Test Your Science Knowledge

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Every two years, the National Science Foundation publishes a huge collection of science statistics, their Science and Engineering Indicators. One of the more depressing sections is the results of their latest survey of science literacy. This is where you learn things like one out of five people don't realize that the Earth's continents have been moving for millions of years and continue to move.

There is now a second science test of 16 questions (starting on page 20 in chapter 7) intended to show how familiar adults are with concepts currently taught in schools. I am dismayed, though not surprised, by the results. Adults do about the same as U.S. students, but even the top 25 percent of adults average less than half of the questions correct.

Wondering how well you'd do? Here are eight of the questions from the test. Give it a try.

1. What property of water is most important for living organisms?

A) It is odorless.

B) It does not conduct electricity.

C) It is tasteless.

D) It is liquid at most temperatures on Earth.

2. Which of the following is a key factor that enables an airplane to lift?

A) Air pressure beneath the wing is greater than that above the wing.

B) Pressure within the airplane is greater than that of the outside.

C) Engine power is greater than that of friction.

D) The plane's wing is lighter than air.

3. A farmer thinks that the vegetables on her farm are not getting enough water. Her son suggests that they use water from the nearby ocean to water the vegetables. Is this a good idea?

A) Yes, because there is plenty of ocean water.

B) Yes, because ocean water has many natural fertilizers.

C) No, because ocean water is too salty for plants grown on land.

D) No, because ocean water is much more polluted than rainwater.

4. Which one of the following is NOT an example of erosion?

A) The wind in the desert blows sand against a rock.

B) A glacier picks up boulders as it moves.

C) A flood washes over a riverbank, and the water carries small soil particles downstream.

D) An icy winter causes the pavement in a road to crack.

5. Traits are transferred from generation to generation through the...

A) sperm only.

B) egg only.

C) sperm and egg.

D) testes.

6. How do most fish get the oxygen they need to survive?

A) The take in water and break it down into hydrogen and oxygen.

B) Using their gills, they take in oxygen that is dissolved in water.

C) They get their oxygen from the food they eat.

D) They come to the surface every few minutes to breathe air into their lungs.

7. For which reason may people experience shortness of breath more quickly at the top of a mountain than along a seashore?

A) A slower pulse rate.

B) A greater gravitational force on the body.

C) A lower percent of oxygen in the blood.

D) A faster heartbeat.

E) A slower circulation of blood.

8. As part of a laboratory experiment, five students measured the weight of the same leaf four times. They recorded 20 slightly different weights. All of the work was done carefully and correctly. Their goal was to be as accurate as possible and reduce error in the experiment to a minimum. Which of the following is the BEST method to report the weight of the leaf?

A) Ask the teacher to weigh the leaf.

B) Report the first measurement.

C) Average all of the weights that were recorded.

D) Average the highest and lowest weights recorded.

E) Discard the lowest five weights.

Answers appear after the jump. How well did you do? Brag in the comments.

Answers: 1-D; 2-A; 3-C; 4-D; 5-C; 6-B; 7-C; 8-C

About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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