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ACT Science Practice

Teacher/Instructor Devorah Goldblatt
Devorah Goldblatt

Summa cum laude
Perfect scorer on the SAT & the ACT

Devorah is the founder of Advantage Point Test Prep and the author of the book “Boost Your Score” The Unofficial Guide to the Real ACT.

So remember, on the ACT science section the pacing is intense, you got 35 minutes for 40 questions and seven passages, that's crazy but hopefully you watched the other episode and you felt really good about the great strategies we talked about. You don't even have to read most of the passages, to get the questions and that saves a lot of time that you can then shift over to the questions and you'll have plenty of time to look at those questions, look at the tables and charts and nail those questions. So hopefully you'll feel great but what if you're still feeling a little iffy about timing? That's what's this episode is for. In this episode we're going to go over some really sneaky science pacing strategies. So let's get started.
Pacing strategies, how to tackle the science section if you're still feeling really iffy about the timing. First sneaky strategy: 'Do your preferred passage type first.' Meaning, don't read the passages in the order that they appear on the science section. This is where taking a practice test is really helpful; you take enough practice tests you'll get a sense of which passage type you feel more comfortable with. Remember, you've got the research summary, the data representation and the conflicting view points, three of the research, three of the data rep and one conflicting view point and if you look over your practice tests you'll see, there is usually a passage that you feel really, really good about, a passage type maybe you're real data rep person, you just feel good about it. You look at the big table, that big chart; you know how to nail those questions. So you know what do those first. When we had our other episodes, about the passage types we talked about how easy it is to identify which type is which, you know you see a big table and chart that's data rep, you see experiment one, experiment two, experiment three, that's research summary and conflicting viewpoints you've got your two fighting scientists easy. So right away you can flip through and do the ones that you're best at first, so again if you're that data rep person, flip through, first do all three data reps in order. Remember science is coming at the end, so if you're feeling kind of cranky pretty miserable and you want to make sure that the ones you do first are the ones that you're already good at, so you have a better chance of nailing those questions. If you're going to run out of time on the science section and most people do, run out of time on a passage that's not your favorite, you know, and one that you don't feel great about anyway. So that's the first great pacing strategy for science.
Next, let's talk about attacking the conflicting view point passage first. This is a completely separate strategy, this strategy is for people who tell me "Devorah you told me just before tackle your preferred passage first, what if I don't have a preferred passage? What if I feel pretty good about all three types, or sadly what if I don't feel great about any of them what do I do?" okay no problem. In this case you're going to want to tackle the conflicting viewpoints passage first, here is why. Hopefully you remember the conflicting view point passage has seven questions attached and the research summary has six while the data rep only has five. So spend that time when you feel good right at the beginning on that conflicting view point passage, if you feel really good about it you feel great about the questions and then you got seven out of the forty science questions already answered just from one passage. Then if you still have no preference between the research summary and the data rep, head for the research summary again six questions on each of those passages. So flip around, you want to get those and then do the data reps last. So again if you run out time, you'll run out of time on a data rep passage that only has five questions attached. Okay, so we talked about doing your preferred passage first and we talked about just starting with conflicting viewpoints then research summary and then data rep.
Let's take a look at another possible pacing strategy that might work for you: 'Guess on the last question in a section.' Now this isn't official they don't tell you this, but usually the last question on each of the passages is the most difficult and time consuming question, again this is when taking practice tests would help you, look over your results, see, do you tend to get the last one in each of the seven passages wrong. If so, you might want to think about automatically guessing on those or maybe even guessing on some of them because, think about it, those are probably the most difficult for you, you spend a lot of time agonizing over them and if you just know they're not your thing anyway you automatically guess on them, you're freeing up a lot time to tackle the questions that are easier for you.
Fourth and last, sneaky pacing strategy for science. 'Guess on an entire data representation passage.' A lot of students feel really good about this strategy, remember there seven passages but if you would aim to actually leave an entire data representation passage blank and then just guess, right you're going to basically skip it and just guess on the answer choices, you're freeing up a lot of time that you would have spent thinking about that table or chart and shifting all that time to the other six passages and then remember, there is only five questions that you're guessing on for the data rep and statistically just by guessing you should get one, two or maybe even three of them correct. Great, so hopefully with these four pacing strategies you'll feel really, really good about timing and the science part of the ACT. Just remember this is something that you really need to practice though, you don't want to walk into test day and think, 'aha, which strategy should I pull out of my back pocket and use right here on the science section.' You want to take a bunch of practice sections and see which of these strategies works best for you.
Let's wrap up the science pacing, in this episode we talked about first, tackling either your preferred passage type or the conflicting view point passage first. Do those when you're fresh so you can get the most amount of points. Next we talked about possibly guessing on the last question because remember statistically these tend to be the most difficult and the most time consuming ones and you want to allocate your time elsewhere. Last we talked about possibly guessing on an entire data representation passage, so you can shift all that time over to other six passages. That's it for pacing. So with the strategies we talked about today plus the strategies form previous episodes, you're going to fell amazing about your timing on science section on test day.