An Overview of ACT Science: Syllabus, Exam Pattern, and More

May 28, 2021

ACT is an essential exam to enroll in US universities and each year a huge number of candidates take these exams. SAT is pretty similar to this exam but the major difference is science. ACT includes a separate science section - candidates who are willing to enroll in undergraduate science programs may need to take ACT. Get a detailed description of ACT science here. 

ACT Science - An Overview

The major areas tested in ACT science are physics, chemistry, biology, and earth/space science. The section of science in ACT consists of 40 questions in total. Duration of this ACT science is just 35 minutes. 

The questions of ACT science appear after  7 (approx.) different passages. These passages may represent parts of research papers, data interpretations, infographics, and contradicting views. Candidates have to read these passages very carefully to answer the questions. 

This should be mentioned that all the answers can be given by understanding and analyzing the passages. The candidates simply need to derive the answers logically from the passages to obtain the points. 

Syllabus of ACT Science

As mentioned, ACT science is an exam on 4 different segments of science - it includes physics, chemistry, biology, and natural science. Each of the segment has a distinct syllabus:

  • Physics - Energy and matter- interaction and conservation, motions and forces, etc.
  • Chemistry - Chemical reaction, atomic structure, properties of a matter, etc.
  • Biology - Cell structure, biological evolution, basis of heredity, the interdependence of organisms, etc.
  • Space and Earth  Science - Astronomy, geology, meteorology, etc.

ACT Science Question Types and Scoring 

In ACT science section only and only MCQs are given and there is no negative marking system in ACT. 

Moving on to a scoring method of ACT exam - here, four sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science) are scored separately. In the end, an average score of all these sections is given as an overall ACT score. So, the target of the candidates will be to secure a higher score in all the sections so that the average turns a decent one. 

Passage Formats of ACT Science Test

In ACT science test, mainly 3 types of passages are found:

  • Data Representation (38%): Many graphs and tables are listed here. 
  • Research Summary (45%): These are mainly the experimental passages 
  • Conflicting Viewpoints (17%): These are the passages with different hypotheses and contradictions. 

Among 40 questions, ACT science question paper includes 

  • 18 questions from Research Summary passages
  • 15 questions from Data Representation passages
  • 7 questions from passages oriented with Conflicting Viewpoints

*Note that these question number approximate - it may differ a little bit in the real exam. 

Task Types of ACT Science Exam

In ACT science exam, each passage format comes with different task types: 

Research Summary passages ask the candidates to

  • Understand the aim of research
  • Predict and understand the experiments
  • Figure out the experiments needed

Research summary passages are based on candidates' practical knowledge - here candidates need to instantly answer which experiment is needed on a specific situation.

The main tasks of Data Representation passages are 

  • Analyze the graphs, tables, and charts given in the passage
  • Interpret what exactly is being said in the passage and what is asked in the questions 
  • Make predictions and draw inferences
  • Figure out the matter and mark the answer

Here candidates need to have specific knowledge of science. The passage and the questions will ask the candidates to analyze the given information based on scientific solutions.

Conflicting Viewpoint passages ask the candidates to 

  • Understand the passage
  • Find the similarities and differences
  • Apply different theories
  • Develop proper hypothesis on the given topic
  • Draw a conclusion

So, a candidate must have a thorough understanding of theories and practical skills to qualify ACT science exam.

Difficulty Level of ACT Science Test

ACT happens to be an important exam for admission in us universities and this is nonetheless a tough exam. Though it is an exam about high school-level science topics, sometimes it becomes very difficult for an examinee to get the required score. Most importantly, having knowledge is not enough to pass the test. A candidate must have sufficient time management skills to complete the given tasks within a given time. For example, in ACT science 40 questions are given and duration is only 35 minutes. It indicates that a candidate cannot spend even 1 full minute on a question. Along with this, the examinees have to go through the passage and apply theoretical and practical knowledge to extract the answer - all within the duration of 35 minutes. So, excellent time management is needed. Daily practice will make all the tasks easy for the candidates.

So, this is all about the ACT science exam and candidates have to practice daily. They may hire science tutors or practice with formatted papers to qualify for the test on first attempt. 


With a passion for writing, Rachita is in the field of content writing for more than 5 years. Here, she writes the blogs for MyPrivateTutor Singapore. Being a literature student, she has a strong addiction to reading as well. On a lazy day, she just needs a cozy setting and her favorite book or web series. 

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