Science Assessment

Mastering Standardized Science Tests5

ACT Science Test

The ACT Science Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. The test presents several sets of scientific information, each followed by a number of multiple-choice test questions. You are not permitted to use a calculator on the ACT Science Test.One score is reported for the ACT Science Test: a total test score based on all 40 questions.

Preparing for the ACT Science – Overview (Page 7) Practice Test (Page 40)

Practice SAT Science Reading Passages

Sample Questions – St. Vrain Schoology ACT Science Resources

Mastering the ACT Science Test – Learning Revolution


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BSCS: Identify and Interpret (I2) Strategy – Communicating Scientific Thinking
Teacher Overview – Student Overview – Power Point 

Content Covered by the ACT Science Test

The content of the science test includes biology, chemistry, physics, and the Earth/space sciences (for example, geology, astronomy, and meteorology). Advanced knowledge in these subjects is not required, but knowledge acquired in general, introductory science courses is needed to answer some of the questions. The test emphasizes scientific reasoning skills over recall of scientific content, skill in mathematics, or reading ability.

The scientific information is conveyed in one of three different formats:

Data Representation (30-40%). This format presents graphic and tabular material similar to that found in science journals and texts. The questions associated with this format measure skills such as graph reading, interpretation of scatterplots, and interpretation of information presented in tables.

Research Summaries (45-55%). This format provides descriptions of one or more related experiments. The questions focus upon the design of experiments and the interpretation of experimental results.

Conflicting Viewpoints (15-20%). This format presents expressions of several hypotheses or views that, being based on differing premises or on incomplete data, are inconsistent with one another. The questions focus on the understanding, analysis, and comparison of alternative viewpoints or hypotheses.

The questions require students to:

  • recognize and understand the basic features of, and concepts related to, the provided information
  • examine critically the relationship between the information provided and the conclusions drawn or hypotheses developed
  • generalize from given information to gain new information, draw conclusions, or make predictions


Five Key Steps to Mastering ACT Science

The ACT differentiates itself from the SAT by including a science section along with the English, math and reading sections. The science portion of the exam is graded on a scale from 1 to 36 just like the other parts of the test and counts every bit as much towards your final score. You will have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions concerning 7 different passages. Because you have only a small amount of time to deal with so many passages, time management and efficiency are very important. Luckily, you do not have to be a science genius know to score well on this test. Just follow these steps and you will have a solid grasp on the challenges presented by this section. Source: Prepped & Polished

1. Know your passage types
The science section throws three basic passage types your way. You will encounter around three chart based “data representation” passages that tend to be easy in difficulty, about three experiment based “research summary” passages that are moderate in difficulty and one argument based “conflicting viewpoint” passage that is usually challenging in difficulty. Once you learn how to identify these passage types at a glance, you will be able navigate the section with a greater degree of confidence.

2. Complete easier passages first.
You have a strictly limited amount of time to complete the science section and may not be able to attempt every question. Ideally any problems you do not have a chance to look at will be the most difficult on the exam. By combining the first two steps and gaining an understanding of the section’s structure and what your personal strengths are, you can order the passages so that you save the most difficult ones for last.

3. Look for patterns.
The charts and graphs on the science section act in only two roles, there will always be either a pattern in a given data table or correlation between that table and another also attached to the passage. There will also always be questions that test your ability to recognize these patterns. It is very easy for one to zone out when reading dry charts full of stuffy terminology. If you remember that you do not have to understand the scientific concepts in the charts and only have to find patterns, then you will save yourself a lot of time and mental strain.

4. Keep track of who says what in conflicting viewpoint passages
Conflicting viewpoint passages give students fits because they do not come with helpful charts and require test-takers to keep track of what two or more people/groups/theories say about a given topic. As you read these passages you should constantly take notes and/or underline text that helps you keep track of who says what. If you can stay on top of which author or theory makes which claims, you will be able to avoid the confusion that makes conflicting viewpoint passages “hard”.

5. Never leave questions blank on your score sheet.
There is no guessing penalty on the ACT, so every time you leave a question blank you give points back to the test. It is good to be generous, but not in this case.


Test-Taking Tips for Students Before the Test:

1. Be sure to get plenty of sleep the week before the test. A healthy amount of sleep is 8–9 hours every night.

2. The night before the test, try to do something relaxing but stimulating, such as playing a board game, exercising, or reading an enjoyable book. Cramming the night before the test can often hamper your memory and make you tired.

3. The morning of the test, eat a healthy breakfast with fresh foods that are high in protein and carbohydrates.

4. The morning of the test, clear your mind of any outside distractions so that you will be better able to focus on the test. If breaks are given during the test, use that time to relax and clear your mind.


Test-Taking Tips for Students During the Test

1. Listen to and read all directions.

2. Be sure you understand the question before reading the answer choices. Then, make sure to read and consider every answer choice.

3. Remember to carefully consider all the information presented in the test’s graphics.

4. If the test is timed, be sure to pace yourself.

5. Always choose an answer. By eliminating as many incorrect choices as possible, you will have a good chance of guessing correctly and obtaining more points.