Structure of the ACT Science Reasoning Section

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  • 0:03 Science Reasoning
  • 1:00 The Basics
  • 2:05 Science Questions
  • 4:12 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.

Wondering what you'll see on the ACT Science Reasoning Test? Get an overview of the Science section here, including what kind of passages and questions you'll see and how they're arranged on the test.

Science Reasoning

The ACT Science Reasoning Test is the section of the ACT that evaluates your ability to understand and apply scientific information. You'll tackle questions on science topics that include biology, physics, chemistry, and earth science.

Many students are intimidated by this part of the ACT because they struggled with some of the concepts in their science classes. But here's the secret: there's a reason why the full name of the section is 'Science Reasoning.' It isn't really about science. It's about interpreting information. Think reasoning, not recall.

A background in the basics of biology and physics helps, but the test isn't about memorizing the periodic table. So even if science as an academic subject isn't your forte, you can still do a great job on the ACT Science section with some solid test prep.

The Basics

Before diving into the questions, here's an overview of the test format. If you take the ACT without the optional writing section, the Science Test is the last one you'll see. If you take it with the writing, it's the last multiple-choice section before you move on to the writing section.

Like all the other sections on the ACT, the Science Reasoning Test is scored on a scale of 1-36, with 36 being a perfect score. In 2012, the national average was a 20.9, with a range of 18.7 to 23.3.

You'll earn points for answering questions correctly. If you answer incorrectly or if you skip a question, you get no points - you're not penalized for wrong answers. Every question counts toward your score just as much as every other question, regardless of question type or difficulty level.

Calculators are not permitted on the test, but don't worry - all the numbers are set up to be easy. If you ever need a calculator, it's a sign that you're on the wrong track.

Science Questions

Now let's go over what you'll see as you work through the questions.

The Science section has 40 questions in 35 minutes, which works out to just under one minute per question. These questions are all multiple choice, with four suggested answers for each.

Some of the questions are easier, and some are more difficult, but they're not organized in order of difficulty. Instead, they're grouped around several short passages. The passages all present you with some kind of information to read and analyze in one of three different formats.

Data Representation: These passages give you information in a graph, table, or other visual format.

Research Summaries: These passages describe one or more experiments.

Conflicting Viewpoints: These passages present the conflicting opinions of two or more scientists on the same topic.

No one passage or passage type is intended to be any more difficult than any other, although some students have personal likes and dislikes.

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