ACT® Science

ACT® Science

All of our tutors are experienced teachers at highly regarded, competitive schools, who have taught their subjects extensively and have received excellent student evaluations throughout their careers.

Some basic information about the ACT

The ACT consists of 4 sections and an optional writing section. The individual sections are English, Math, Reading Comprehension and Science. The Science section is often considered the most challenging and is the only section we tutor, and as with the other 4 sections it is graded on a 1-36 scale. We would recommend you check our blog, “Prepping for ACT Science“.

The Science section consists of a 40-question, 35-minute test and is meant to determine the reasoning, analysis, evaluation, and problem-solving skills required in the science courses typically encountered in high school, ie physics, biology, chemistry and geology. One nice thing about the ACT is it does not try to “trick” you; the test is rather straightforward.

Comparison between the ACT and the SAT®:

Most kids will say the ACT is “easier” but their scores tend to reflect the same percentile as they receive on the SAT. Still, perhaps one in five students have a tendency to do better on one test than the other. Students should make an effort to know, by halfway through the 11th grade, if this applies to them.

What is the format of the science portion?

The science portion of the ACT presents seven passages of data and/or discussion, each followed by a number of multiple-choice questions. There is no guessing penalty. The passages are in one of three different formats:

  • data representation (for example graphs & tables)
  • research summaries (descriptions of several experiments which also may include schematics)
  • conflicting viewpoints (expressions of several related hypotheses or views that are inconsistent with one another)

Part of our prep discusses which of these passages, and which questions within each passage, to approach first.

Are there specific scientific concepts I am expected to recall?

Knowledge from general, introductory science courses is needed to answer some questions. The test emphasizes scientific reasoning skills over recall of specific scientific content. Questions might appear from classes not taken; geology for example, is a course that most kids don’t take. Yet the reasoning skills acquired in other science classes will be all that is required to answer a question about a geology experiment, should it appear. Certain concepts are sure to appear that do not require course specific knowledge, such as the idea of a positive control and a negative control, a very basic understanding of statistics and the need for a large sample size, and elements of what makes a good experiment. But a poor performance on the quantum mechanics chemistry midterm, or even a not so hot grade in the chemistry course itself, is not a predictor of a poor ACT science score.

What is the best way to prepare?

First, the whole idea of private tutoring is that no single “best way” template applies to each child; rather, the tutor needs to determine the best way to teach to your child’s specific strengths and weaknesses. We start with a mock exam, and with the results of this exam, as well as your child’s performance in the first couple of sessions, we determine the focus going forward.  We will provide a series of core strategies and refine those strategies after completion of each practice test, and students will do a series of practice tests under time pressure, just as when taking the real test. Afterwards tutor and student review each performance. It will take a while to get used to the strategies but like with every skill improvement and confidence comes with practice.

You may want to read these blogs: “Prepping for ACT Science, Part 1” and “Prepping for ACT Science, Part 2

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