Even though the word “science” appears in the title, the ACT Science Test doesn’t look much like the tests you’ve taken in your high school science classes.

That’s because the ACT science section is not a test of scientific facts. It’s a test of how well you look up and synthesize information from tables, graphs, illustrations, and passages. Sound scary? Don’t panic! Our ACT science tips will you help you prepare to score big on test day.

ACT Science Tips

1. Know What to Expect

You’ll answer 40 questions about 7 passages on the ACT Science Test.  For passage topics, ACT pulls content from biology, chemistry, physics, and the Earth/space sciences such as astronomy, geology, and meteorology. Most of the questions can be answered from the information presented in the passages or figures, but be prepared for 3 to 4 questions that require outside knowledge. You need to be able to

  • look up data and trends
  • make predictions
  • synthesize information

2. Understand the Passage Types

All science passages fall within 3 categories.

Types of ACT Science Passages

Charts and Graphs 5 questions each
  • Always come with figures
  • Contain 1 or more charts, tables, graphs, or illustrations
Experiments 6 questions each
  • Usually come with figures
  • Describe several experiments
  • Include more text than the Charts and Graphs passages do
Opposing Viewpoints 1 passage, 7 questions
  • Sometimes come with figures
  • Feel more like the passages on ACT Reading Test
  • Ask you to compare, contrast, and synthesize different viewpoints

3. Order the Passages

ACT doesn’t present the passages in order of difficulty. But on every exam, some are easier than others, while some are truly tough. Scan the passages and tackle the one that looks easiest, first. You don’t want to spend too much time on the most difficult passages only to run out of time on questions you can answer more easily.

4. Decide if you will do questions Now, Later, or Never

Your goal with all the science passages is to find the main point. You will spot the main point faster when those conclusions are presented in figures rather than in text. So, the easier the figures are to “read,” the faster you’ll crack the main point. 

The best passages to do Now have the most obvious patterns as well as a few other common characteristics. Look for small graphs, easy-to-spot trends, and short answers (especially answers with numbers and relationship words like “increase” or “decrease”). Learn more about working questions out of order in our ACT Tips and Tricks article, or grab a copy of our book Cracking the ACT.

5. Be Flexible

Always be prepared to adapt your order based on what you see, both in practice and on a real test. If you choose a passage that looked good and then find yourself struggling, leave it and find another.

6. Stumped? Guess and move on.

When you’re stumped, your first instinct may be to go back and read the passage or stare at the figure again, waiting for a flash of inspirational genius to suddenly make everything clear. Instead, use process of elimination to get rid of answers that can’t be right. Even if you can cross off only one answer, guess from what’s left and move on.

Take a Free ACT Practice Test

How will you score on the ACT Science Test?

Take a free practice test with us and get a personalized score report with your strengths and weaknesses. We’ve got some sample ACT science questions right here. Ready to hit the books? Check out our ACT prep options.