It’s the final boss of the ACT. The last hurdle before you finally get to leave nearly four hours after the test began. It’s the stuff of nightmares. The dreaded Science section.
Stop panicking. You don’t have to know a thing about science to tackle this thing. Here are some quick tips to get you through:
1. Skip the jargon
If you encounter a word like “Hepaticochjolangiocholecystentjrostomies,” sounding it out will not help. This isn’t Phonics. Literally just skip over complicated words if they’re tripping you up and preventing you from understanding a sentence. Remember that the Science section isn’t testing your vocabulary. It’s testing your comprehension.
2. Zero in on important information
“ACT” might as well be replaced with “TMI.” Much like your relatives, it thrives on giving you more information than you need. Don’t be fooled. If the question is asking about Column B, leave Column A alone.
3. Read the questions first
Usually. Your new enemy is time. There isn’t even close to enough of it to actually read all of the crap they’re throwing at you. 9 times out of 10, start with the questions. Figure out what information they want you to find and then go back to the graphs, tables, and passages to find it.
4. If there are no graphs, read the passage first
When a section gives you straight text, no tables or figures, I would advise you to go through it before hitting the questions. Forewarning: this will be the most boring series of words you may ever encounter. You will not retain any information if you don’t actively sort it out in your head. As you skim, ask yourself what’s being tested and why. Underline key information that you know you’ll need later. Just don’t get too caught up reading. This is still a race against the clock.
5. Learn how to read graphs
This is kind of the whole point of the section. First things first, you need to understand variables. I’m sure you already know this, but it doesn’t hurt to go over them. The independent variable is the one you change. The dependent variable is the one you measure, based on the changes you’ve made to the independent variable. Almost always, the x-axis contains the independent variable, while the y-axis takes care of the dependent variable. Notice that I said “almost.” Make sure you’re really reading the graph, just in case they throw one at you that switches things up.
6. In the conflicting viewpoints sections, take notes
Nothing elaborate. Grammar stopped being important several sections ago, so don’t waste time on perfect syntax. Just jot things down in the margins as you go. They’re going to try to bog you down with complex language, so just extract the key components of each viewpoint so that you can compare them quickly and easily later on.
7. Use the process of elimination
This is something you’ve been doing since your very first multiple-choice test. They’ve given you the correct answer. It’s right in front of you. The trick is that they’ve hidden it among a handful of wrong answers, like a box of assorted chocolates in which everything is coconut except for one coveted caramel-filled treasure. Nix the ones that aren’t viable right away.
8. Don’t spend all of your time on one question
In case it isn’t clear yet, let me reiterate: the Science section is a timed test. If you get really tripped up on one question (or even a whole section of questions), don’t be afraid to skip it and come back later, if you have time. It’s better to answer all of the questions, rather than getting like five questions absolutely correct.
The Science section is unlike anything you’ve encountered so far on the ACT and that is a good thing. You don’t have to know any scientific facts to rock it because they give you everything you’ll need to know. They’re not testing your memory. They’re testing your ability to find relevant information efficiently.
Remember that this isn’t the “end all, be all” guide to the Science section. Take these tips and put them into action with lots and lots of practice tests. Figure out what works for you and you’ll be ready to rock the real deal before you know it.