ACT Science Tips

Learn the best ACT Science tips to increase your ACT score!

3 Steps to Ace the ACT Science Test

In this post, we’re going to talk about the best strategy for the ACT science test. There’s also a transcript below this video if you want to read it at your own pace.

The ACT science test is the last section of the ACT, and the reason why many students think science is the most difficult section of the ACT is because it is by far the most rushed test out of them all. It’s super important that you come into this test with a game plan for managing time, or else you’ll simply run out of it.

So, without further ado, here is the best 3 step strategy for the ACT science test.

Step #1: Do the conflicting viewpoints passage last.

The seven science passages will show up in a random order, but whenever you get to the conflicting viewpoints passage, whether it’s first, second, third, fourth, or whatever, skip it to do last. There are three reasons for doing this:

  1. First, the conflicting viewpoints passage is generally considered to be the most difficult science passage, so you don’t want to accidentally spend too much time on it before you get to the other easier passages.
  2. Second, the conflicting viewpoints is completely different in style than the other six passages, so it’s better to get into the proper mindset for it last, instead of interrupting your flow for the other six passages.
  3. And third, if you’re able to finish the other six passages a little early, you’ll be able to spend some extra time on this passage and do better on it.

Step #2: For the Data Representation and Research Summary passages, read just enough to find out one piece of information before reading the questions.


For the Data Representation passages, find the answer to this question:

What is the basic topic of the tables/charts?

And for the Research Summary passages, find the answer to this question:

What is the basic topic and purpose of the experiment?

The reason we want to find the answers to these simple questions first is because they’ll give us something basic to work with as we approach each question. Reading the questions first blindly can result in just utter confusion and frustration. It’s better to have at least something to help orient us when we read the questions.

But, we don’t want to read any more than this, because for these passages, it’s the questions that’ll tell us what parts of the passages to look at and read. These six passages are fact-based questions, which means we simply need to find the specific answers we’re looking for, instead of reading and understanding every part of the charts and experiments.

Step #3: Spend about 4 minutes on each Data Representation passage, about 5 minutes on each Research Summary passage, and about 6 minutes on the Conflicting Viewpoints passage.

These time limits actually add up to only 33 minutes, and you have 35 minutes on the science test. But, if possible, it’s always good to budget some extra time at the end to check over questions you had to guess on or were unsure about.

The key for the ACT science test is to make sure you manage your time so that you can work on all seven passages. You don’t want to miss any of the easy questions in any of the passages simply because you ran out of time.

Therefore, make sure you stick very close to the time limits above, even if this means you have to make your best guess on a few questions to move on. But, if you do this, circle the numbers of these questions so you can come back to them if you have some extra time at the end. And remember, with the time limits above, you have about 2 minutes of buffer time, so you can spend a little longer on a passage if you really need to. But, don’t use this as an excuse for not finishing on time.

Final Thoughts

So, now you know the basic strategy for approaching the science test. Like with the reading test, the key is to manage your time so you have time to work on all seven passages. You don’t want to run out of time before you get to any passage because there are easy questions in each passage that you simply don’t want to miss. Now that you know this strategy, it’s time to go practice with as many ACT science tests as you can, until doing them becomes second nature. With this strategy and constant practice, you’ll be able to manage time effectively and maximize your score on this test.

By |March 15th, 2014|ACT Science Tips|0 Comments

ACT Science Tips: Strategies for the ACT Science Test

ACT science tips and strategies

Here we will discuss ACT Science tips and strategies that will help you maximize your score and performance on the ACT Science test. Remember, because the ACT is a timed test, strategy is just as important as your knowledge of the content!

It is possible to increase your ACT score by several points simply by taking the ACT in a different way.

General ACT Science Tips and Strategies

Here are three ACT Science tips and strategies that will help you on the ACT Reading test:

  1. Do not be intimidated because the test “looks hard.” The ACT Science test is designed to look unfamiliar to students. The answers to all of the questions can be found directly from the test.
  2. Learn the differences between the three different types of passages and the kinds of key information to look for in each passage.
  3. Do not let fatigue hurt your performance. This is the last test of the ACT. Finish strong!

ACT Science Tips and Strategies – Timing for the ACT Science Test

The ACT Science test is 35 minutes long, and there are seven passages. Although this comes out to be about 5 minutes per passage, you should spend less time on the Data Representation passages because they are only five questions each, and more time on the Conflicting Viewpoitns passage because it is seven questions.

You should spend no more than about 52 seconds per question, but again, it is preferable that you spend less time than this for each question if possible.

The ACT Science test is the most rushed test on the ACT, so make sure you keep track of time and get to all of the passages and questions. Most students do not finish all seven passages, so if you manage your time well to get to all seven passages, you will have a tremendous advantage over other students.

ACT Science Tips and Strategies – In what order should I do the questions?

There are two parts to the answer to this question: 1) the order of the passages, and 2) the order of the questions.

In What Order Should I Do the Passages?

Do the Conflicting Viewpoints passage last, for two reasons: 1) it is significantly different from the other ACT Science passages, so saving it for last will allow you to maintain focus and flow during the test. 2) most students consider this the most difficult passage, so you want to make sure you have time for all of the other passages. Also, you might have extra time at the end to spend on the Conflicting Viewpoints passage.

Skip any passage that looks particularly difficult and save it for later. Which passages you skip and do last will depend upon your gut feeling. You know yourself and what is difficult for you.

In What Order Should I Do the Questions

ACT Reading strategies and tips

For the Data Representation and Research Summary passages, read the questions first, and then find the answers in the passages. For the Conflicting Viewpoints passage, read the passage first and try to find out the main point of each side first; then, read the questions.

Skip around liberally within a passage (find and do the easiest ones first), but answer all of the questios for a passage before moving on to another passage.

ACT Science Tips and Strategies – Skipping/Marking Questions

Skipping Questions

Skip around within a particular passage, but answer every question for a particular passage before moving on to the next passage.

Marking Questions

Circle the numbers of the questions you are unsure about to come back to if you have time. You do not want to waste time staring at one question.

ACT Science Tips and Strategies – Bubbling

Bubble after each of the passages (5, 6, or 7 questions at a time). This will allow you to maintain focus during each passage and not disrupt your flow. This will also help you avoid bubbling mistakes.

When you hear the five minute warning, begin bubbling questions one at a time to make sure you are able to bubble every question.

ACT Science Tips and Strategies – Foundations to Work on before Taking the ACT Science Test: Reading and Practice Tests


A great way to prepare for the ACT Science test is to read a lot, especially college level non-fiction texts because there is a significant amount of reading on this test. Because time is so limited on the ACT Science test, it is vitally important that you are able to read quickly and with comprehension.

Your reading ability must be at a certain level for you to do well on the ACT Science test. Make sure you develop your reading speed and comprehension skills to the point where you can complete the ACT Science test in the time provided. This may mean reading way more than you are used to reading.

ACT Science Practice Tests

Because the ACT Science tests contains material that looks unfamiliar, taking as many ACT Science practice tests as possible will help you gain familiarity with what to expect from the test. You will get used to interpreting the charts and graphs, as well as analyzing experiments. The more you practice the kinds of passages that show up on the ACT Science test, the better you will do on the test.

By |December 14th, 2013|ACT Science Tips|0 Comments

ACT Science Test: Format and Content

Introduction to the ACT Science Test

The ACT Science test is the fourth and final test of the ACT. Because there are seven passages on material that looks extremely unfamiliar, it is the fastest paced, and for this reason, many students consider this to be the most difficult test on the ACT.

Another reason why this test might be considered difficult is because it is the final test, and students often feel tired by this time of the ACT test. It is important to not allow fatigue to hurt your performance on the ACT Science test—this is the final section of the ACT, so make sure you finish strong!

The ACT Science Test Format: Structure and Timing

The chart below is an overview of the Science test format. It includes information about how long the Science test is, how many questiosn are on it, how it is organized, and how long you have for each question:

Overview of the Science test format

Total Time Number of Questions Organization Time per Question
35 minutes 40 questions 7 passages total:
3 Data Representation passages
3 Research Summary passages
1 Conflicting Viewpoints passage

Passages do not appear in any particular order.

About 5 minutes per passage
52.5 seconds per question

The ACT Science passages will cover unfamiliar topics. The ACT chooses passages that students have never seen before to make the Science test fair for all students. There are even more passages on the ACT Science test than on the ACT Reading test, making it even more fast-paced. If you do not come to this test with a plan, you will almost certainly run out of time. Therefore, make sure you prepare for the ACT Science just as much as you prepare for any other ACT test section.

ACT Science

The ACT Science Test Content: The Different Passages and Types of Questions

The Passages of the ACT Science Test

Below you will find the information that the ACT provides about the ACT Science test. As with the ACT Reading test, do not try to study any particular topic in preparation for the Science test—rather, work on mastering the format and timing of the Science test. Also, the better your reading comprehension and speed, the better you will do on this test.

Data Representation
(38% –
3 passages,
5 questions per passage)
Research Summaries
(45% –
3 passages,
6 questions per passage)
Conflicting Viewpoints
(17% –
1 passage,
7 questions)
What to Expect
Graphic and tabular material similar to that found in science journals and texts

Skills required

  • Graph reading
  • Interpretation of scatterplots
  • Interpretation of information presented in tables, diagrams, and figures
  • What to Expect
    Descriptions of one or more related experiments

    Skills required

  • Understanding of the design of the experiments
  • Interpretation of experimental results
  • What to Expect
    Expressions of several hypotheses or views that, being based on differing premises or on incomplete data, are inconsistent with one another

    Skills required

  • Understanding, analyzing, and comparing of alternative viewpoints or hypotheses
  • The Types of Questions on the ACT Science Test

    There are two primary types of questions that will show up on the ACT Science test:

    1. Fact Questions – The Data Representation and Research Summary passages contain Fact Questions. The answers for these questions can be found directly in the passage.
    2. Theory Questions – The Conflicting Viewpoints passage contain Theory Questions. These questions require analysis of the positions being presented in the passage.

    Next Step

    Now it is time to work on preparing specifically for the ACT Science test. To learn the best strategies for overcoming the Science test, visit the ACT Science Tips: Strategies for the ACT Science Test page.

    By |November 26th, 2013|ACT Science Tips|0 Comments