Acing the ACT Science Section Part 1: The Scientific Method

January 31, 2019 

science and chemistry classees at school with smart children and teacherLet’s talk about science.

Rob Gelb of A+ Test Prep and Tutoring offers some perspective on science and standardized testing in his video, “What is the Science Portion of the ACT?”

“Science,” he notes, “tends to be the most intimidating part of the ACT, and much of this stems from misunderstanding what exactly it is.”


As Mr. Gelb goes on to explain, ACT test makers do not expect a comprehensive knowledge of the scientific disciplines. You will not be required to classify fruit flies stored under your seat; there will be no extra credit for turning lead into gold in 35 minutes.

You will, however, need to be able to understand and use scientific reasoning based on information given in reading passages. One of the cornerstones of scientific reasoning is the Scientific Method.

The Scientific Method is a rigorous step-by-step process used to test hypotheses and establish facts. (It is detailed in Summit’s The ACT Course Book, used in A+ ACT tutoring sessions.)

  1. Ask a Question. Also called forming a hypothesis, this question is in the nature of an “educated guess:” something the questioner suspects is true but has not been tested. For example, Trisha’s two cats have become overweight eating Delicious Cat Food. She wonders if they might lose some of that weight if she switches them to Healthy Kitty Chow.
  2. Set Up and Conduct an Experiment. An experiment sets up a situation to test the questioner’s initial guess. It often involves using a “control,” or unchanged situation, to measure the success or failure of the experiment. In Trisha’s case, she decides to feed her cat, Heckle, one cup of Healthy Kitty Chow per day instead of one cup of Delicious Cat Food. Trisha’s other cat, Jeckle, is the control; he will continue to get one cup of Delicious Cat Food every day. In order for her results to be valid, Trisha will need to make sure neither cat eats out of the other’s bowl.
  3. Collect and Interpret Data. Trisha should be scrupulous about measuring Heckle’s and Jeckle’s food. She needs to carefully monitor each cat’s intake. It would also be a good idea for her to record her findings on a regular basis, rather than trust to memory.
  4. Draw Conclusions. When the experiment is over, Trisha should have enough data to answer the question “Did switching to Healthy Kitty Chow cause my cat to lose weight?” She can then decide if she wants to use that information to make changes in her pet feeding routine.

Knowing how to interpret and apply the Scientific Method can earn you major points on the ACT Science Section!

In Part 2 of this two-part series, we will look at three categories of science questions and passages encountered on the ACT: data representation, research summary, and conflicting viewpoint.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our focus is always on you. Our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you would like more information, our Client Service Directors Anne Stanley and Susan Ware are available to answer questions and provide solutions. You may reach either of them by calling A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188.


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