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Scientific Content on ACT
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  1. Scientific Content on ACT

  2. Science Content on ACT • Biology • Cell Biology  • DNA, RNA, and Ribosomes • Natural Selection • Chemistry • Basic Molecule Structure • Freezing/Boiling Point of Water in Celsius  • pH Scale • Molar Mass Concepts • How Charges Interact • Phase Changes • Physics • Gravity • Density Formula • Density Rules • Math • Basic Math Skills

  3. Scientific Content on ACT Subject: Biology  Topic #1: Cell Biology • You need to know certain cell organelles (parts of cells), their functions, and whether they are found in animal or plant cells

  4. Scientific Content on ACT • Lysosomes hold enzymes. Lysosomes digest food or break down the cell when it dies. • Mitochondria are organelles that act like a digestive system, which takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy rich molecules (ATP) for the cell.  • The cell nucleus acts like the brain of the cell. It contains the cell's DNA, or the genetic information from which proteins are made. It also helps control eating, movement, and reproduction. 

  5. Scientific Content on ACT • Chloroplasts only exist in plant cells and assist in the process of photosynthesis, converting light into energy (which only plants do, not animals). • The cell membrane holds all of the pieces of the cell and serves as the barrier between the cell and other cells.

  6. Scientific Content on ACT DNA, RNA, Ribosomes, and Protein Synthesis • DNA contains the genetic information needed for making proteins (protein synthesis). Protein synthesis involves DNA, RNA, ribosomes and proteins. DNA acts as the blueprint for protein production. The Process of Protein Synthesis

  7. Scientific Content on ACT • Messenger RNA (known as mRNA) makes a copy of the sequence of DNA of a specific gene. This process is known as transcription and happens in the nucleus. • Once the mRNA is made, it leaves the nucleus and enters the cytosol of the cell. Ribosomes use mRNA as a guide to make protein of the same amino acid sequence as the original DNA. The process of producing protein from the mRNA is referred to as translation. So, the process of protein synthesis consists of two steps: DNA to mRNA transcription and mRNA to protein translation.

  8. Scientific Content on ACT Natural Selection • Natural selection is also known as 'survival of the fittest‘. In a specific environment, traits that allow organisms to reproduce more effectively will become more common, and traits that reduce reproductive success will become less common.

  9. Scientific Content on ACT Subject: Chemistry Topic: Basic Molecule Structure  • The ACT Science section expects you to know the basic molecular structure of Sugar, Fat, Protein and Nucleic Acids. • C6H12O6is the basic sugar molecule structure. • You only need to know that fats are made up of C (Carbon), H (Hydrogen), and O (Oxygen), and to differentiate fats from sugar, fats have nearly twice the number of H as C and a very small number of O.  • Proteins are composed of amino acids. There are many different protein structure, but all proteins contain C, H, O and N (Nitrogen).

  10. Scientific Content on ACT • Nucleic acids are biomolecules. Two types of nucleic acids are DNA and RNA.  Nucleic acids are made up of 3 parts: a 5-carbon sugar, a phosphate group, and a nitrogenous base. Nucleic acids are different from sugar, fat, and Pproteins because they are made up of P (Phosphorus) and N in addition to C, H, and O. • Example:

  11. Scientific Content on ACT Topic: Freezing/Boiling Point of Water in Celsius  • Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius and boils at 100 degrees Celsius.  Topic: pH Scale  • A pH scale is a measure of how acidic or basic a substance is. While the pH scale formally measures the activity of hydrogen ions in a substance or solution, it is typically approximated as the concentration of hydrogen ions. • All you need to know for ACT is that a pH of below 7 is acidic, above 7 is basic, and at 7 is considered neutral. 

  12. Scientific Content on ACT Topic: Molar Mass Concepts • The only molar mass concept you need to know is that the mass of a molecule is the sum of the mass of its atoms.

  13. Scientific Content on ACT Topic: How Charges Interact • Atoms are composed of three types of particles: protons, electrons, and neutrons. Protons are positively charged, electrons are negatively charged, and neutrons have no charge. • Like charges repel each other, while opposite charges attract each other. For example, two positive charges will repel each other, while a positive and a negative charge will attract.

  14. Scientific Content on ACT Topic 9: Phase Changes • Below freezing point, a material will be in solid form, just above freezing point a material will be in liquid form, above boiling point, liquid becomes gas (is vaporized). • One natural way to think about this is in terms of water. When it's really cold, it turns to ice (solid). When it warms up, it turns to liquid. Then, when you boil it, it turns to steam (gas).

  15. Scientific Content on ACT Subject: Physics Topic: Gravity • You need to know that gravity is a downward force that acts on objects, and other forces (such as a spring or pulley) can counteract gravity. This will come up a lot in passages that show experiments using springs or pulleys. 

  16. Scientific Content on ACT Topic: Density Formula • Density is the degree of compactness of a substance. To calculate the density of a substance, you use the formula: Density = mass/volume

  17. Scientific Content on ACT Topic: Density Rules • Denser objects sink, and less dense objects float. Objects only float when they are less dense than the liquid they are placed in. • An easy way to think about this: what happens when you throw a rock into water? It sinks—that's because the rock is denser than water, meaning it weighs more for the same volume.  • What about when you throw a styrofoam cup onto water? It floats—because styrofoam is less dense than water. For the same volume, styrofoam weighs a lot less than water.

  18. Scientific Content on ACT Topic: Basic Math Skills • You are not allowed to use your calculator on the science section. Yet, there are problems that require basic math skills • As you practice for the Science section, attempt to complete the first 15 questions on the Math section without a calculator. The level of complexity of these questions will be similar to the math skills tested within the Science section.

  19. ACT Science Test Construction • The science section has seven passages with a total of 40 questions to be answered in 35 minutes (Average 52 seconds per question.) • The seven passages will be presented in one of the following formats: • 3 Data Representation Passages • 3 Research Summaries • 1 Conflicting Viewpoints

  20. ACT Science Test Construction • Data Representation (30-40%) This format includes graphics and tables for student analysis and interpretation. These questions measure a student’s ability to read graphs, interpret scatterplots, and interpret information presented in tables. • Research Summaries (45-55%) This format includes descriptions of one or more related experiments. These questions measure the student’s ability to interpret experimental design and associated results. • Conflicting Viewpoints (15-20%) This format presents alternative hypotheses expressed in response to incomplete data or differing views. These questions measure the student’s ability to understand, analyze, and compare inconsistent viewpoints or hypotheses.

  21. ACT Science Test Construction • For passage topics, ACT pulls content from Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and the Earth/Space sciences such as Astronomy, Geology, and Meteorology. • Most of the questions can be answered from the information presented in the passages or figures, but be prepared for 3 to 4 questions that require outside scientific knowledge on each section. • You need to be able to: • look up data and trends • make predictions • synthesize information

  22. Data Representation Passages

  23. Passage Type 1: Data Representation Passages  • These passages are similar to those found in science journals and text. • They present you with a short paragraph or two, as well as one to four visual representations of data (such as graphs, tables, and/or scatterplots). • The passages will mention specific studies and label sections as “Study 1/2/3.”

  24. Sample Passage from ACT Science Each Data Representation Passage has 5 or 6 questions.

  25. Question Type 1: Factual Questions • These questions simply ask you to relay factual information that is presented in the passage.  • To answer these questions, you need to read the graphs, tables, and/or scatterplots. • You need to pull out specific data points without further calculation/inferences.  Example of a factual question Based on the Fruit Fly study:

  26. Question Type 2: Interpreting Trends Questions • Trends questions ask you to evaluate graphs, tables, and/or scatterplots to decide if there is a relationship.  • Is it increasing or decreasing? • Is there an inverse relationship or direct relationship? Example of a Trend Question based on the Fruit Fly study:

  27. Question Type 3: Calculations Questions • These questions ask you to take what is given and figure out where it is going. • Given the data, what might Y be at value X? • The questions ask you to make extrapolations (to infer, or make a projection from known data)and interpolations (estimate a value between two values).

  28. Calculating Questions: Extrapolations Extrapolations • Calculate data that is beyond the bounds of what we're given.

  29. Calculating Questions: Extrapolations 5 step process to answer extrapolation questions: • Pinpoint what we're figuring out, is it a value more or less than what we are given? • Identify the relationship between 2 consecutive data points in the table or graph. How much does the y-value increase or decrease as the x-value increases? • Find the relationship between the data in the question and the data in the table. For example, is the data in the question 5 more or less than the data in the table? • Apply the pattern in the table to the new data point. • Find the closest (or hopefully matching) answer.

  30. Calculating Questions: Interpolations Interpolations • Calculations of numbers between known data points. Use three step process on all Interpolation questions: • Find the relevant data (two data points equidistant from the point in question). • Average the data together to find the approximate value for the midpoint.  • Find the closest (or hopefully matching) answer.

  31. Calculating Questions: Math Meets Science • ACT Science questions that require calculations will only require very simple math that you can do by hand or in your head.  • Calculation questions require you to find a specific value based on the figures provided. However, the value will not be shown in the figure.  • Using the information you are given, you will need to predict what would happen past the edges of the graph or between values on a table.

  32. Example of Calculation Question

  33. Research Summaries Passages

  34. Passage Type 2: Research Summaries Passages • These passages look similar to the Data Representation Passages in that they usually present you with a short paragraph or two plus visuals (graphs, tables, scatterplots, or images). • The difference is that Research Summaries Passages focus on a specific experiment or a couple of experiments. • The passages will usually label sections as Experiment 1/2/3 and mention a scientist or student who is conducting the experiment. There may be an image of how the experiments are set up.

  35. Example of Research Summaries Passage Research Summary passages mention specific experiments. 

  36. Question Type 4: Experimental Design/Researcher Intent Questions • These questions ask you to determine why the researcher designed the experiment a certain way. • What are the controls and variables in the experiment? • What is the hypotheses on which the experiment is based? Example question from Research Summaries Passage.

  37. Question Type 5: Hypothetical Experimental Questions • These questions ask you to determine what would happen if there was a change in the experiment (in the temperature, solution, etc.). • They often require you to understand the trend of the data to predict how the outcome would change if the experiment were changed. • Here is an example from the previous passage:

  38. Question Type 6: Interpreting Experiments Questions • These questions ask you to interpret the information that you are given. • Based on the data shown,is this statement supported?  • These questions are often framed in a 2x2 matrix: • Yes because A • Yes because B • No because A • No because B  Example from previous passage:

  39. Conflicting Viewpoints Passage

  40. Passage Type 3: Conflicting Viewpoints Passage • This passage is the most different. The passage presents you with two short essays (and looks similar to an English passage).  • The essays represent conflicting scientific viewpoints or theories.  • It is very important that you figure out the difference in opinion between the two writers. Sometimes the difference will be subtle and not completely opposite.

  41. Example Conflicting Viewpoints Passage

  42. Question Type 7: Understanding of Viewpoints Questions • These questions check to make sure you understand each author's point of view.  What would researcher X predict to happen? • Here is a sample question from the previous passage:

  43. Question Type 8: Comparing Viewpoints Questions • These questions ask you to point out the similarities and differences between the authors. 

  44. ACT Science Strategies

  45. Science Strategies: Know the Directions Every second counts, so do not waste time reading the directions the day of the test. Memorize these directionsNOW to avoid losing time. “There are several passages in this test. Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary. You are NOT permitted to use a calculator on this test.”

  46. Science Strategies: Conflicting Viewpoints • The Conflicting Viewpoints Passage has no graphs or tables.  • The questions ask you about each viewpoint and the differences and similarities between the viewpoints.  • You need to read and understand the entire passage to answer the questions. Therefore, this passage will take the longest, so save it for last, so it doesn’t slow down your pace.

  47. Science Strategies: Conflicting Viewpoints You should ask yourself these questions while you read: • What does scientist/student 1 believe? • What does scientist/student 2 believe? What does scientist/student 3/4/5 believe? (Occasionally, there will be more than 2 viewpoints represented. There have been as many as 5 viewpoints discussed on a Conflicting Viewpoints Passage.) • How is scientist/student 2's point of view different from scientist/student 1's point of view? • How is scientist/student 2's point of view similar to scientist/student 1's point of view?

  48. Science Strategies: Use Visuals • If a passage has visuals, go straight to the questions without reading. Try to answer all of the questions using only the visuals.  • Many students get bogged down in reading the science passage. There are dozens of data points to consider, and most of them won't have any questions about them. So you'll end up wasting time trying to understand data that really aren't important. • Sometimes, this method of answering questions will require inference and/or deduction skills, so it may not work for everyone on every question.

  49. Determine Now, Later, or Never • Spending too much time on the hardest problems means you may rush through the easiest. Instead of working questions in order, ask yourself whether a question is a Do Now, Later, or Never. • NOW: Does a question look okay? Do you know how to do it? Do it now. • LATER: Will this question take a long time to work? Leave it and come back to it later. Circle the question number for easy reference. • NEVER: Know the topics that are your worst, if you do not know where to begin, don’t waste time on those questions. Instead, use more time to answer the Now and Later questions accurately.

  50. Science Strategies: Know When to Skip • Keep track of your timing. You should not spend more than 1.5 minutes on any question. Ideally, you should be spending exactly 52.5 seconds on each question. However, some questions you'll be able to answer faster, so it'll allow you to spend a little more time on harder problems. • Use process of elimination. Try to get rid of all the answer choices you know are wrong. Then, pick your favorite answer choice among what is left over. Even if you're not 100% sure, bubble it in, and put a small star or circle next to it so you can go back to it if you have time.