One of the big differences between the ACT and the SAT is the science section presented in the former. Nervous? Don’t worry! Get ahead of the game with these ACT science practice tips from Merrick, NY tutor Justin L...
When I first started working with students who were preparing for the ACT, I was a little squeamish when tackling the science section. Not because of the content, but because the presentation of the material seemed almost foreign to me. As a math person, I was used to the quick hits of the math sections of the SAT and ACT. I had to learn how to approach the questions and lengthy readings so I wouldn’t be stuck reading the same passage over and over. Here are five ACT science practice tips I picked up that students should keep in mind.
1. Read The Passage First
I remember when I tackled my first ACT practice test, I thought I could be slick and read the questions first and just find the answer in the graph or passage. This is a great tip that I picked up from practicing the English/Verbal sections. On the English/Verbal sections it’s a great idea, but not so much on the science. I guarantee that you will end up reading the same thing multiple times and still end up with incorrect answers. It’s better to read everything first. Analyze your graphs and charts, and read the passage in its entirety. The questions will be quicker and easier if you have a solid understanding of what the passage is really about.
2. Get a Highlighter
This may sound trivial, but there is key information hidden right in front of your eyes. Have your highlighter handy to make a visual cue for you to go back to when you are focusing on the questions. Rereading a paragraph twice is a waste of time and will end up costing you points.
3. Read the Italics
Again, there’s key information hidden right in front of you! Take your highlighter and make sure to go over the blurbs at the very beginning of the passage. Sometimes it’s in italics (this is a dead giveaway), sometimes it’s a definition of a new word, or sometimes it’s hidden just before a graph or chart. When you look at it briefly, it just looks like some flavor text, but more often than not you will need it to answer one of the more difficult multiple choice questions of the passage.
4. Identify the Trend
Whenever you have to work on data presented as a table, look for a trend. The questions will ask you to figure out whether or not the numbers tend to go up or go down. This may seem simple, but it’s not going to be obvious when you are looking at it in practice. If you can’t identify the trend, sketch a quick line graph. It doesn’t have to be too precise, just eyeball it. See if the lines tend to go up or down, and make a note whenever the lines cross. For example, if the question is asking about the time it takes to boil two chemicals at different altitudes, pay attention to when boiling time increases with altitude, when boiling time goes down and altitude goes up, and when boiling times are the same.
5. 5 Ws
The more difficult passages tend to be the wordier ones and conflicting viewpoint passages with writings from two scientists. When reading, make sure to highlight what the scientist believes in, what they use to support that, what experiments they did, and what the results were. Also make note of what the scientists agree on and what they disagree on.
For some practice, I usually recommend the articles on ScienceDaily. Pick one article a day and go through it with your highlighter. Again, make a note of what the scientist believes in, why they believe that, what experiments they conducted, and what the results were. This is great practice for those like me who struggled with the wordier passages. There are articles on a lot of different topics, so make sure that you select some that interest you and some others that don’t. Your ACT test isn’t going to be filled with much entertainment so it’s best to be prepared for it.
Justin L. teaches ACT math, PSAT, SAT, and test prep in Merrick, NY. He received his Bachelor of Science in Math and Masters of Arts in Math Education at Adelphi University. Justin has more than six years of experience working with students privately, in classrooms, as well as store-front tutoring companies. Learn more about Justin here!
Photo by TMAB2003