Avoiding the Noise
Getting Right to the Good Stuff
If you’ve ever seen an ACT science section before, you might remember the sensation of being totally overwhelmed. There’s just so much darn information!
If you haven’t ever laid your eyes on ACT science before, you can check out a free sample directly from the test makers here:
You might notice something very interesting: the first passage of this sample text looks almost exactly the same as an ACT Reading section. What gives?
One passage of every ACT science section is “pure reading,” and requires its own set of weird strategies (discussed later). The other six sections are the “weird ones” we need to address more thoroughly in this guide.
Click Passage 6 to see what I mean.
This online version is a bit “abbreviated” – the versions in the test can be even more insane. But no matter how insane they get, just remember the most important strategy for this section:
Your number one task on this test is to IGNORE EVERYTHING THAT YOU CAN. With this in mind, your best strategy is to skip directly to the questions, and never spend even a second on the provided information until you absolutely have to.
This is antithetical to how you approach most subjects in school (and in your life in general). Usually, you collect information, digest everything in front of you, and then work through the problems. However, on the ACT science section, that’s a disaster. Here’s why:
The ACT science section is mostly a test of TIME. Anyone could ace this section if he had ten hours. But you only have 35 minutes. Therefore, your main job is to waste exactly ZERO seconds on irrelevant information.
Instead, we’re going to use a nice little efficiency trick: we’re going to let the QUESTIONS tell us what information we need to pay attention to.
If you go back to Passage 6 in the link above, you’ll see that you’re tasked with analyzing three different charts and graphs. Are you actually going to spend your time reading and memorizing all of this information? What the heck does it even mean? How is it significant? The real answer is that you won’t know any of this until you see what you’re being asked in the first place!
You’re only going to be asked 5-6 questions per passage. That means that you’re going to use, AT MOST, about 5% of the information presented to you. If you read all of the information up front, you’ll remember NONE of what you have to, you’ll waste your time, and you’ll get no closer to finding the answer!
That means that you’re going to dive directly into the questions. Don’t spend even a SECOND figuring out what the passages and graphs are all about. You’ll do that later, once you know precisely what you’re looking for. The only exception to this rule is the “text-only” passages, which you should read before looking at the questions – largely because these sections follow a strategy very similar to the one I prescribe for ACT reading.
Once a question asks you “how long-tailed diver birds’ livers last when exposed to methane,” THEN you can look at the graph talking about bird organs, check out the liver section, narrow it down to long-tailed diver birds, and go from there. Now you know what you need, and now you can ignore the other 200 facts about other birds and their organs that you don’t actually need to know at all.
If you followed this one piece of advice, you’d already see a huge improvement in your scores. You’d be faster, more efficient, and more focused. But it gets even better. Once you learn to skip the passages and go right to the questions, there’s another tip that makes this section even easier to tackle. For that, let’s move to the next section of this guide: