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ACT Tips for Science and Math

General Rules: Science

A. Have a Plan. The Science test has so much information that you could not possible take
it all in so having a plan is crucial. After all you are expected to answer 40 questions in 35
minutes! The best plan is called the 3 step method.

3 Step Method
1. Read the introduction to the passage. This short paragraph will outline to basic science behind
the passage and provide some of the vocabulary definitions. Some of the questions will be
able to be answered just from the introduction. Skim the headings of the data tables and
graphs to see what properties are displayed.

Choosing the right questions

2. Answer the easy questions first! Many easy questions will contains words like According to
figure 2, based on study 1, Scientist 2 believes, or the results of experiment 3
show These clues tell you exactly where to look for the answer and most of the time you
will find the answer right there. Avoid questions that refer to 2 or more tables, graphs, studies,
experiments, hypotheses, theories, or scientists. These questions take more time so as soon
as you identify that this is a hard question, SKIP IT! If the figure or table doesn't seem to have
the info that the questions requires then it is probably one of the difficult questions so you
should SKIP IT. If you aren't sure whether a question is difficult or not, then it is, so SKIP IT!!
When answering questions, read the question quickly then skim the answers so that you
know what the answer will look like when you find it but dont worry about memorizing them.
Make a note of units to the answers to help you find the right part of the table or graph. Go
straight to the spot the question told you and find the answer. LOOK FOR TRICKS!! Read the
labels and units for the graphs because they dont always match what the question asks.

3. After answering all of the easy questions in the passage, reread the difficult questions that you
skipped to see if you know the answer or if you can eliminate some of the bad answers.

Process of Elimination (POE).

This is a powerful strategy that will improve your chances of answering correctly even if you
dont know the correct answer. This works in two ways:
a) Eliminating bad answers Much of the success on the ACT is based on your
ability to eliminate the bad answers. The test is designed that way! Even if you
cant eliminate all of the bad answers, it will improve the chance of success on
your guess. If you could eliminate two bad answers from every question on
the ACT Science and then flipped a coin to decide on your answer, you should
get an 18. (Don Price, ACT Science specialist). If you eliminate 3 bad answers
then you answered it!
b) Random guessing This is an act of desperation because you ran out of time.
It does not apply if you can eliminate at least one or more bad answers. You
should have a plan regarding which choice you make. Make sure you fill in all
of the missing questions before time runs out. You can still go back and
change your answers if you figure out the correct answer to one of the
Note: All four choices come up equally in the Science Test so you can pick
any letter for your guess but you are more likely to get additional answers
correct by picking the same letter.
B. Types of Passages on the ACT
There are three types of passages: Data Representation, Research Summaries, and
Conflicting Viewpoints.

Data Representation (3 passages, 5 questions each, 15 total questions)

Contains: Data tables and graphical representations of data.
**Easiest difficulty level**

Research Summaries (3 passages, 6 questions each, 18 total questions)

Contains: 2 to 4 research studies that describes the purpose, design, data, and results
of the experiments.
**Medium difficulty level**

Conflicting Viewpoint (1 passage, 7 questions, 7 total questions)

Contains: 2 or 3 competing ideas, theories, or hypotheses.
[Pick one of the viewpoints and answer all of the those questions first, then answer all
questions regarding the other viewpoint, lastly answer questions that require you to
know both viewpoints.]
**Hardest difficulty level**

Q. How do you know which passages are which?

A. All Data Representation passages have 5 questions
All Research Summaries passages have 6 questions
All Conflicting Viewpoint passages have 7 questions

1. Use the 3 step method for all passages.
a) Read the intro.
b) Answer easy question first.
c) Go back and answer the difficult questions.
2. Look carefully for clues that tell you where the answer is at.
3. DO NOT LEAVE A PASSAGE until you have answered all of the questions.
4. Read the questions first and skim the answers before looking for the answers.
5. LOOK FOR TRICKS. Read the labels and units of the tables and graphs carefully.
6. Understand that all of the answers are somewhere in the passage. You can find them!!
7. Take a 15-20 second mental break about halfway though the test. Sit back in your chair,
close your eyes, count slowly to 15, stretch your fingers, arms, and legs, and take slow
deep breaths. This will refresh you and give you the strength and focus to finish strongly.

Before the test

1. Review your ACT strategies in your mind everyday leading up to the test so that you dont
have to think about what to do on the day of the test. It should be instinct.
2. Go to bed at a reasonable time and eat breakfast in the morning so that youll have all of
the energy that you need. Make sure your breakfast is not all sugary foods, this will lead to
a crash later in the day. You have over 3 hours of testing!!

General Rules: Math

1. Study The math test is based on everything that you have learned in school. The Math test
requires that you remember formulas, definitions, and concepts. This means that you can study for
the math test and you should!!
2. Choosing the right questions The questions are in no particular order of difficulty so skip
questions that dont make sense to you. You must make sure that you give yourself a chance to
answer all of the easy questions then go back to the difficult questions. Generally, the questions do
get more difficult as you move through the test so work more quickly through the early part of the
test to save time for the harder questions at the end.
3. Process of Elimination (POE) - The answers are usually in numerical order which puts the outliers
(answers that are obviously too big or too small) at the beginning and end of the answer choices.
For that reason, it would be best to choose one of the middle three answers but you will probably do
better by picking the same answer for all of the remaining questions. Just like the science test,
many questions are meant to be answer by eliminating the bad choices. Cross out all of the
answers that dont make sense and choose from whats left even if that means guessing. Try
plugging the answers into the question, this will often allow the question to be answered or at least
allow some elimination.

Important Math Information

Real numbers: Everything on the number line.
Rational numbers: Numbers that can be expressed as a fraction (ex. 5.32 ). (includes integers)
Irrational numbers: means numbers that cannot be expressed as a fraction because they never end
(ex 2 , 3 , , etc). Does not include numbers like 1/3 =0.33333because it can expressed as
Integers: whole numbers.
Digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
Prime numbers: numbers divisible only by themselves and 1. (Does not include 1)
Absolute value: positive value only and zero.
Sum means add Product means multiply
Difference means subtract Quotient means divide

Order of Operations:
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally
Parentheses Exponents Multiply Divide Add Subtract
Division can be before multiplication subtraction can be before addition
Exponent rules:
1 1 1
x 2 x 3 x 23 x 5 ( x 2 ) 3 x 23 x 6 x0 1 x2 x x 1 x 2 2
x x
x x x xm
x y x y ( xy ) n x n y n
y y y ym

= or > or < means use a closed dot or > or < means use an open dot

Treat > or < symbols just like an equal sign when doing algebra except when multiplying or dividing
by a negative number, then flip the > or < sign to the other direction
Example -3(2x > 5) -6x < -15
To find the average, add everything and divide by the number of entries.

Equations of a line:
Slope-intercept form Point-slope form Standard form
rise y2 y1
y = mx + b y y1 = m(x x1) Ax + By = C slope
run x2 x1

On a number line on a coordinate plane Equation of a circle

Distance d a b d ( x 2 x1 ) ( y 2 y1 )
2 2
(x - h)2 + (y - k)2 = r2
Where (h,k) is the center
ab x x y y
Midpoint M M 1 2 , 1 2 of the circle and r is the
2 2 2

The sum of the angles in triangle = 180 The sum of the angles in any quadrilateral = 360

opp adj
a2 + b2 = c2 sin cos
hyp hyp

opp sin
adj cos

Special triangles sin 2 cos 2 1

Look for this triangle to scaled

up or down on the ACT.

Example 9 12 15
or 0.3 0.4 0.5

Quadratic formula FOIL First-Inner-Outer-last Congruent means measures are equal

ax2 + bx + c = 0 (x+2)(x-6) = x2 + 2x 6x 12 1=4=5=8
b b 2 4ac
x1, 2 x2 4x - 12 2=3=6=7

1+ 2 = 1+ 8 = 180
Shape Area Perimeter 1+ 6 = 1+ 7 = 180
Square A = s2 add 4 sides
Rectangle A = bh add 4 sides
Parallelogram A = bh add 4 sides
Trapezoid A = (b1+b2)h add 4 sides Congruent = all sides and angles congruent
Triangle A = bh add 3 sides Similar triangles = all sides similar(same ratio)
Circle A = r2 P = 2r and angles congruent