Everything About ACT Science Section

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ACT Science Section

ACT is an entrance exam used by colleges and universities to measure the student’s readiness for higher education and compare different types of applicants on a common data point. The test is administered in a multiple-choice format by ACT inc. However, ACT score is reviewed alongside your high school GPA, LOR’s extracurricular activities, interviews etc. The ACT contains sections- English, Math, Reading, and Science and Essay (Optional). If you are preparing for the ACT, then read this blog further to understand the science section of the ACT exam.


The ACT or American College Testing is a standardized test for students taking admission into US and Canadian universities. However, ACT scores are readily accepted across the globe to apply for any bachelor’s course. The scores stay valid for up to 5 years and consist of English, Mathematics, Reading and Science.  The science section is 35 minutes long and contains 40 questions split across 6-7 passages.

Also Read: All About ACT Exam in India

Format of the Science Section

It comes as a surprise to most students that the science section in this exam is a lot more similar to the reading section of the exam than the maths section. The ACT science section consists of 40 questions with a time limit of 35 minutes. Students have to answer a series of questions after reading the science passage given. In the ACT science section, you will be given seven science-related passages and you will be asked to answer seven questions after every passage. The passages contain graphs, charts, experiment summaries or even conflicting viewpoints of different scientists. Tabulated below are a few details of the ACT science format.

Passage Format Details
Graphs, Charts, etc. understand, evaluate, and interpret information
presented in graphs, tables, or charts
Passages understand, evaluate, and analyze
one or more experiments
Hypotheses understand and evaluate conflicting viewpoints,
theories, or hypotheses on a specific topic

Types of Questions

  1. Data Representation– 30-40% questions in this section are data representation type questions i.e approximately 15 questions. These types of questions require the students to evaluate, understand and interpret information presented in graphs, tables or charts. 
  2. Research Summaries45-55% questions in this section are research summary type questions i.e approximately 18 questions. These type of question requires the students to understand, evaluate, and analyze one or more experiments. 
  3. Conflicting Viewpoints– 15-20% questions in this section are conflicting viewpoints type questions i.e approximately 7 questions. These types of questions require the students to understand and evaluate conflicting viewpoints, theories, or hypotheses on a specific topic.

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The science section of the ACT exam measures your scientific skills a lot more than your scientific knowledge. You need to be clear of the concepts to figure out the questions on your feet. The following table consists of the syllabus based on older ACT Science Papers. However, there might be a few new questions or critical thinking questions as well. The ACT Science section has 4 major topics that are biology, chemistry, physics, and maths. Here is the overview of the major topics covered.

Physics Gravity
Density Formula
Density Rules
Kinetic vs Potential Energy
Biology Cell Biology
DNA, RNA, and Ribosomes
Natural Selection
Greenhouse Gases
Photosynthesis and Respiration
Taxonomic Rank
Chemistry Basic Molecule Structure
Freezing/Boiling Point of Water in Celsius
pH Scale
Molar Mass Concepts
How Charges Interact
Phase Changes
Maths Basic Maths

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Skills Required to Crack the ACT Science Section

  • Interpretation skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Reasoning skills
  • Analysis skills

All these skills are a must for cracking the ACT science section as the test is not about how much you know about science but how much you can actually implement in real life. As already mentioned above, the ACT science section comprises seven passages and you have to answer carefully after reading the whole passage. You will be given practical problems which you would have to solve on the spot. So, you just need scientific reasoning and analytical skills to do really well in this section.

The ACT committee advises the students to take at least three years of science in high school including one year for biology to develop the necessary scientific skills for cracking this section.

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Tips to Score Well in the ACT Science Section

  1. Practice your timing The science section provides a time limit of just 35 minutes and seven passages which means you have exactly 5 minutes for each passage. In order to master your timing on your test day, you need to practice your timing on the mock tests and try to perfect it in such a way that  you can at least complete 5 passages within the given time slot with a reasonable accuracy.
  2. Mark the Passage While reading the passage, make sure to mark up whatever you feel important and make short notes. All this will help you in increasing your efficiency and manage your time in a better way. You can mark whatever feels important and of relevance to you such as data provided or scientific facts.
  3. Don’t get into scientific details – ACT science section is full of scientific details but be confident that you do not have to comprehend the meaning of science passage as whole but you just have to answer the question on the basis of information that is given just like any other Reading Comprehension passage. Focus only on two points in a passage- Main point and what is the figure or Chart showing.
  4. Understand the types of questions– This is the most predictable section on the ACT exam and you need to leverage it in your favour. It starts by understanding the types of questions i.e data representation, research summaries and conflicting viewpoints. 
  5. Prepare a strategy beforehand– Before even starting with this section, prepare a strategy for this section. It means that you should have an overall time limit for each passage and you must know what important things you might be looking for in this passage such as what did this scientist say and why or what did this experiment conclude.

Also Read: ACT Exam: American College Testing


To ace the ACT science section, here are a few strategies that students can use along with a few mistakes to avoid while answering the test.

  • Keep a Cool Head: Many students often panic which leads to mistakes in their answers. Make sure you understand each topic well and practice them. This will help you be confident and reduce stress.
  • Answer every Question: It is important that students attempt each question and don’t leave anything blank. The ACT scoring doesn’t deduct any points or give negative markings. This means even if the answer is wrong, it is eliminated and not considered while scoring.
  • Answer critical thinking/conflicting viewpoints questions for the end. This will give you enough time to ponder on it and answer such questions. Take enough time to read the critical viewpoint passage as it contains a lot of text as compared to other questions.
  • Expect some difficult graphs for the ACT Science section. These graphics have different axes and are designed and detailed in a difficult manner.
  • Pay attention to details, references, trends and directions. Students miss out on minute details like referring to the correct graph which makes them lose points. Also, it is important that you pay attention to each difference in direction (“increase” and increase only”). “Increase only” makes the direction very specific as compared to “increase”.

We hope that we were able to help guide you through the ACT science section. Worried about making an appropriate career choice for yourself. Get in touch with Leverage Edu experts to complete guidance in selecting an appropriate course and getting admission to your dream university. Sign up for a free session with us now!

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