Many students find the ACT Science section to be the most difficult section on the exam. In fact, it is common for the this score to be the lowest on the test, especially if a student takes the test without prepping first.* And this is true even when a student has done well in their biology or chemistry classes at school. So what gives? Why is the section so hard?
*For specific test prep book recommendations for the ACT Science section, click here.
What makes this section so difficult for students is the timing. The first time a student takes this section, almost inevitably, the student will run out of time. Remember, in this section, accuracy is important, so even if you run out of time, you can help your score by being accurate on the ones you do.
Students tend to spend too much time pre-reading the text and tables. If the section was not timed, it would make sense to read over the material before answering the questions. But, unfortunately, doing so can mean the difference between finishing and running out of time.
When you go to the questions, circle the key terms. Always note which table graph, or study (i.e. Table 1 or Figure 2 or Study 1) and the major variables (i.e. altitude, density, temperature), and any amounts of these variables. That way, when you go back to those figures or tables to look for the answer, you will know what to do and not need to waste valuable time re-reading the question.
Before you read the answer choices, make sure that you have used your key terms to locate the answer in the tables or graphs. Then, see if your answer matches one of the answer choices. If the answer is difficult to locate, then use the answer choices to help you eliminate wrong answer choices.
If you cannot find your exact answer using key terms in the graphs and tables, then try reading the text. But don't take too long. If you feel "stuck", just make a guess based on "best fit" or common sense and move on. Spending too much time on a single problem can throw off your timing.
Because timing in the ACT Science section can be tough in this section, after you get comfortable with the first four steps, take lots of TIMED practice sections. To do well, you must find a pace that allows you to be accurate and finish as many questions as possible.
Another great tool for the Science section is my list of ACT Science vocabulary. The list will help you feel more comfortable with the terminology on the ACT test, so you will not feel so intimidated by the exam. Don't forget to read my book recommendations for ACT Science and general ACT test preparation.
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