Is it true that if you're not good at science, you shouldn't take the ACT?


Karen Berlin Ishii, One-to-One Test Prep for the SAT and ACT - in NYC and via Skype

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If you are in 11th grade or below in the fall of 2015 and will be taking the ACT or SAT anytime after January 2016, this question is less critical, as the redesigned SAT – which will roll out in March 2016 –includes many of the elements of science that are already on the ACT, but sprinkled throughout the test in every section. On the ACT, however, the science-related questions are packaged in a single test that is hard primarily because of the time pressure: You have about 4 minutes to read and do all the questions for each of 6-7 passages. It's not enough time. (Note: If you do get extra time accomodations due to learning difference or disability, you might benefit from taking this test. Since time pressure is what makes the test hard, you may find yourself scoring unexpectedly high with more time to complete it.)

The best way to determine whether weakness in science will handicap your score on the ACT is to take a practice test in both ACT and the SAT, using the version of the SAT that will be given when you are going to take the real thing. The ACT has a new practice exam with the new style essay on their website, and three official practice tests for the redesigned SAT are available for download from the College Board website. Take the tests and compare your achievement, considering the following factors in making your choice:

1) On which test did I score higher?

2) On which test am I likely to improve the most with practice?

3) For which test am I more williing to put in the hours to improve my score?

In the end, weakness in science may not disqualify you from choosing the ACT as your preferred test.

Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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The ACT, as mentioned, doesn't really have anything to do with science. It would better titled 'how to read charts and graphs'. One of the most difficult things students face is the large amount of visual information presented in the experiments. I suggest practicing blocking out unnecessary information that may be there just to be confusing. There are also clues in the questions and in the passage where students can pick out what specific information they will need to focus on. This is definitely a practice makes perfect section, so get a couple of test prep book and start working through them.

Best of luck!

Amir Mousavi, Tutor, Dog Lover, Yogi

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This is completely false, because the ACT Science section has absolutely nothing to do with science as it is taught in high school. In fact, you really don't need any background in science as everything needed to answer the questions is included in the experiments. I've had many students that either hate students or are very weak in science get very high scores on the ACT science section. There are usually 7 passages (experiments) in each ACT Science section and each experiment usually contains 2-3 graphs/charts. The main skill is basically analyzing charts and graphs. I would recommend practicing the science section using the following 3 rules:

Rule #1: Don't waste your time reading the experiment and go straight to the first question. Read the question and then read the answer choices to help you determine what part of the experiment (which chart or graph) you need to focus on.

Rule #2: Go to the appropriate chart/graph or portion of text in the experiment and narrow down the answer choices until you're left with the right one.

Rule #3: Remember that you only have about a minute per problem, so if you're stuck on a question (and its been over a minute), just take your best guess (based on what you've narrowed down) and move on. Remember that there is no guessing penalty on the ACT and if you spend an extra 2-3 minutes on a problem, that's 2-3 questions that you're probably not going to be able to get to on the exam.

Hope that helps!

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