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Sample Questions and Answers From the 1986 Science Assessment

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Following are the proficiency scales used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in rating students' science performance. Each question represents the type of problem students performing at a particular level would be able to solve.


Level 150--Knows Everyday Science Facts


To which of the following animals is the wolf most closely related? Buffalo; Deer; Dog; Rabbit; Sheep; I don't know.


Questions at this level drew correct responses from 96.3 percent of 9-year-olds, 99.8 percent of 13-year-olds, and 99.9 percent of 17-year-olds.


Level 200--Understands Simple Scientific Principles


The moon produces no light, yet shines at night. What is the best explanation for this? It has many craters; It rotates at a very high speed; It is covered with a fine layer of ice; It reflects the light from the sun.


Such questions were answered correctly by 71.4 percent of 9-year-olds, 91.8 percent of 13-year-olds, and 96.7 percent of 17-year-olds.


Level 250--Applies Basic Scientific Information

Blocks A, B, and C are the same size. Blocks B and C float on water. Block A sinks to the bottom. Which one of the following do you know is TRUE? Block A weighs more than block B; Block B weighs more than block C; Block C weighs more than block A; Block B weighs more than block A; I don't know.


Such problems were solved by 27.6 percent of 9-year-olds, 53.4 percent of 13-year-olds, and 80.8 percent of 17-year-olds.


Level 300--Analyzes Scientific Procedures and Data


Which of the following best explains why marine algae are most often restricted to the top 100 meters in the ocean? They have no roots to anchor them to the ocean floor; They are photosynthetic and can live only where there is light; The pressure is too great for them to survive below 100 meters; The temperature of the top 100 meters in the ocean is ideal for them.


This type of question drew correct responses from 3.4 percent of 9-year-olds; 9.4 percent of 13-year-olds; and 41.4 percent of 17-year-olds.


Level 350--Integrates Specialized Scientific Information


2Na + S NaSThe mass of 1.0 mole of sodium, Na, is 23.0 grams. The mass of 1.0 mole of sulfur is 32.1 grams. Approximately what mass of sodium is required to react completely with 32.1 grams of sulfur in the reaction above? 11.5 grams; 23.0 grams; 32.0 grams; 46.0 grams.


One-tenth of 1 percent of 9-year-olds, 0.2 percent of 13-year-olds, and 7.5 percent of 17-year-olds were able to solve this type of problem.

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