dominant contributors to global warming. Various biological processes, solar variability, volcanic eruptions, and oceanic circulation patterns play a more substantial role in temperature changes than do human activities. It seems far easier to blame an unnatural process instead of recognizing the impact of something that has occurred since Earth was created. While human activities like deforestation may have some influence, the Earth's climate is inherently variable, and attributing global warming solely to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions oversimplifies a complex phenomenon.
1. What is on the ACT Science test?
The ACT Science test evaluates your knowledge and skill in the natural sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and Earth sciences.
2. How hard is the ACT Science?
The ACT science test can be tricky if sciences aren’t your strongest subjects or your reading comprehension is not strong, however it is possible to get a good score. The ACT science doesn’t test you on any advanced knowledge of scientific subjects, and although you’re not allowed to use a calculator, you won’t need to perform any complex mathematical calculations.
3. How many questions are on the ACT science test?
There are 40 questions on the ACT science test, broken down into 3 categories: interpretation of data, scientific investigation and evaluation of experimental results.
4. How long is the ACT science test?
You’re given 35 minutes total for the ACT science test.
5. How do I study for ACT science?
To study for the ACT science, you should do a content review of the topics covered on the test, take plenty of practice tests and work on your reading comprehension and timing.
6. What is the highest score on ACT science?
The ACT has a score range of 1-36, with 36 being the highest score. You’ll receive a composite score for your ACT science section (1-36), as well as category scores. Ideally, a score above 25 on ACT science is considered competitive.
7. Should I take the SAT or ACT?
Every student may have a preference for which test they want to take, and some students choose to take both. Check the preference of the colleges you are applying to, and remember that there are schools that do not require either test, so you can avoid taking the SAT and ACT altogether! If you decide to take one or the other, review the content and structure of both tests to see which one you are most likely to score high on.
8. How many times can you take the ACT?
The ACT allows you to take the test a total of 12 times in your lifetime, although it’s recommended not to take the test more than 2 or 3 times to get the scores you want.