Demystifying The ACT Science "Fork Question"

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If you’re studying for the ACT, there’s probably no question type as notorious for screwing with your head as the dreaded Science section “fork question.”

You might not see this in your test prep books, but I spend a lot of time with the major exams, so A “fork question” is what I call a very specific structure of ACT Science question—a structure known for tripping students up and draining valuable time. You won’t be able to identify it from the question itself. However, when you look at the answer choices, it’s literally like you’ve come across a fork in the road: two answers lean one way, and the other two answer choices lean another way. (Anyone else reciting Robert Frost right about now? "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...")

Like this:

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?

  • ANSWER 1, because blah blah blah
  • ANSWER 1, because blah blah blah
  • ANSWER 2, because blah blah blah
  • ANSWER 2, because blah blah blah

See what I mean about the structure of the answer choices? Two roads diverged. 

The reason most student get this question wrong is that there is simply TOO MUCH INFORMATION to process in the answer choices! Before I come to the rescue, they first generally scour the entire passage/chart/graph to try to select if ANSWER 1 or ANSWER 2 is correct. THEN, they try to figure out which REASON is correct. It takes 3 minutes and they still often get it wrong, because they're trying to reconstruct the reasoning for themselves.


However, if you take a harder look at the answer choices, you’ll quickly notice something else:

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?

  • ANSWER 1, because TRUE STATEMENT 1
  • ANSWER 2, because TRUE STATEMENT 2

Or maybe it looks like this:

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?

  • ANSWER 2, because SAME TRUE STATEMENT as above
  • ANSWER 2, because SAME FALSE STATEMENT as above

Notice something? Half of these reasons aren't even true. And there's no way a correct answer is going to rely on a false reason. 


So with that in mind, here's how to correctly—and efficiently!—answer a Science fork question.

1) First, read the REASONS. Don’t even think about answering the question yet.

2) Look at the charts/graphs/passage to determine which of these “reasons” are simply inaccurate! Cross out these answer choices.

3) Look at the reasons that are left: these are true statements, verified by the data in the passage. In fact, a lot of times, there’s only 1 reason that’s even a true statement and they repeat it!

4) BASED ON THIS REASON, and this reason ALONE, what answer makes the most sense?

So did you get that? Instead of rereading the entire science passage, you’re going to base your answer to the question on only the true reason(s) in the answer choices. The test-writers basically TOLD YOU what fact/concept is required to arrive at the answer. So USE the tip they gave you to save time and nab your point!


That Science fork question isn't looking so scary now, is it? Good!

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