Content and Format of ACT Science Test

The content areas of the ACT science test covers the content of courses commonly taught in grades 7 through 12 and in entry-level college courses.

Passages on the test represent the following content areas:

  1. Biology: botany, cell biology, ecology, evolution, genetics, microbiology, zoology

  2. Chemistry: acids and bases, biochemistry, kinetics and equilibria, nuclear chemistry, organic chemistry, properties of matter, thermo-chemistry

  3. Earth / Space Sciences: astronomy, environmental science, geology, meteorology, oceanography

  4. Physics: electromagnetism, fluids, mechanics, optics, thermodynamics, solids

You do not need advanced knowledge in these subjects, but you will need some knowledge specific to these subjects, scientific terms or concepts, to answer some of the questions. The test assumes that students are in the process of taking the core science course of study (three years or more) that will prepare them for college-level work and have completed two years of introductory high school science course work.

The passages of the science test are concise and clear. You should have no trouble reading them. The test emphasizes application of scientific reasoning skills rather than recall of scientific content, reading ability, or math skills, but you may need to make minimal arithmetic computations in order to answer some questions.

The use of calculators is not permitted on the science test but should also not be needed.

Format of ACT Science Test

The scientific information presented in each passage of the ACT science test is conveyed in one of three different formats:

  1. Data Representation format requires you to understand, evaluate, and interpret information presented in graphic or tabular form.

  2. Research Summaries format requires you to understand, evaluate, analyze, and interpret the design, execution, and results of one or more experiments.

  3. Conflicting Viewpoints format requires you to evaluate several alternative theories, hypotheses, or viewpoints on a specific observable phenomenon.

1. Data Representation Format

This type of format presents scientific information in charts, tables, graphs, and diagrams similar to those found in science journals and texts. The questions ask you to interpret charts and tables, read graphs, evaluate scatter plots, and analyze information presented in diagrams.

2. Research Summaries Format

This type of format provides descriptions of one or more related experiments or studies similar to hose conducted by researchers or science students. The descriptions typically include the design, procedures, and results of the experiments or studies. The results are often depicted in graphs or tables. The questions ask you to understand, evaluate, and interpret the design and procedures of the experiments or studies and to analyze the results.

3. Conflicting Viewpoints Format

This type of format provides several alternative theories, hypotheses, or viewpoints on a specific observable phenomenon. These conflicting viewpoints are based on differing premises or on incomplete data and are inconsistent with one another. The questions ask you to understand, analyze, evaluate, and compare several competing theories, hypotheses, or viewpoints.