The Science Behind the ACT Science Test: Part 2

professor futuramaWelcome back ACT Preppies! If you recall from last weeks blog post, we started to deconstruct the ACT science section. We reviewed the first part of the strategy “changing where you first look.” Now, let’s go over the second step.

As you may have noticed, some questions refer to information from the dense paragraphs that accompany tables. In these cases, language in the question will tip you off; for example, the question will read something like this:

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Notice that the question asks you about the design of the study. Whenever you are asked about the design or set-up, rather than just the results, you should know to immediately look at the referenced study, because the tables will not give you enough information. Note, in addition to looking first at the referenced study, you should specifically look for words from the answer choices, since those are the relevant terms to pay attention to.

Here are the related paragraphs in the section. Give them a read, and then see if you can answer the question on your own, before looking at the explanation:

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The correct answer is G. Given that a controlled variable is one that scientists keep constant in order to measure other variables, the line “two seed dishes were placed in each site” clearly communicates that the dishes are the controlled variable.

In sum, the most important habit you can develop to master the ACT Science Test is always looking at the most relevant piece of information first. When you are asked about the results*, always look at the tables or other relevant visual information pieces. When you are asked about experiment design or underlying concepts in the experiments, use the terms in the answer choices to skim the dense paragraphs.


*When you are asked about simple relationships between variables:

Tables, graphs, and visual information pieces are often also often the best places to find your answer. The question will usually begin with a phrase like,” According to Figure, Graph, or Chart x…”, which will tip you off as to which graph you should look at. Consider:

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Even without knowing anything about the study, you can answer this question if you just look at the axis of Figure 1:

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Answer: C!

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By Rita Pearson