Skip to Main Content


This ACT video lesson is all about using key terms on the ACT science test. And these Magoosh lesson videos, you're gonna hear me talk again and again about key terms. So this is a pretty important video, if you're not exactly sure what I mean by that, but it's also an important video, because if you can train your brain to focus on finding key terms, rather than understanding.

You'll be able to get more questions right and increase the number of questions that you can get to in the allowed time. So let's cut to the chase, and then I will show you what I mean in an example. So Key Terms are the words, the phrases, the units, and numbers that you will be looking up on the figures and in the passage, or that you will be applying to answer the question.

So key terms are always the name and number of the figure experiment, etc, the question is referring to, any names of substances, objects, categories that appear. Definitely any numbers or percentages that appear in the question, or any trial or group numbers that appear in the question because those are what tell you where you're supposed to look.

And just a special hint. Anything that's capitalized, or a proper name, or has a numerical value. Is always a key term. The key term is always, what the question is actually asking you to find. Make sure you, specially highlight that. So for every single question, you want to underline the key terms in the question and circle what the question is asking you to find.

You can come up with your own system if you like, but this is something that works for a lot of students. And so if you're at a loss at what to do, go ahead and follow this rule of thumb. So, let's look at a couple practice ACT science questions. Now I want you to go ahead and pause the video for just a moment, and either on a piece of scrap paper or in your head, make a list of the key terms that you would underline and circle.

. Okay, so let's work through this together. Let's start with the first one. Based on the results in Figure 1. So we wanna underline that because that is telling us the figure or the table that we're supposed to be looking at.

Which of the following could be the absorbance values. This sounds like a special term, I want to be looking for, absorbance values for samples containing four, we have a number. Four ppm, always underline the units as well. There could be. More than one and four, on the figure.

Of chromium and copper respectively. Okay, so, now that we've finished reading the questions, we know that absorbance values. That's what we're looking for. Specifically we're looking for the absorbance value at four ppm of chromium and copper.

So for our second example, based on the data in Figure 1 and Table 2, okay, so Figure 1 and Table 2 are key terms, that's where we're going to be looking. Can individuals of the Bombay blood type, all right, we've got something capitalized here. We have a proper noun, that's a key term. Receive blood from individuals with any ABO genotype.

ABO is a key term as well, too. As long as those individuals also have the hh genotype. That looks like a key term as well, too. So these are names of categories. Bombay, ABO, hh, and those are definitely going to be appearing somewhere on Figure 1 and Table 1.

Now, you maybe be underlining a little bit differently, but hopefully, roughly, you got all of these same answers, because these are all very important key terms. So, once you've located your key terms in the question. You want to find and circle, underline, draw arrows to, etc. The key terms in the passage, figures, or graphs. So here's figure 1, in that first question we just annotated together.

Our major key terms, other than the figure we're looking at, are absorbance values and ppm, as well as chromium and copper. So lets go ahead and circle where those terms appear on figure one. So we have chromium and copper here. We have ppm down here, and specifically we are looking at four. And we have absorption which huh, close enough to absorption values to me.

I don't know where else we would find it on this graph. And now, we want to draw a line up where we see four, because we're looking for the absorbance values. So, we see absorption on our vertical access here. Draw a line up here to make sure I'm mapping this out right. Okay, so, this one with the squares is copper.

So, we can see at four it is about 13%. Now notice the line for chromium though with the triangles does not extend that far. So we need to extrapolate. We need to extend their line up to that point and take a guess at what its going to be up here.

So I'm gonna guess that that's about, my lines are not exact. 33, 34, don't forget the ACT is always gonna be looking for estimates so they'll never put values that are that close together. If we look at our answer traits here. Copper: 13%, Chromium: 34%. Looks like d is our correct answer.

So just to review, key terms are the names of figures, tables, experiments, scientists to which the question refers to. There are also any names of substances, objects, categories. Any numbers you see in the question. And you want to make sure that you underline or circle key terms on every single question.

This will help you stay focused in reading and searching actively on a science test. It'll also help you avoid careless mistakes which are really frequent occurrences when you're dealing with lots of teeny tiny charts and graphs and, and lots of data and labels. And don't forget that there may be key terms in the answer choices. So let's say you have a question that says, both Figure 1 and Table 1 show an increase in colon.

So there could be a lot of things that potentially increase. So you're gonna need to look at your answer choices in the case of a question like that, that has a really vague stem, to find out what you're supposed to be looking at. So let's say, it says which there's an increase on figure one in, colon. Look for your answer choices.

Maybe it says, chromium, maybe it says, copper there. And that's gonna tell you which lines you're supposed to be looking at. And also make sure you see our video on finding clues in the answer choices for more on how to strategically use the key terms you find in those choices.

Read full transcript