Tag Archives: ACT Science

ACT Science Content

Although many people claim that the ACT Science test does not require any background knowledge, they are incorrect.  If you examine several ACT tests, you will find that you must have basic knowledge from these two high school courses:

  • Physical Science
  • Biology

They require you to have this background knowledge because high school juniors across the country should have taken these two courses, no matter the rigor of their individual high schools.  Expect to see just a handful of questions that involve actual background knowledge from these two areas.

If you have taken advanced science, such as AP Chemistry or AP Physics, that certainly won’t hurt you.  It will help in the sense that your general ability to reason through scientific charts and graphs will be stronger, not because you need to have specific knowledge from any of those areas.

The material they present on the passages can come from all sorts of general scientific areas:  physics, chemistry, biology, botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, and so forth.

The ACT Science Section has 3 types of passages:

  • Data Representation (38%). There are three of this type of passage, and each passage has 5 questions.  You will need to evaluate information presented in graphs, tables and figures.
  • Research Summaries (45%). There are three of this type of passage, and each passage has 6 questions.  You will need to analyze 2 or more experimental summaries, thinking about the results and the experimental design.
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (17%). You will only have 1 passage of this type, and it has seven questions.  It will present viewpoints from anywhere from 2 up to several scientists.  You will need to read a good bit here, although sometimes there is a graph or two given as well.  You will need to sharpen your ability to compare and contrast differing scientific explanations.

The passages are in a random order of difficulty, so just be on your toes to think critically at any point.

I hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Changes to the ACT Test Format in 2015

For anyone taking the ACT in 2015, it is important to be aware of a couple of major changes to the test format that have taken place.

1.  The ACT Reading is consistently having one “comparative” reading section, in which there are two smaller passages (Passage 1 and Passage 2) instead of one larger one.  The two passages are about a similar topic, yet have different perspectives.  Students typically have to answer 7 questions about the individual passages, and then answer 3 questions comparing the two passages.  Fortunately, the ACT has placed all the comparative questions at the end of the series of questions (e.g. questions 21-27 about the individual passages and questions 28-30 are comparative.)

The Reading passage with the comparative passages has consistently been the Humanities section.  The only publicly released example of an ACT comparative passage can be found here:


I have an example of a comparative passage in my ACT Book with Barron’s Educational Series.

2.  The ACT Science Section has had 6 passages instead of 7 passages on both the February and the April ACT in 2015.  If you would like to see a sample of what this looks like, you should order the Test Information Release for the April ACT, as there are currently no publicly available examples of this different format.   This shouldn’t affect your approach to the science too much, other than as far as pacing, you should spend about 6 minutes a passage instead of 5.

If you need help preparing for the new ACT in 2015, please contact us to set up tutoring.  You can learn more about our ACT Tutoring services here.