1. Read regularlyIf you have taken the ACT before or have done ACT practice questions, you are probably aware that the ACT science section looks much like a reading comprehension test. The Conflicting Viewpoint questions consist of passages on a particular issue, which are followed by paragraphs that summarize scientists’ perspectives on that issue. There are also Research Summary questions, which account for nearly half of the questions on the ACT science section. Conflicting Viewpoint and Research Summary questions require careful, yet rapid reading. One of the best ways to become a good reader is by reading often. Reading also increases one’s vocabulary. You do not have to read an exorbitant amount to sharpen your reading skills; the idea is simply to do it often. You could read a newspaper article or two in the morning as you eat breakfast, or you could read a few pages of a book each night before bed. Look for patterns in the way the author writes, shifts in opinions or points of view, and new vocabulary words. Keep a writing utensil nearby to make note of important points.
2. Get comfortable with graphsThe test writers of the ACT tend to include graphs, charts, and other visual tools to express scientific data. In fact, Data Representation questions comprise about one third of all the ACT science questions. You should not be scared of graphs and charts, as they are meant to be a clear and concise manner of organizing data. One helpful way to get more comfortable with graphs is by browsing science magazines. You can check out Air & Space,Discover, Physics Today, or Scientific American Mind, among many other reading options, at your local library or online. You can gauge your data interpretation skills by first looking at the graph to figure out what it represents and then reading the caption or article to see if your interpretation was correct. Remember, the ACT test-makers do not expect you to be a master of all scientific subject matter. The ACT covers such a broad range of topics that this is not feasible. What the test-makers do hope for is that you have the basic skills, such as data interpretation, which can be applied to answer any question correctly.
3. Conduct experimentsTo do well on the ACT science section, you must be familiar with the Scientific Method and experimental design. Conducting experiments is a fantastic way to put your science skills to the test, through forming a hypothesis, carrying out an experiment, and analyzing results. Keep a journal where you record each step of the Scientific Method as it relates to your experiment, rather than doing the experiment on the fly. Make the experiments of personal interest to you so you are motivated to finish them. For example, if you like psychology, you can look at how different lighting affects mood.
4. Solve puzzles and riddlesSolving crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and riddles provides both stimulating entertainment and healthful exercise to the mind. All of these activities require a similar degree of critical thinking that can help you excel on the ACT science questions. If it is more your language skills that need improvement, opt for crosswords and riddles. To improve math skills, try out Sudoku. Studying involves far more than textbooks, notes, and index cards. Get creative with your plan of attack for ACT science. And remember, it is your reading and science skills that can help earn you the most points!
Tiffany Sorensen is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.