ACT Science: Chemistry Fundamentals

ACT Science: Chemistry Fundamentals

On your ACT Science Test Day, you will see seven passages on a variety of scientific subjects: biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, etc. According to the Official ACT website: “Advanced knowledge in these subjects is not required, but background knowledge acquired in general, introductory science courses is needed to answer some of the questions.”

This means that you do not have to have a high knowledge of Chemistry concepts to score highly on the ACT Science test. However, if you have already taken Biology and Chemistry is high school, then you will likely already be familiar with some of the scientific jargon the ACT Science Test uses.

Passages dealing with Chemistry may feature some of these concepts: properties of matter, acids and bases, kinetics and equilibria, thermochemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and nuclear chemistry. If you are currently in Chemistry, or have an old Chemistry book, you may want to review these definitions so that you are comfortable with the terminology in the passages. Again, however, all the information you need to answer the questions will be presented in the passages. So there will be no questions such as, “what is the definition of a mole?”, unless that answer is to be found explicitly in the given passage.

You won’t need to do any difficult Chemistry computations, and a calculator is not allowed on the ACT Science Test. The only math that will be required is simple arithmetic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. According to the official ACT guide, “the test emphasizes application of scientific reasoning skills rather than recall of scientific content, skill in mathematics, or reading ability.”

Look at this example Chemistry passage. We can approach it without any outside Chemistry knowledge as long as we understand these three things: the topic, the relationship between the variables in the data, and the provided definitions. When you read an ACT Science Chemistry passage, try to mark it up in a way similar to that modeled here. It will help you know where to refer back to find specific information to get a correct answer. This is more like a Chemistry-themed Reading Test passage than anything you would see on a Chemistry quiz. Let’s try a question on this passage:

Individual 4 is from a society that has developed at an altitude of 1 mile above sea level. Based on Figure 2, this individual’s oxygen saturation at a given altitude would most likely be:

A. less than that of Individual 1

B. greater than that of Individual 1, but less than that of Individual 2

C. less than that of Individual 1, but greater than that of Individual 2

D. greater than that of Individual 2

Answer & Explanation

Table 1 shows that Individual 3’s society originated at the highest altitude, and Individual 1’s at the lowest. The higher the altitude at which an individual’s society arose, the higher his or her oxygen saturation. Individual 4’s society arose at an altitude of 1 mile above sea level, approximately midway between Individual 1 and Individual 2. Their oxygen saturation at a given altitude should therefore be approximately midway between that of Individual 1 and that of Individual 2. The answer is B.