By Sean Alexander

The ACT test includes four subsections, including English, math, reading, and science, and an optional writing test that won’t affect your composite score. This guide will cover how to study for the ACT Science test to get the highest possible science score.


What Does the ACT Science Test Consist of?

The ACT Science test consists of 40 questions relating to biology, earth or space sciences, and physical sciences that must be completed in 35 minutes. You’ll receive a score for the overall section and three reporting category scores, including:

  • Interpretation of Data
  • Scientific Investigation
  • Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results

The highest possible score you can make on the science section is a 36.

Enhance Your Knowledge of Science With Our Expert ACT Science Tips

If you need ACT Science tips, the following advice for improving ACT Science scores will help you formulate a study plan and avoid careless mistakes. You don’t need to be a science whiz to get an excellent score, but you do need to understand how the test works and develop a strategy for how to attack it.

Familiarize Yourself With the ACT Test Format

The ACT Science test covers the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. The questions are designed around seven sets of scientific information, each provided via three different formats:

  • Data Representation (30-40%)
  • Research Summaries (45-55%)
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (15-20%)

Understand What Your Biggest Obstacle Is

If you didn’t score well on the ACT Science portion or missed a lot of practice questions, it could be because you need to work on content issues or time management. You need to figure out which to determine where to focus your studying.

Content Issues

Your biggest obstacle may be content issues if you:

  • Don’t understand or misinterpret the graphs, tables, charts, or experimental setups
  • Struggle to answer the questions correctly, even when not timed
  • Find the language, concepts, or reasoning in the science passages confusing
  • Perform significantly worse on one type of passage

Here are some strategies for ACT Science to overcome content-related issues:

  • Familiarize yourself with scientific terms
  • Practice interpreting data and experimental setups
  • Understand the scientific method, including how hypotheses are formed, how experiments are set up, and how data is analyzed
  • Know the difference between independent variables (controlled by the scientist) and dependent variables (factors the scientists are observing)
  • Identify your weak areas and practice them more

Time Management

Your biggest obstacle may be time management if you:

  • Understand the content but often run out of time before you can answer all the science questions
  • Tend to do better when you spend more time on a question or passage but worse when you try to work quickly

Here are some science section ACT tips for managing your time more effectively:

  • Make an educated guess and move on instead of spending too much time on one question
  • Don’t read the instructions since you should know them already
  • Answer the Conflicting Viewpoints passage last because it requires more time
  • Don’t spend more than one minute per question
  • Take a practice ACT Science test under timed conditions to get used to the pace you need to maintain

Familiarize Yourself With ACT Science Passage Types

There are three passage types you need to be familiar with, including:

  • Data Representation Passages: Scientific data is presented as graphs, tables, charts, or diagrams. The questions linked with these passages are primarily based on your ability to understand, interpret, and extrapolate from this given data.
  • Research Summaries Passages: These passages will describe one or more related experiments or studies and their results. Questions will ask you to understand the procedures used in the experiment, analyze the results, and sometimes extrapolate from the results or make comparisons between different experiments.
  • Conflicting Viewpoints Passages: These passages provide several hypotheses or viewpoints that are inconsistent with each other. You’ll need to understand each viewpoint and answer questions about their differences or about what kind of data or experimental results could resolve the conflict.

Take a Step-By-Step Approach to Difficult Questions

Breaking difficult questions down into steps can help you solve them. Some ACT science strategies include:

  • Read the question carefully to fully understand what it's asking.
  • Refer back to the passage, graph, table, or figure that the question is referring to.
  • Look for trends, patterns, or anomalies in the data.
  • Formulate an answer before looking at the answer choices.
  • Eliminate any choices that are clearly wrong, then compare the remaining choices with your answer.

Learn From Common Mistakes and How To Overcome Them

You can learn from others’ mistakes by reviewing common incorrect answers. Be careful not to:

  • Misinterpret the data: Practice data interpretation skills by familiarizing yourself with different types of graphs and tables and the data they can present, including direct and indirect relationships.
  • Skim too quickly: Learn to identify and focus on key information, like the hypothesis, variables, and results in experiments or the trends in a graph.
  • Misunderstand the question: Read each question and its associated choices carefully to ensure you're answering what's actually being asked.
  • Second-guess your answers: Unless you find clear evidence that your initial answer was incorrect, it's usually better not to change it.

Avoid Learning From Science Journals

While science journals can be great resources for learning scientific concepts and for enhancing your general scientific literacy, they’re not going to help you score better. The ACT isn't testing your specific scientific knowledge. It primarily measures your ability to interpret data, understand experimental setups, and evaluate scientific information rather than your understanding of specific scientific concepts.

Reading and understanding scientific journal articles can take a lot of time. This time could be more effectively spent doing targeted ACT Science practice, which will better help you become familiar with the format and question types you'll encounter on the actual test.

Prepare For Your ACT Test Like Never Before With Online Tutoring

Whether you’re preparing to take the ACT for the first time or trying to improve a less-than-stellar score, Alexander Tutoring can help. We can show you how to study for ACT Science so you can get the most out of your prep time. Contact us today for ACT Science help so you can get into your dream college.


  • Sean Alexander

    COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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