ACT Science Section

ACT Science Test Outline

There are 40 questions on the ACT Science test, which test-takers are given 35 minutes to complete. The Science test is organized around 6 reading passages, each with about 6-7 questions. The total Science test score is reported on a scale of 1 to 36, and there are three reporting categories: Interpretation of Data, Scientific Investigation, and Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results. At all ACT administrations, the Science section is the fourth and final required section of the ACT to be taken. Students choosing the optional Writing test will be given a five-minute break after completing the Science section, while students who forgo the Writing test are done for the day. Calculators may not be used during the Science test, but according to ACT, calculators are not necessary to successfully complete any of the exercises.

ACT Science Test Passages

ACT Science test passages cover a number of scientific subjects from grade 7 through the introductory college level. Specific science disciplines include biology (e.g. botany, ecology, and zoology), chemistry (e.g. nuclear chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry) earth/space sciences (e.g. astronomy, geology, and oceanography), and physics (e.g. mechanics and thermodynamics). Science test passages typically combine text with visual information (graphs, charts, and tables). The passages are presented in three formats: data representation (evaluation of graphic information), research summaries (interpretation of experimental results), and conflicting viewpoints (assessment of contradictory or inconsistent hypotheses).

ACT Science Test Question Types

ACT Science test questions are multiple choice with four answer options. Although background knowledge of the main scientific subjects included is certainly helpful, test-takers do not need to have in-depth understanding of any scientific discipline in order to correctly answer the questions. The emphasis is on reasoning (and this section was once called the "Science Reasoning" test). The science exercises/reporting category breakdown is as follows: Interpretation of Data (18-22 questions), Scientific Investigation (8-12 questions), and Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results (10-14 questions).

ACT Science Test Skills

According to ACT, the Science test "measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences." Important skills in the Interpretation of Data reporting category include finding and analyzing information, understanding graphs and tables, comparing data, establishing mathematical relationships, and combining information from multiple sources. The Scientific Investigation reporting category is based on understanding experimental design and methods, finding experimental similarities and differences, and determining hypotheses. The Evaluating Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results reporting category tests students' ability to identify implications, assumptions, characteristics, and predictions of models as well as how they support or undermine hypotheses.

ACT Science Test Scoring and Benchmark Data

Over the past three testing years, the median ACT Science test score is roughly 20, which is the 49th percentile (a 21 is the 56th percentile). The average Science score is 20.8. About 6% of test-takers receive ACT Science scores of 30 or above, while approximately two-thirds (63%) receive scores of 22 or below. At 23, the ACT College Readiness Benchmark for Science is higher than for any other multiple-choice section of the exam. The percentage of ACT-tested students who met this benchmark (37%) is lower than for any other required ACT section. ACT students met all four benchmarks (English, Math, Reading, and Science) at a rate of 27%. During the most recent testing year, approximately 2.03 million students (60% of the latest high school graduating class) took the ACT, according to national surveys from multiple sources.

The ACT Science Test and College Acceptance

The majority of universities report their students' ACT composite, English, and Math scores only, and it is therefore difficult to isolate the impact of ACT Science scores. University applicants should nonetheless strive to receive the highest scores possible on all sections of the ACT (including Science), because these scores help convince admissions officers that students are well-rounded and prepared for postsecondary study.

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