Science. No other section of the ACT instills such fear in students. It’s tough for two reasons: first, it demands speed. At 35 minutes, it’s the fastest of the four sections, and with 40 questions, it’s not short on content. Second, these questions are full of jargon. You’ll see words like alleles, fission and fusion, calcite, nitrate, and evaporates, as well as chemical formulas and equations. Together, the challenging vocabulary and limited time frame makes the Science section a bit of a beast.
We’re here to reassure you that if the Science section is a beast, it’s the one from Beauty and the Beast: once you understand it, it’s not nearly as fearsome as it looks. Let’s take the two issues discussed above, beginning with timing.
Even the fastest readers will struggle to read each question and answer choice fully in the given timeframe. It’s not a bad idea to take a timed practice test while reading at your normal pace just to see how far you get, but to make the most progress, you’ll need to be more efficient. Start by reading the questions first, since they will tell you what you need to look for in the introductory material. Then practice skimming the text for the keywords in the questions or focusing on the given charts and graphs. Doing this well takes practice, but you’ll be surprised how much you can glean from the figures alone. Always remember to time your practice tests to get used to that 35-minute time frame.
Second, vocabulary: while the ACT does use the language of science, any relevant term will be defined either explicitly or through context clues. So the real trick is recognizing the vocabulary you don’t need to know — often, those pesky terms are peppered throughout just to make reading more challenging. Don’t fall into the trap! If you are in the habit of reading the questions first, you will always know what you need to pay attention to or what’s a red herring.
Peeling back the layers of the beastly Science section shows that it can be mastered by reading smarter, not harder. Practice is key to using this method successfully. With practice, you can more easily spot the terms you need to know, and you can more accurately read the figures to help you get the main idea of the text. If you’d like one-on-one assistance as you go through this training process, Signet tutors are always here to lend a helping hand.
If you’d like one-on-one assistance as you go through this training process, Signet tutors are always here to lend a helping hand.