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Anatomy of an ACT Chemistry Passage

You might see passages on the ACT Science Test covering a wide range of scientific topics: biology, chemistry, physics, etc. The good news is that you don’t need to know a lot about Chemistry to get these questions correct. All you have to know is how to analyze the passages.

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. The good news is that 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.”



To approach and effectively analyze this ACT Chemistry passage we need understand three things: the topic, the relationship between the variables in the data, and the provided definitions. When you read an ACT Science Chemistry passage, feel free to write all over it, using arrows and underlining key phrases. This 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.

Take a moment to analyze the passage above and study the notes, and then practice this question on your own! Scroll down for the explanation to see how you did!



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:

  1. less than that of Individual 1
  2. greater than that of Individual 1, but less than that of Individual 2
  3. less than that of Individual 1, but greater than that of Individual 2
  4. greater than that of Individual 2

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).


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