ACT Reading: Practice with Natural Science

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  • 0:01 Natural Sciences
  • 1:26 Question 1
  • 3:18 Question 2
  • 5:19 Question 3
  • 6:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

You don't have to know anything about science to ace the natural sciences reading passages on the ACT - in this lesson, you'll walk through three practice questions with explanations to see how it's done.

Natural Sciences

If you're not very scientifically inclined, the natural sciences passages on the ACT might seem intimidating. These are the ones that really bring up memories of lab coats and test tubes. Natural sciences passages cover topics from biology, physics, chemistry, Earth science, astronomy, and other scientific disciplines.

That list of topics looks pretty rough for anyone who isn't a total science whiz. In fact, even if you are scientifically oriented, you're probably not an expert at all of these topics at once!

That's okay, though, because you don't need any outside information to answer ACT questions. Your score has nothing to do with how much science you know; it's all about how well you can answer all the questions by using the information in the passage itself. Here's how you do it:

First, read the question but not the answer choices. This is counterintuitive, but just try it. It'll pay off in the long run. Second, go back to the passage and find the answer. This will help you avoid any trap answers in the answer choices, and they WILL be there! Finally, pick the answer choice that matches your answer most closely.

Using the method, you can answer every question correctly even if you know nothing about the topic of the passage. Ready to try it for yourself?

Question 1

Humans might find it annoying to lose our first set of teeth and grow another, but some animals have it even worse. For a shark, the cycle of tooth replacement never ends: some species can grow and shed up to 35,000 teeth over their lifetime.

The author mentions sharks as examples of…

(A) Animals with more annoying tooth-loss patterns than humans have.

(B) Animals with an unusually small number of teeth.

(C) Animals that do not shed their teeth.

(D) Animals with weak teeth.

Before looking at the answer choices, let's find an answer in the passage. Why does the author mention sharks?

Well, the passage starts off talking about how annoying it is to lose your baby teeth. Then the author says that it's even worse for some animals. From the passage, we can infer that the sharks are supposed to be some of those animals: if losing 32 teeth is annoying, then losing 35,000 teeth would be awful!

In other words, sharks are some of those animals who have it worse than humans do. Now let's look at the answer choices to see how they match up.

Well, we can cross off (B) right away; in no universe does 35,000 teeth qualify as an unusually small number! The passage explicitly says that sharks shed their teeth, so (C) is out. The sharks may be shedding their teeth because the teeth are weak, but the passage doesn't say that, so (D) isn't right either. That leaves (A), which matches pretty well with our original answer.

Notice how you could correctly answer that question with no outside knowledge of shark teeth? It's all in the strategy. Now let's try another.

Question 2

These are the next few lines from that same passage:

Since sharks have been dropping their pearly whites onto the bottom of the ocean for over 420 million years, the fossilized teeth are ubiquitous in geological formations that were once underwater. The largest finds to date have been teeth from C. megalodon, a prehistoric shark found in the fossil record between 28 and 1.5 million years ago.

An archaeologist is looking at rock samples deposited at the bottom of a lake during the Mesozoic Era, between 251 and 65 million years ago. Should the archaeologist expect to find C. megalodon teeth in these samples? What about teeth from other sharks?

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