ACT Tutoring: Anatomy of the Science Reasoning Section

Posted by Sujata Singhal on 6/25/13 8:30 AM

To improve anything, whether that thing is a test or an academic subject, the first necessary step is to understand the structure of that thing.  By understanding the framework in which a subject is organized we help our mind take in information.  In particular, for test taking, the better we can take in information the more efficient and accurate we can become as we go through our test preparation.

In the case of the ACT, I’ll survey the Science Reasoning section on the ACT and share my tips as a long time ACT tutor.

For starters, you should know the structure of the ACT:

  • You have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions. 
  • Those questions are spread out among 7 passages. 
  • Each passage, sometimes with exception of 1 or 2, will have a combination of short paragraphs of information interspersed with figures in the form of tables, charts and graphs. 
  • That information will be split up into a series of studies that are all about the same subject matter, or the paragraphs may represent the views of two different students, researchers or scientists on the same topic. 

On the Science Reasoning section, the test-taker does not need to have a strong knowledge base in science  to do well on the exam.  It’s not a test of memory.  Rather, it is more important that the test-taker be adept at efficiently and accurately reading the different figures.  I would say that approximately 80%* of the questions can be answered without reading the content.  That number could be slightly more or less depending on the particular administration of the ACT. 

Recently, I did a quick brainstorm with one of my ACT students to write down what we felt were some important but basic strategies to follow when preparing for the ACT.

Take a look at these crucial ACT test taking tips and study skills. Start to integrate them into your standardized test preparation as soon as possible.
Science Strategies:

  1. If a question refers to a figure, table, graph, etc., immediately identify that picture and stick your finger on it.
  2. Underline salient variables and numbers and mark them – relationships and information will more likely reveal themselves to you – the key is to not just sit and stare at question and the accompanying answer choices hoping the right answer will reveal itself to you.
  3. If the question is referring to more than one chart, table, graph, figure, use one hand to identify one picture and the other hand to identify the other and then be very meticulous in separating out what information is being asked for.
  4. Ask yourself, what do the variables being presented have in common? What do they not have in common?
  5. Can you take seemingly complex information and boil it all down to a simpler term?
  6. On Yes – No questions first figure out whether the answer is yes or no, and then for the two remaining answers pick the right explanation to support that decision.

*That 80% is not the result of big data, but an intuitive guess.

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Tags: ACT