ACT Science Reasoning Information

What's on the ACT Science Reasoning Test?

ACT Science Reasoning
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ACT Science Reasoning. It sounds scary, right? Combining reasoning and science all in one lengthy ACT test section? What sort of monster decided to come up with a test like that? Before you run screaming for the nearest bridge, consider reading the following explanation about what you are really going to encounter on the ACT Science Reasoning section. And yes, it is more conquerable than you can imagine.

And before you read the ACT Science Tricks that can help you get the score you want, you should know what's on the test first. So keep reading!

ACT Science Reasoning Basics

If you have read ACT 101, then you already know the following information. But just in case you haven't had a chance to take a peek, here are the basics about the science (and often most feared) section of the ACT:

  • 40 multiple-choice questions
  • You'll read either six or seven passages
  • 35 minutes to answer all 40 questions
  • Can earn you between 1 and 36 points on the overall score (the average is about a 20)
  • You'll also get three scores based on the reporting categories below, which are listed as percentages correct. 

ACT Science Reasoning Reporting Categories/Skills

​The ACT wants to provide colleges with information related to the types of content in which you shine, so on your score report, you'll see the following categories with the number of questions asked in that category along with the percent correct you earned on each type.


  • Interpretation of Data (approximately 18 - 22 questions): Manipulate and analyze data presented in graphs, tables and diagrams. For instance, you'll need to be able to do things like recognize trends, translate table data to graphic data, reason mathematically, interpolate and extrapolate
  • Scientific Investigation (approximately 8 - 12 questions): Understand experimental tools and design like identifying variables and controls, and compare, extend and change experiments to make predictions. 
  • Evalutation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results (approximately 10 - 14 questions): Judge the validity of a scientific information, make conclusions and predictions like figuring out which scientific explanation is best supported by new findings, etc.  

ACT Science Reasoning Content

Before you get all worried, don't sweat it! You do not have to have some sort of advanced degree in any of the areas listed below in order to score well on this exam. Not all of this content will be tested. The ACT test-makers will merely pull passages from the following areas. Plus, the test is about scientific reasoning, so even if you don’t remember a few content details, you will still probably be able to figure out the answers to many of the questions in these fields. None require rote memorization. All require that you use your brain and logical reasoning to figure out the questions in the following fields:

  • Biology: biology, botany, zoology, microbiology, ecology, genetics, and evolution
  • Chemistry: atomic theory, inorganic chemical reactions, chemical bonding, reaction rates, solutions, equilibriums, gas laws, electrochemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and properties and states of matter
  • Physics: mechanics, energy, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, fluids, solids, and light waves
  • Earth/Space Sciences: geology, meteorology, oceanography, astronomy, and environmental sciences

ACT Science Reasoning Passages

All the questions on the Science Reasoning Test will contain some data given to you in graphs, charts, tables or paragraphs, along with an explanation of what to do with the data. The questions are broken down into 6 or 7 different passages with approximately 5 - 7 questions each:

  • Approximately 3 Data Representation passages with ~4 - 5 questions each: Tests knowledge of graphs, scatterplots, and interpretation of info in tables, diagrams, and figures.
  • Approximately 3 Research Summaries passages with ~6  - 8 questions each: Tests your ability to interpret results from given experiments.
  • 1 Conflicting Viewpoints passage with ~6 - 8 questions: Gives you two or three different viewpoints on some sort of observable phenomenon and asks you to understand differences and similarities in the hypotheses.

ACT Scores and the Science Reasoning Section

Obviously, you want this score to be fantastic, so your overall ACT score will be, too. Here are some helpful hints to get your closer to that 36 and farther away from that 0.

  1. Read the questions before you read the charts in Data Representation. The Data Representation sections contain very little actual writing. So, before you slog through the charts, read the questions first. In many cases, you'll be able to answer the questions by just looking at one chart exclusively.
  2. Mark up the text. Physically underline, cross-out, and circle things that stand out to you as you read. Some of the text is going to be pretty heavy, so you’ll want to dissect it as you go to make the most sense of it.
  3. Paraphrase the questions. Before you read the answers, put those questions into words you would use if you can’t understand what they’re asking.
  4. Cover the answers. Keep your hand over the answers while you read the question. Then, make a wild stab at answering before you uncover your choices. You may just find a paraphrase of your own answer in one of the choices, and odds are, it’s the right choice.

There it is – the ACT Science Reasoning section in brief. Good luck!

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "ACT Science Reasoning Information." ThoughtCo, Dec. 5, 2016, Roell, Kelly. (2016, December 5). ACT Science Reasoning Information. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "ACT Science Reasoning Information." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 22, 2018).