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How to Improve ACT Science Scores: 6 Tips from a Perfect Scorer

Posted by Allen Cheng | Apr 11, 2016 9:00:00 AM

ACT Strategies, ACT Science



Are you struggling with ACT Science scores between 14-24? You're not alone - hundreds of thousands of other students are scoring in this range. But many don't know the best ways to break out of this score range and get 26+ on the ACT.

Here we'll discuss how to improve your ACT Science score effectively, and why it's so important to do so. Put these principles to work and I'm confident you'll be able to improve your score.

Brief note: This article is tailored for lower-scoring students, currently scoring below a 26 on ACT Science. If you're already above this range, my perfect 36 ACT Science score article will be better for you as it contains advanced strategies.


In this article, I'm going to discuss why scoring high is a good idea, what it takes to score a 26, and then go into ACT Science tips.

Stick with me - this is like constructing a building. First you need to lay a good foundation before putting up the walls and windows. Similarly, we need to first understand why you're doing what you're doing and what goal you're aiming for, before diving into tips and strategies.

In this guide, I talk mainly about getting to a 26. But if your goal is to get to a 24 or lower, these tips still equally apply.


Understand the Stakes

At this ACT score range, improving your low ACT Science score to a 26 range will dramatically boost your chances of getting into better colleges.

The reason? A 26 puts you at the 83 percentile, well above the national average of all ACT test takers. This is roughly equal to a 1200 out of 1600 on the SAT.

Let's take a popular school, University of Massachusetts Amherst, as an example.

Its average ACT score is a 27. Its 25th percentile score is a 24, and 75th percentile is a 29.

Furthermore, its acceptance rate is 63%. In other words, a bit more than half of all applicants are admitted. This is a decently competitive school - almost half the people are rejected, and the lower your score, the greater the chance you'll be rejected.

In our analysis, if you apply with an ACT score of 21, your chance of admission drops to 25.4%. This means you have a 3 in 4 chance of being rejected!

But if you raise your score to a 26, your chance of admission shoots up to 57.7% - over double the chances of admission, for just 5 points of improvement.

And because your ACT Science score factors into your ACT composite score, raising your Science score will really help raise the average of your total score. In fact, if you raise your ACT Science score by 4 points, your Composite score will increase by a whole point.

It's really worth your time to improve your ACT score. Hour for hour, it's the best thing you can do to raise your chance of getting into college.

Curious what chances you have with a 26 ACT score? Check out our expert college admissions guide for a 26 ACT score to see what colleges you're competitive for.




Know that You Can Do It

This isn't just some fuzzy, feel-good message you find in a fortune cookie.

I mean, literally, you and every other reasonably capable student can score a 26 on ACT Science.

The reason most people don't is they don't try hard enough or they don't study the right way.

Even if you don't consider yourself a science geek, or you got a B in Biology, you're capable of this. 

Because I know that more than anything else, your ACT score is a reflection of how hard you work and how strategically you study.

Here's why: the ACT is a weird test. When you take it, don't you get the sense that many questions are nothing like what you've seen in school?

It's purposely designed this way. The ACT is a national test, which means it needs to be a level playing field for ALL students around the country. It can't discriminate against students who never took AP Physics (or whose schools don't even offer AP classes). 

Therefore, the ACT can't test difficult concepts, because this would be unfair for students who never took AP Physics. The ACT Science section can't ask you to solve cold fusion or build a rocket to get to Mars. 

So it HAS to test scientific concepts that every high school student will cover: how to interpret data graphs, what the scientific method is, how scientific theories disagree from each other.

This leads to the big secret of ACT Science:


The Big Secret: You Don't Have to Know Much Actual Science

Many students who study ACT Science are intimidated by the mistaken impression that they need to know a lot of science to get by.

The reality is the opposite - it's much more about reading comprehension, understanding graphs, and logic.

Now, it SEEMS like you need to know a lot of science, because there will be weird scenarios you've never seen before, from dinosaur claw sizes to how clouds affect soil temperature. These may seem intimidating because you've never learned this in school.

Here's an example graph:


You've probably never seen a graph like this before in school.

The thing is, every other high school student in America hasn't seen this graph before either!

The ACT expects you to solve questions for this graph through the skills you've learned in high school - looking at two axes, understanding how a plot works, and getting data values from the graph.

This is good news for you: if you can practice the basic skills tested on ACT Science, and you know what types of questions will be asked, you'll do a great job on the section. I guarantee it.

Just to prove this to you, further down we're going to understand this graph and go through a few sample questions. 

The key to improving your ACT Science score is to:

  • learn the types of questions that the ACT tests, like the one above
  • put together the concepts you already know to solve the questions
  • practice on a lot of questions so you learn from your mistakes

I'll go into more detail about exactly how to do this. First, let's see how many questions you need to get right a 26 in ACT Science.


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What It Takes to Get a 26 in ACT Science

If we have a target ACT score out of 36 in mind, it helps to understand how many questions you need to get right on the actual test.

The ACT Science section has 40 questions on it. Depending on how many questions you get right, you'll get a Scaled score out of 36.

Here's the raw score to ACT Science Score conversion table. (If you could use a refresher on how the ACT is scored and how raw scores are calculated, read this.)

Scaled Raw Scaled Raw Scaled Raw Scaled Raw
36 40 27 32 18 16 9 5-6
35 39 26 30-31 17 14-15 8 -
34 38 25 28-29 16 13 7 4
33 37 24 26-27 15 12 6 3
32 - 23 24-25 14 11 5 2
31 36 22 22-23 13 10 4 -
30 35 21 21 12 9 3 1
29 34 20 19-20 11 8 2 -
28 33 19 17-18 10 7 1 0


So if you're aiming for a 26, on this test you need to get just 30 questions correct. This is just a 75% on the test!

Also, keep in mind that you'll be able to GUESS on a lot of questions. Because there are only 4 answer choices, you get a lot of questions right with a 25% chance!

So here's an example. Let's say you know how to solve just 27 questions for sure. You guess on the remaining 13, and get 4 of them right by chance. This gives you a raw score of 31, or a scaled score of 26!

This has serious implications for your testing strategy. In essence, you only need to answer 2/3 of all questions right. In school, this would be a D, but on the ACT, this can get you to your ACT score target!

We'll go into more detail below about what this means for your testing strategy below.

Whatever you're scoring now, take note of the difference you need to get to a 26. For example, if you're scoring a 22, you need to answer 8-10 more questions right to get to a 26.

Once again, if your goal is a score below 26, like a 24, the same analysis applies. Just look up what your Raw Score demands above.


OK - so we've covered why scoring a higher ACT Science score is important, why you specifically are capable of improving your score, and the raw score you need to get to your target. Hopefully, getting to a 26 on ACT Science doesn't seem so tough at this point!

Now we'll actually get into actionable ACT Science tips that you should use in your own studying to maximize your score improvement.


ACT Science Tips to Get a 26


ACT Science Tip #1: Don't Waste Time Understanding Useless Details

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you're reading an ACT Science passage, and it's so overwhelming trying to understand every detail of whatever obscure thing they're telling you about. This is by far the biggest time waster for most students - and because you only have 35 minutes to get through 7 passages and 40 questions, time is a huge factor in ACT Science.

Here's the truth: ACT Science passages are full of scientific details that don’t actually matter to answering the questions. This is especially true of all those complicated graphs you see. You literally don't have to understand many of the details to get every question correct.

The ACT does this on purpose to confuse you and make the test harder, and to show you what real scientific research kind of looks like. But you aren’t reading a science journal – you’re answering ACT Science questions. 

A common mistake people make is to try too hard to understand the passage in its entirety. They want to understand every detail in every chart.

Trying to understand the entire passage is a HUGE waste of time because most of the passage isn’t going to have a question asked about it. This is true in ACT Reading, and it’s even more true in ACT Science.

So what should you do instead?

Skim the passage and understand the passage at a very high level. Answer these two questions only:

  • What’s the main point here?
  • What’s the figure showing?

That’s it. When I read ACT Science passages, I don’t understand the deep details of what’s happening. I get the gist and I move on to the questions.

Let’s try an example from a real ACT Science passage. I’m going to show you how useless most of the passage is and how little you need to understand to answer the questions.


My skimming: There is a lake. The lake sediment tells us about the climate in the past. They mention average temperature for figure 3, so that’s probably what the main point is.  There’s a weird oxygen symbol 18O, but all I need to know is that SMALLER values mean COLDER.


This is a map showing 3 sites. We’ll probably be looking at samples from these 3 sites. Otherwise, I don't care right now where the sites are, how big the lake is, or whether I can see my house on this map. I'm ignoring all the fine details.



This shows us a cutaway section of the lake, with the 3 sites from Figure 1. The y-axis is elevation.

The key shows that each colored section is a different layer. Lake clay, glacial till, bedrock. The layers change as you move across the graph. How exactly they change I’m not going to care about until I get asked about it.

I have no idea what the hell “glacial till” is but I’m not going to worry about that, since I’ll bet the ACT isn’t going to ask me to define it. 



Here's a bunch of graphs designed to be confusing.

Well, they all look about the same. We’ll just look at Site 1. The y-axis shows depth, so the further down, the deeper into the earthwe go. The x-axis shows the 18O thing. From left to right, this value gets larger. 

What Site 1 shows is as you go UP in depth, you get a LARGER 18O value. That's all I'm going to care about for now.

Now look at the other 2 Sites. Site 2 looks about the same, except for a glacial till line higher up. Site 3 looks the same as Site 1 - curve goes up and to the right.

And now there’s this formula. I’m not even going to bother with this crap until they ask me a question about it.


Notice from my notes that I really understand the passage only at a 30,000 foot level. I’m not getting bogged down in details, and I’m not understanding every detail of every graph. Doing that would be a waste of time.

Just to convince you this high level of understanding works, we’re actually going to answer all 5 questions for this passage.



Look at the Key on the right.

Lake clay is gray. Where is it thinnest?


Winnipeg, F.

You literally didn't even have to read the passage to solve this! You could have solved it just by looking at the picture.



We want to find the SMALLEST 18O value, which means it’s more on the LEFT side of the graph.


From the dots we see that’s going to be at the BOTTOM LEFT of the figure. Choice C.

Once again, you barely had to read the passage to solve this! It's just figuring out where the dots are.



OK, so figure 2. We start from Grand Forks on the right, then move to Site 3.


Lake clay, the gray piece, gets THICKER. They say this in the question, and we see it in the figure.

The question asked about glacial till, the striped layer under it. It gets THINNER as you go from Grand Forks to Site 3.

So thickness DECREASES, choice J.

Yet once again, you barely had to know the passage to solve this!



OK, we want the elevation of the TOP of GLACIAL TILL at each of 3 sites.

Glacial till is the STRIPED layer. 


At Site 1, the top is 200. At Site 2, the top is 205ish. At site 3, it’s 180 ish.

Answer choice C is the only one that fits these values.

YET AGAIN you barely had to know the passage!



To rephrase: it rains. Water gets to 3m deep. What is the 18O 3m deep?

Look at figure 3 at a depth of 3m. In each figure, it’s around -15. Answer J.


Finally, surprise surprise, you didn't have to know the passage at all to answer this question.


EASY PEASY. Notice all the crap we didn’t have to care about:

  • In the passage, we didn’t have to care about how old the lake was or how it formed.
  • We didn’t have to care about what 18O means about temperature.
  • We didn’t use Figure 1 at all. Stupid map.
  • In figure 2, we didn’t care at all about bedrock. Also, we only needed to care about how the layers changed when we were asked about it.
  • In figure 3, we didn’t have to care at all about how Site 2 had a glacial till layer. We sure as hell didn’t have to know what the formula meant. 


I hope you get the point. So much of each passage is USELESS to getting the questions right.

The stupid ACT knows this, and they WANT you to get bogged down. “Oh gee, I wonder what bedrock is? How might they ask questions about this?”

“Boy this formula looks real tough. What is 18O, and what is 16O? What’s groundwater and what’s standard water? Why multiply by 1,000?”

You can waste so many minutes trying to make sense of the entire passage. If you have time management problems, skimming the passage can be a huge time savings for you!

Again, when you read the passage focus on only two questions:

  • What is the MAIN POINT of the passage?
  • What is the MAIN POINT of each figure?

I’ve started yelling more just because of how angry this test makes me. So let me take a deep breath. 

Moving on…


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ACT Science Tip #2: Understand What ACT Science Actually Tests

ACT Science stands out as the most structured and predictable section on the ACT. What I mean by that is ACT Science has 3 passage types, and each passage type has specific question types associated with it.

This is unlike ACT English, where all 5 passages have all sorts of random question types associated with it.

To do well on the ACT, you HAVE to predict the questions and passages that you're going to see on test day.

Here are the passage types and question types associated with them:

  • 3 Data Representation Passages - describes a study, heavy on graphs and charts
    • Read-the-Graph Questions
    • Interpreting Trends
    • Calculating Values
  • 3 Research Summaries Passages - describes an experiment with multiple parts
    • Experimental Design
    • Hypothetical Experimental Changes
    • Interpreting Experiments
  • 1 Conflicting Viewpoints Passage - 2 or more scientists disagree 
    • Understanding Viewpoints
    • Comparing Viewpoints

Remember what I said about ACT Science testing basic skills you've learned before in school? This is it - reading graphs, the scientific method, and comparing viewpoints.

Here's a helpful writeup of the 3 types of ACT Science passages and an overview of question types

Your job is to understand these skills, figure out what you're weak in, and drill those skills until you've mastered them.

Does this sound intimidating? Our PrepScholar ACT program does the hard work for you by dividing up the entire test into specific skills you need to master. For every skill in ACT Science and every other section, you'll get a focused lesson and a quiz customized to your skill level. This is how I studied for the ACT and got a perfect score, so that's how I designed our prep program to work.

If you could use help breaking down the ACT like this, definitely check out our PrepScholar ACT program.




ACT Science Tip #3: Learn How to Read Graphs

By far the most important single skill on ACT Science is knowing how to read graphs and charts. Nearly half of all questions on the test will relate to reading a graph and making sense of it.

Often, the graph will be in a totally unfamiliar subject you've never learned about. The units will be weird, and the shape of the graph might be weird.

Don't worry about this - the graph is weird for every other student in the country too.

The ACT does this on purpose so that students with advanced science knowledge don't have a huge advantage on the test. For example, if the ACT showed problems from AP Physics, people would riot - it's unfairly discriminating against students whose schools don't have AP Physics.

But if the ACT shows a graph about sabertooth tiger tooth sizes, this is OK - almost no one will have seen this graph before, so everyone's on more level footing.

If you've been overwhelmed by graphs before, this is important to sink in - ACT Science is designed so that YOU are fully capable of understanding everything you need to answer the questions right - if you learn the right skills.

So how do you actually read a graph?

The three most important steps you need to understand every single graph are:

  1. Skim the intro text. Often the passage will tell you literally "Figure 2 is about X" and this is a big head start. (Like I said in Tip #1, though, don't get bogged down in details.)

  2. Read the axes. What does the x-axis represent, and what changes as you move from left to right? What does the y-axis represent, and what changes as you move from bottom to top? This tells you what is actually being shown. 

  3. Understand the general shape of the graph. Where is it going up or down? If there are multiple lines shown, how do they differ? I mean GENERAL - don't memorize every detail, just get a sense of what's going on.


 Let's apply this with the following real ACT Science passage.


OK - so it's about photosynthesis, which you may remember from AP Biology. It's how plants use sunlight to generate glucose (sugar). We also hear about wavelength, which is a property of light. We can see that Violet light has a shorter wavelength than Red light.

Here's Figure 2:


Let's step through the 3 steps:

  1. Skim the intro text. Here it tells us figure 2 "shows the average rate of photosynthesis at various wavelengths, as a percent of the average rate of photosynthesis at 670 nm." So we get a hunch for what the graph is showing - how fast photosynthesis happens, at different wavelengths

  2. Read the axes. The x-axis shows wavelength, and as you move from left to right, the  wavelength gets larger. The y-axis shows rate of photosynthesis, and as you move from bottom to top, the rate gets bigger (which means photosynthesis happens faster).

  3. Understand the general shape of the graphGenerally, I see two peaks and a big valley in between. Remember, higher on the y-axis means faster photosynthesis. This means that photosynthesis happens really fast at two wavelengths, and really low in the middle (around 540 nm).


Again, few people have ever seen this graph before - or if they have, they've probably forgotten it. Now you understand it just as well as anyoen else.

With this in mind, we can try answering a question!


Let's rephrase the question. "At what wavelength is photosynthesis faster than it is at 670 nm?"

Let's rephrase it even more simply. "At what wavelength is the graph higher than where it is at 670 nm?" Because we understood what the y-axis was showing, we know that HIGHER UP means FASTER PHOTOSYNTHESIS.

So first, let's find out how fast photosynthesis is at 670 nm. 


It's right around 100.

(Actually, it tells you this in the intro text: "Figure 2 shows the average rate of photosynthesis at various wavelengths as a percent of the average rate of photosynthesis at 670 nm." Naturally, the value at 670 nm should be 100%.

You don't have to know this, and I didn't dwell on it since it's not critical to know.)


OK, now we look at where the rate of photosynthesis is higher than 100 at the 4 points: 400, 430, 630, and 700 nm. I show these with orange dots here:


It's pretty clear that the only dot higher than 100 is at 430 nm. So B is the answer.


What we just went over is exactly  how you can approach every single graph on the ACT Science section. Some graphs will be more complicated than this, but the principles are really all the same. You CAN understand every graph in ACT Science.

If you keep practicing these skills over and over again, you WILL become much better at getting more questions right. Trust me.

Want to learn more about reading graphs on ACT Science? Read our complete guide to How to Read Graphs, Tables, and Data on ACT Science.



ACT Science Tip #4: Understand Your Weaknesses, and Keep Drilling Them

You only have a limited amount of time to study for the ACT. You need to get the biggest score improvement possible for every hour you study.

To get the biggest score improvement, you need to understand where your greatest weaknesses are. Then you need to keep drilling those weaknesses with practice until you solve your weakness.

This makes sense, doesn't it?

Most students actually actively avoid improving their weaknesses. As a result, they waste a ton of time studying without any actual improvement.

Why is focusing on your weaknesses so hard to do? A few reasons:

  • Diagnosing your weaknesses requires a lot of analysis and discipline. To do this right, you need to categorize every practice question you do by skill, score how many questions you get right on each skill, and figure out which skills are best to work on. This is pretty laborious and tough to do right.

  • It's a lot more enjoyable to work on things you already do well. Would you rather eat ice cream or cabbage? In ACT prep, ice cream is working on skills you're already good at - it feels great to knock questions out of the park and get high quiz scores. Unfortunately, this is a false sense of confidence - you're ignoring all the weaknesses that are actually bringing down your score. You should be eating your cabbage by working on weaknesses, which takes a lot more mental energy and is unpleasant since you keep making mistakes. But it's the only way to get better.

  • Even after you find your weaknesses, it's not clear how you should improve on them. Let's say you find out you have probles with interpreting experiments. How do you get better? Do you do a bunch of practice questions? Which questions do you use? How do you teach yourself the right skills?

You have to overcome these problems to really drill down on your weaknesses. This is really the only way to get better. But it's the foundation to how I designed our ACT prep program at PrepScholar.

Here's a step by step guide on how to find your weaknesses:

  1. Categorize every practice question you take by skill, especially for practice tests. You can find every skill listed in our Ultimate ACT Science Study Guide. Try to categorize as accurately as possible.

  2. Keep track of how many questions you got right and wrong in each skill. You can use a notebook or a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

  3. Identify the skills you're missing the most number of questions in. Don't just focus on the % correct - what really matters is how many more points you can get by mastering that skill. For example, there might be a really uncommon skill that shows up just once on every test. Even if you get 0% of those questions right, it's not lowering your score much. It's much better to work on the skill that appears 10 times per test that you're getting 50% of questions right on.

  4. Find the best resources to train your weakness. You need a way to 1) learn the underlying skills, 2) find practice questions to keep drilling that skill. Unfortunately, as I'll discuss below, there aren't that many great books for ACT Science available.

Sound overwhelming? It is a lot of hard work, but it's the most effective way to improve. Most students don't take the time to do this, which is why they don't improve their score.

However, doing this well really does take a lot of energy and discipline. In PrepScholar ACT, we do all of the above steps automatically for you so you can focus on actually learning. You'll avoid the hard organizational work of finding your weaknesses and gathering practice problems, and focus on actually learning the skills to improve your score.


Bonus: If all of this is making sense to you, you'd love our ACT prep program, PrepScholar. It does all of the hard work in finding your weaknesses and giving you the exact lesson you need to get better.

We designed our program around the concepts in this article, because they actually work. When you start with PrepScholar, you’ll take a diagnostic that will determine your weaknesses in over forty ACT skills. PrepScholar then creates a study program specifically customized for you.

To improve each skill, you’ll take focused lessons dedicated to each skill, with over 20 practice questions per skill. This will train you for your specific area weaknesses, so your time is always spent most effectively to raise your score.

We also force you to focus on understanding your mistakes and learning from them. If you make the same mistake over and over again, we'll call you out on it.

There’s no other prep system out there that does it this way, which is why we get better score results than any other program on the market.

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ACT Science Tip #5: Use Only High-Quality Practice Materials

ACT Science is an odd section. You take weird scientific concepts and papers, distill them into a high school-friendly format, and ask very specific types of questions to test science reasoning skills.

This means that test prep writers have a lot of ways to go wrong.

Unlike other ACT sections like Reading or Math, ACT Science has woefully few ACT books to prep from. In fact, I can't recommend ANY published ACT books - all the ones I've seen so far are pretty terrible. They all suffer from one or more of these problems:

  • The passage is inappropriate. It's either too easy, too difficult, too short, or uses unnecessary jargon. Official ACT Science passages have a very specific feel to them.

  • The questions asked aren't stylistically correct. They might test interpretation of graphs in the wrong way, or it doesn't have the right bait answers that ACT Science has to trick you.

  • They don't teach you the fundamental skills underlying the questions. If it's just a book of practice questions, it's not enough. 

This is often a problem because ACT prep companies hire people who are too unskilled or too advanced to write ACT Science material. If you hire PhD's in science who are super smart but don't know the ACT well, you'll produce ACT Science content that will be way too difficult.

So where can you get great practice materials?

The very best source of practice questions is official ACT practice tests. These are official tests previously administered to real students.

There are some problems with just using these tests though. They aren't organized by skill, which means it's hard to find problems to drill a specific skill like Interpreting Experiments or Comparing Viewpoints.

Also, there aren't that many official tests available (up to 10 or so), and you want to save some of these tests to gauge your ACT score.

Finally, practice tests don't actually have any instructional material - they're just a bunch of practice questions. If you need lessons to teach you how to actually read graphs and understand ACT science, you won't find that here.

If you want to supplement with more ACT Science questions, you might consider our program PrepScholar. To make sure we produce the highest quality questions possible, we broke down the test into its individual skills and categorized every wrong answer type and question type possible. You can see some of this in our Ultimate ACT Science Prep Guide. I also hire only the best ACT content writers - these people usually have years of deep tutoring experience, went to Ivy League schools, and know the test inside and out.

Even if you don't use PrepScholar, make sure you find a source of great source of ACT Science materials somewhere.



ACT Science Tip #6: Track Your Time Per Passage and Question

Tell me if this sounds familiar - in 35 minutes, you don't even make it through the entire section. You just try your best and answer as many questions as you can, then guess on the remaining questions at the end.

ACT Science has tough time pressure. You only have 35 minutes to get through 7 passages and 40 questions. Even I, a perfect ACT scorer, find ACT Science to have pretty tough time pressure.

Furthermore, unlike ACT Math, the questions and passages aren't arranged in difficulty. Therefore, you can't predict ahead of time which questions are going to be harder, and just skip the hardest questions.

This means you need to hustle to get through all the passages and questions. 

But there's good news. Remember what we said above? To get a 26 on ACT Science, you can miss 10 questions.

This means you don't have to fret about getting every question correct. In fact, there are some questions that are so hard that you will never get them right, no matter how much time you spend.

Therefore, I have two recommendations:

  • Spend no more than 1.5 minutes reading each passage. This takes 10.5 minutes away from 35 minutes. From my tip above, you already know that you don't need to actually read the entire passage to answer the questions.

  • Spend no more than 30 seconds trying to answer each question. This takes away another 20 minutes. If you get stuck on a question and have no idea how to solve it, MOVE ON. You do NOT want to spend 90 seconds on one question - that's time better spent getting more questions right.

When done right, this gives you a few spare minutes to go back to some tough questions and try to get them right.

See a question that you have constant trouble with? Feel free to skip it and come back to it later.

As you practice, it might help to have a timer by your side. 90 seconds for reading a passage passes a LOT more quickly than you would expect.



ACT Science Tip #7: Don't Worry About Memorizing Science 

Here's my final tip. A lot of students try to study for ACT Science by reviewing their old class notes from biology, chemistry, and physics. 

The problem is, ACT Science isn't really a test on science. It's a scientific reasoning test, based mostly on scientific data you've never seen before.

Aside from a few questions about basic scientific concepts (like natural selection and electrical charges), nearly everything else can be answered without a deep foundation in the subject matter.

For example, look at the photosynthesis example from Tip #3 - you technically don't even need to know what photosynthesis is, and you could answer those questions.

The few scientific concepts you likely already remember - but if not, here's all the actual science you need to know for ACT Science.

So put aside your textbooks and notes from high school - they're not the best way to study for ACT Science. The best way, as we've discussed throughout this tips guide, is to focus on the test:

  • understand what's tested on ACT Science

  • know how to approach ACT Science passages - don't get stuck in the details

  • understand your skill weaknesses, and drill them

  • practice time management so you can get through all the questions


In Overview

Those are the main strategies I have for you to improve your ACT Science score. If you're scoring a 17, you can improve it to a 22. If you're scoring a 21, you can boost it to a 26. I guarantee it, if you put in the right amount of work, and study like I'm suggesting above.

Notice that I didn't actually teach you any science content. I didn't point to any facts or formulas that will instantly raise your score.

That's because these one-size-fits-all, guaranteed strategies don't really exist. (And anyone who tells you this is deceiving you). Every student is different.

Instead, you need to understand where you're falling short, and drill those weaknesses continuously. You also need to be thoughtful about your mistakes and leave no mistake ignored.

This is really important to your future. Make sure you give ACT prep the attention it deserves, before it's too late, and you get a rejection letter you didn't want.

If you want to review any of the strategies, here's a list of all of them:


What's Next?

We have a lot more useful guides to raise your ACT score.

Read my corresponding guides for other ACT Math sections: Get a 26 in ACT English, ACT Reading, and ACT Math.

What's a good ACT score for you? Read our detailed guide on figuring out your ACT target score.

Want a bunch of free ACT practice tests to practice with? Here's our comprehensive list of every free ACT practice test.


Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? We have the industry's leading ACT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and ACT full scorers, the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

What you get is a complete prep experience, including:

  • division of the ACT into over 40 skills, like what we discussed above
  • helpful strategy lessons that teach you strategies to get more questions right
  • automatic customization according to your strengths and weaknesses, so you're always working on what's most helpful for you
  • feedback reports to keep you motivated to put in more study time

Check out our 5-day free trial today:

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Allen Cheng
About the Author

As co-founder and head of product design at PrepScholar, Allen has guided thousands of students to success in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions. He's committed to providing the highest quality resources to help you succeed. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and earned two perfect scores on the SAT (1600 in 2004, and 2400 in 2014) and a perfect score on the ACT.

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