ACT Science Reasoning: More Reasoning than Science

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  • 0:02 Science Vs Reasoning
  • 1:17 Science Reasoning Example
  • 2:26 Magic Reasoning
  • 4:24 Back to Science
  • 6:16 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.

Believe it or not, you don't have to know a lot of science to do well on the ACT Science Reasoning test. Learn why not - and what you do need to know instead.

Science vs. Reasoning

You'd think that a Science Reasoning test would test you on how much science you know. It's right there in the name! You'd never expect to pick up a test labeled 'Science Reasoning' and get questions on the Constitution, or Shakespeare, or latte art.

Well, don't rush out and start practicing your barista skills in the name of test prep, and you can hold off on the Hamlet. It's not quite that bad. But it is true that on the Science Reasoning test you won't need to know a whole lot of science. This leaves the question open: if a Science Reasoning test doesn't test science, what on earth does it test?

The answer is reasoning. The ACT Science Reasoning section is a test of how well you can understand and interpret information on scientific topics, not a test of how much science you know. It's not about memorizing a bunch of high-level science concepts, or even the really basic stuff like the laws of motion. It's about finding information and interpreting it: think 95% reasoning, 5% science.

To prove this, we'll walk through an ACT practice problem - but with a very special twist.

Science Reasoning Example

Here's a perfectly ordinary ACT Science question:

A scientist is studying the feed conversion efficiency of various animals. Feed conversion efficiency is how many pounds of food the animal needs to eat to gain one pound of body weight. This number depends on the species of animal, and may also depend on the age of the animal. The scientist tests four different animals, as shown in the table.

According to the table shown, which of the following animals will gain two pounds if provided with six pounds of food?

(A) A calf

(B) A mature cow

(C) A piglet

(D) A mature pig

Believe it or not, this question requires you to know absolutely nothing about feed efficiency, agricultural science, cows, or pigs. And just to illustrate that, let's take this same question, and make it absolutely impossible to solve with any kind of outside knowledge. We'll keep all the numbers exactly the same, but just change the situation of the problem so that instead of being about barnyard animals, it's a little more…enchanting.

Magic Reasoning

An alchemist is studying the blood transformation efficiency of various animals. Blood transformation efficiency measures how many ounces of blood from a given animal are required to create a flame equivalent to one candle. This number depends on the type of animal, and may also depend on whether or not the animal is magical. The alchemist tests four different animals, as shown in the table.

According to the table shown, 6 ounces of blood from which of the following animals will provide two candles' worth of energy?

(A) A horse

(B) A unicorn

(C) A snake

(D) A dragon

This is basically the same problem as the first one - even the units on the graph are the same. It's just set in a magical situation instead of an ordinary one, so it's very clear that no textbook in the world will help you solve it. If you ever did anything like this in school, you can stop watching this video because you don't have to worry about the ACT at Hogwarts.

But you still can solve this problem just like an ordinary ACT problem. We're looking for the species where six ounces of blood will give us two candles of energy, which means a conversion rate of three ounces per candle. On the chart, we can see that only the snake gives us three ounces per candle, so the answer must be (C).

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