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PSAT Science questions


About the PSAT

This is designed to measure the ability to understand and process elements of reading, writing, and mathematics…. The College Board now also offers two PSAT variations: the PSAT 10 for sophmores, and the PSAT 8/9 for freshmen and eighth graders. These variations generate score reports that measure students’ college readiness and skillsets. (the PSAT 8/9 is shorter and less complex). Read more about the PSAT variations.   It has four sections:

  • The Reading Test – 60 minutes, 47 questions
  • The Writing and Language Test – 35 minutes, 44 questions
  • Math Test, No Calculator Portion – 25 minutes, 17 questions
  • Math Test, Calculator Portion – 45 minutes, 31 questions

The PSAT/NMSQT and PSAT 10 both have a total testing time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

= from testmasters.net


from the Kaplan website kaptest.com/study/psat/psat-reading-science-passages/

The PSAT Reading Test will contain either two single Science passages or one single Science passage and one set of paired Science passages. Science passages differ from other passage types because:

  • They often contain a lot of jargon and technical terms.
  • They can utilize unfamiliar terms and concepts.

While Science passages can be tricky due to unfamiliar language, you will never need to employ knowledge outside of the passage when answering questions. Use the following strategy when approaching Science passages on the PSAT:


    Does the paragraph…Explain? Support? Refute? Summarize?


    Unfamiliar terms will generally be defined within the passage or in a footnote.

Let’s look at the following example of an abbreviated Science passage and question set. After the mapped passage, the left column contains questions similar to those you’ll see on the PSAT Reading Test on Test Day. The column on the right features the strategic thinking a test expert employs when approaching the passage and questions presented. Note how a test expert can quickly condense the entire passage into a few words and use his or her Passage Map to ask questions that build a prediction for the correct answer.


When you encounter more than one theory or idea, paraphrase each in as few words as possible in your Passage Map.

Sample PSAT Reading Practice Question: Science

Questions 1-2 are based on the following passage. This passage is adapted from an essay about the characteristics of lunar eclipses.

Many people are aware of the beauty of a solar eclipse, but are surprised to learn that lunar eclipses are often just as spectacular and are both more common and easier to observe. The filtering and refraction of light from the Earth’s atmosphere during a lunar eclipse creates stunning color effects that range from dark brown to red, orange, and yellow. Each of these light shows is unique since they are the result of the amount of dust and cloud cover in the Earth’s atmosphere at the time of the eclipse.

While total solar eclipses last only for a few minutes and can be seen only in a small area of a few kilo- meters, total lunar eclipses can last for several hours and can be seen over much of the planet. In fact, the beauty and stability of lunar eclipses make them a favorite of both amateur and professional photographers. Lunar eclipses generally occur two to three times a year and are possible only when the Moon is in its full phase. When we see the Moon, we are actually seeing sunlight reflected off the surface of the Moon. When the Earth is positioned in between the Moon and the Sun, however, the Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon and a lunar eclipse occurs. To better understand this process, it’s helpful to imagine the Earth’s shadow on the Moon as a pair of nested cones, with the Earth at the apex of the cones, and the Moon at their bases. The outer, more diffuse cone of shadow is called the penumbral shadow, while the inner, darker cone is the umbral shadow.

1. According to the passage, the colors of a lunar eclipse are the result of

(A) the penumbral shadow.

(B) the stability of lunar eclipses.

(C) filtering and refraction of light.

(D) the sunlight reflected off the moon.

2. In lines 26-27, the phrase “pair of nested cones” serves to

(A) offer support for a previous statement.

(B) describe the diffraction of light through the atmosphere.

(C) explain why lunar eclipses are favorites of photographers.

(D) provide a concrete example to help readers visualize a phenomenon.

Explanations of answers:

For practice question #1, use the Passage Map to find where the author mentions color. Because the author mentions both “filtering” and “dust,” you know that the right answer will include those. Choice (C) mentions “filtering” and is, therefore, correct.

For practice question #2, ask “Why did the author choose those words—what are they doing?” Could you picture how an eclipse worked? Predict that the phrase helps the reader understand the concept. Choice (D) matches exactly.


from 2015 Practice Test #1, Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test

Questions 20-28 are based on the following passage and supplementary material.
This passage is adapted from Tina Hesman Saey, “Lessons from the Torpid.” ©2012 by Society for Science & the Public.

Understanding how hibernators, including ground squirrels, marmots and bears, survive their long winter’s naps may one day offer solutions for problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis and muscular dystrophy. Nearly everything about the way an animal’s body
works changes when it hibernates, and preparations start weeks or months in advance. The first order of business is to fatten up.

“Fat is where it’s at for a hibernator,” says Matthew Andrews, a molecular biologist at the
University of Minnesota Duluth who studies 13-lined ground squirrels. “You bring your own lunch with you.” Packing lunch is necessary because the animals go on the world’s strictest diet during the winter, surviving entirely off their white fat. “They have their last supper in October; they don’t eat again until March,” Andrews says.

Bigger fat stores mean a greater chance of surviving until spring. “If they go in really chunky, nice and roly-poly, that’s going to be a good hibernator,” he says. Bears also watch their waistlines expand in the months before settling in for the season. The brown
bears cardiologist Ole Fröbert studies pack on the pounds by chowing down on up to 40 kilograms of blueberries a day. Such gluttony among humans could have severe consequences: Obesity is associated with a greater risk of heart attack and diabetes, among other ailments.

To see how fattening up affects Scandinavian brown bears, Fröbert and his colleagues
ventured into the wilds of Sweden following signals given off by radio transmitters or GPS devices on tagged bears.

Bears can be dangerous close-up. Even hibernating bears can rouse to action quickly, so
scientists tracking down bears in the winter use darts to tranquilize the animals from a distance. Scientists studying the bears in the summer tranquilize them from a helicopter.

Once a bear is under the tranquilizer’s influence (which takes about five minutes), the scientists have 60 minutes max to get the animal from its den, weigh and measure it, draw blood samples and do minor surgeries to collect fat and other tissues. The bear is returned to its den by minute 61.

Precious materials collected during this high-pressure encounter need to be analyzed within 24 hours, so the researchers often test for levels of cholesterol or certain proteins in the blood while working in the snow or at a nearby research station.  A pilot sometimes flies samples from field sites to a lab in Denmark in order to meet the deadline, Fröbert says. Samples such as bones and arteries that can’t be collected from live bears come from bears killed by hunters during the legal hunting season.

Recent analyses revealed that Scandinavian brown bears spend the summer with plasma cholesterol levels considered high for humans; those values then increase substantially for hibernation, Fröbert and his colleagues reported. These “very, very fat” bears with high cholesterol also get zero exercise during hibernation. Lolling about in the den pinches off blood vessels, contributing to sluggish circulation.

“That cocktail would not be advisable in humans,” Fröbert says. It’s a recipe for hardened arteries, putting people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Even healthy young adult humans can develop fatty streaks in their arteries that make the blood
vessels less flexible, but the bears don’t build up such artery-hardening streaks. “Our bears, they had nothing,” Fröbert says. It’s not yet clear how the bears keep their arteries flexible, but Fröbert hopes to find some protective molecule that could stave off hardened arteries in humans as well.

Graph Plasma cholesterol

20. The passage is written from the perspective of someone who is
A) actively involved in conducting hibernator research.
B) a participant in a recent debate in the field of cardiology.
C) knowledgeable about advances in hibernator research.
D) an advocate for wildlife preservation.

21. It is reasonable to conclude that the main goal of the scientists conducting the research described in the passage is to
A) learn how the hibernation patterns of bears and squirrels differ.
B) determine the role that fat plays in hibernation.
C) illustrate the important health benefits of exercise for humans.
D) explore possible ways to prevent human diseases.

22. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 1-5 (“Understanding… dystrophy”)
B) Lines 10-13 (“Fat… squirrels”)
C) Lines 31-35 (“To… bears”)
D) Lines 42-46 (“Once… tissues”)

23. What main effect do the quotations by Andrews in lines 10-18 have on the tone of the passage?
A) They create a bleak tone, focusing on the difficulties hibernators face during the winter.
B) They create a conversational tone, relating scientific information in everyday language.
C) They create an ominous tone, foreshadowing the dire results of Andrews’s research.
D) They create an absurd tone, using images of animals acting as if they were human.

24. As used in line 19, “stores” most nearly means
A) preservatives.
B) reserves.
C) stacks.
D) shelters.

25 Based on the passage, what is Fröbert’s hypothesis regarding why bears’ arteries do not harden during hibernation?
A) The bears’ increased plasma cholesterol causes the arteries to be more flexible.
B) Sluggish circulation pinches off the blood vessels rather than hardening the arteries.
C) Bears exercise in short, infrequent bursts during hibernation, which staves off hardened arteries.
D) Bears possess a molecule that protects against hardened arteries.

26 Which choice provides the best evidence for the
answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 19-20 (“Bigger… spring”)
B) Lines 24-27 (“The brown… day”)
C) Lines 69-72 (“Even… streaks”)
D) Lines 73-76 (“It’s… well”)

27 What information discussed in paragraph 10 (lines 58-68) is represented by the graph?
A) The information in lines 58-62 (“Recent…reported”)
B) The information in lines 62-64 (“These…hibernation”)
C) The information in lines 64-65 (“Lolling…circulation”)
D) The information in lines 67-68 (“It’s… strokes”)

28 Which statement about the effect of hibernation on the seven bears is best supported by the graph?
A) Only one of the bears did not experience an appreciable change in its total plasma cholesterol level.
B) Only one of the bears experienced a significant increase in its total plasma cholesterol level.
C) All of the bears achieved the desirable plasma cholesterol level for humans.
D) The bear with the lowest total plasma cholesterol level in its active state had the highest total plasma cholesterol level during hibernation.


Questions 38-47 are based on the following passages.

Passage 1 is adapted from Stewart Brand, “The Case for Reviving Extinct Species.” ©2013 by the National Geographic Society. Passage 2 is adapted from the editors at Scientific American, “Why Efforts to Bring Extinct Species Back from the Dead Miss the Point.” ©2013 by Nature America, Inc.

Passage 1: Many extinct species—from the passenger pigeon to the woolly mammoth—might now be reclassified as “bodily, but not genetically, extinct.” They’re dead, but their DNA is recoverable from museum specimens and fossils, even those up to 200,000 years
old. Thanks to new developments in genetic technology, that DNA may eventually bring the animals back to life. Only species whose DNA is too old to be recovered, such as dinosaurs, are the ones to consider totally extinct, bodily and genetically.

But why bring vanished creatures back to life? It will be expensive and difficult. It will take decades. It won’t always succeed. Why even try? Why do we take enormous trouble to protect endangered species? The same reasons will apply to species brought back from extinction: to preserve biodiversity, to restore diminished ecosystems, to advance the science of preventing extinctions, and to undo harm that humans have caused in the past.

Furthermore, the prospect of de-extinction is profound news. That something as irreversible and final as extinction might be reversed is a stunning realization. The imagination soars. Just the thought of mammoths and passenger pigeons alive again
invokes the awe and wonder that drives all conservation at its deepest level.

Passage 2: The idea of bringing back extinct species holds obvious gee-whiz appeal and a respite from a steady stream of grim news. Yet with limited intellectual bandwidth and financial resources to go around, de-extinction threatens to divert attention from the modern biodiversity crisis. According to a 2012 report from the International Union for
Conservation of Nature, some 20,000 species are currently in grave danger of going extinct.

Species today are vanishing in such great numbers—many from hunting and habitat destruction—that the trend has been called a sixth mass extinction, an event on par with such die-offs as the one that befell the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
A program to restore extinct species poses a risk of selling the public on a false promise that technology alone can solve our ongoing environmental woes — an implicit assurance that if a species goes away, we can snap our fingers and bring it back.

Already conservationists face difficult choices about which species and ecosystems to try to save, since they cannot hope to rescue them all. Many countries where poaching and trade in threatened species are rampant either do not want to give up the revenue or lack the wherewithal to enforce their own regulations. Against that backdrop, a costly and flamboyant project to resuscitate extinct flora and fauna in the name of conservation looks irresponsible: Should we resurrect the mammoth only to let elephants go under? Of course not.

That is not to say that the de-extinction enterprise lacks merit altogether. Aspects of it could conceivably help save endangered species. For example, extinct versions of genes could be reintroduced into species and subspecies that have lost a dangerous amount of genetic diversity, such as the black-footed ferret and the northern white rhino. Such investigations, however, should be conducted under the mantle of preserving modern biodiversity rather than conjuring extinct species from the grave.

38. The author of Passage 1 suggests that the usefulness of de-extinction technology may be limited by the
A) amount of time scientists are able to devote to genetic research.
B) relationship of an extinct species to contemporary ecosystems.
C) complexity of the DNA of an extinct species.
D) length of time that a species has been extinct.

39. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 7-9 (“Thanks… life”)
B) Lines 9-11 (“Only… genetically”)
C) Line 13 (“It will be… difficult”)
D) Lines 13-14 (“It will take… succeed”)

40. As used in line 27, “deepest” most nearly means
A) most engrossing.
B) most challenging.
C) most extensive.
D) most fundamental.

41. The authors of Passage 2 indicate that the matter of shrinking biodiversity should primarily be considered a
A) historical anomaly.
B) global catastrophe.
C) scientific curiosity.
D) political problem.

42. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 37-41 (“Species… ago”)
B) Lines 42-45 (“A program… woes”)
C) Lines 53-56 (“Against… irresponsible”)
D) Lines 65-67 (“Such… grave”)

43. As used in line 37, “great” most nearly means
A) lofty.
B) wonderful.
C) large.
D) intense.

44. The reference to the “black-footed ferret and the northern white rhino” (line 64) serves mainly to
A) emphasize a key distinction between extinct and living species.
B) account for types of animals whose numbers are dwindling.
C) provide examples of species whose gene pools are compromised.
D) highlight instances of animals that have failed to adapt to new habitats.

45. Which choice best states the relationship between the two passages?
A) Passage 2 attacks a political decision that Passage 1 strongly advocates.
B) Passage 2 urges caution regarding a technology that Passage 1 describes in favorable terms.
C) Passage 2 expands on the results of a research study mentioned in Passage 1.
D) Passage 2 considers practical applications that could arise from a theory discussed in Passage 1.

46. How would the authors of Passage 2 most likely respond to the “prospect” referred to in line 21, Passage 1?
A) With approval, because it illustrates how useful de-extinction could be in addressing widespread environmental concerns.
B) With resignation, because the gradual extinction of many living species is inevitable.
C) With concern, because it implies an easy solution to a difficult problem.
D) With disdain, because it shows that people have little understanding of the importance of genetic diversity

47. Which choice would best support the claim that the authors of Passage 2 recognize that the “imagination soars” (line 24, Passage 1) in response to de-extinction technology?
A) Lines 28-30 (“The… news”)
B) Lines 30-33 (“Yet… crisis”)
C) Lines 58-59 (“That… altogether”)
D) Lines 61-63 (“For… diversity”)


Questions 12-22 are based on the following passage and supplementary material: Vanishing Honeybees: A Threat to Global Agriculture

Honeybees play an important role in the agriculture industry by pollinating crops. An October 2006 study found that as much as one-third of global agriculture depends on animal pollination, including honeybee pollination—to increase crop output. The importance of bees highlights the potentially disastrous affects of an emerging, unexplained crisis: entire colonies of honeybees are dying off without warning. They know it as colony collapse disorder (CCD), this phenomenon will have a detrimental impact on global agriculture if its causes and solutions are not determined.

Since the emergence of CCD around 2006, bee mortality rates have exceeded 25 percent of the population each winter. There was one sign of hope: during the 2010–2012 winter seasons, bee mortality rates decreased slightly, and beekeepers speculated that the colonies would recover. Yet in the winter of 2012–2013, 10 percent in the United States, with a loss of 31 percent of the colonies that pollinate crops.

B) pollination: this is
C) pollination,
D) pollination;

B) highlights the potentially disastrous effects
C) highlight the potentially disastrous effects
D) highlight the potentially disastrous affects

B) Known as colony
C) It is known as colony
D) Colony

15 Which choice offers the most accurate interpretation of the data in the chart?
B) been above the acceptable range.
C) not changed noticeably from year to year.
D) greatly increased every year.

16 Which choice offers an accurate interpretation of the
data in the chart?
B) portion of bees lost was double what it had been
the previous year, rising to
C) number of losses, which had fallen within the
acceptable range the previous year, rose to
D) portion of total colonies lost rose almost 10 percentage points, with a loss of

Honey Bee Colony Loss graph

Studies have offered several possible reasons that bees are vanishing. One reason that is often cited is the use of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are absorbed by plants and linger much longer than do topical pesticides. Chemicals such as herbicides and
fungicides may also play a role, contaminating the pollen that bees typically feed on and inhibiting healthy insect maturation.

17 Which choice most smoothly and effectively introduces the writer’s discussion of studies of CCD in this paragraph?

B) Bees are vanishing, and according to studies there are several possible reasons for this trend.
C) Several possible reasons, offered by studies, may explain why bees are vanishing.
D) DELETE the underlined sentence.

18 At this point, the writer is considering adding the following sentence. Prolonged exposure to neonicotinoids has been shown to increase bees’ vulnerability to disease and parasitic mites. Should the writer make this addition here?

A) Yes, because it provides support for the claim made in the previous sentence.
B) Yes, because it introduces a new idea that will become important later in the passage.
C) No, because it would be better placed elsewhere in the passage.
D) No, because it contradicts the main idea of the passage.

Given the role that honeybees play in agriculture, the impact of this loss of hives on fruit, vegetable, seed, and nut crops is not to be scoffed at. A reduction in bee numbers leads to less pollination, which in turn leads to smaller harvests and higher food prices. Some farmers have resorted to renting hives from beekeepers to pollinate their crops; when there is a shortage of bees this being an expensive proposition. Other farmers have
increased they’re dependence on costly hand-pollination by human workers.

urthermore, there may be sociological repercussions. Agroecologist Alexandra-Maria Klein has suggested that rising produce prices could lead to an increase in obesity as people turn to cheaper, less wholesome fare.

Though the precise causes of CCD are yet unclear, some commonsense measures may be taken. A decrease in the use of certain pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, as well as greater attention to the nutrition, habitat, and genetic diversity of managed hives, could begin a shift in a favorable direction.

B) is a pretty big deal.
C) can’t be put on the back burner.
D) cannot be ignored.

B) crops, this is an expensive proposition when
there is a shortage of bees.
C) crops, an expensive proposition when there is a shortage of bees.
D) crops; an expensive proposition when there is a shortage of bees.

B) there
C) their
D) its

The writer wants a conclusion that addresses the future of efforts to combat CCD. Which choice results in the passage having the most appropriate concluding sentence?

B) Still, bee colonies have experienced such devastating losses that the consequences of the issue have been felt worldwide.
C) Although CCD is a relatively new phenomenon, scientists have been studying other aspects of honeybees for over a century.
D) Genetic variation in bee colonies generally improves bees’ productivity, disease resistance, and ability to regulate body temperature.


Fall 2016 PSAT Practice Test


Questions 39-47 are based on the following passage.
This passage is adapted from Ed Yong, “Gut Bacteria Allows Insect Pest to Foil Farmers.” ©2013 by National Geographic Society.

Here is a lesson that we’re going to be taught again and again in the coming years: Most animals are not just animals. They’re also collections of Line microbes. If you really want to understand animals, 5 you’ll also have to understand the world of microbes inside them. In other words, zoology is ecology.

Consider the western corn rootworm—a beetle that’s a serious pest of corn in the United States. The adults have strong preferences for laying eggs in corn 10 fields, so that their underground larvae hatch into a feast of corn roots. This life cycle depends on a
continuous year-on-year supply of corn. Farmers can use this dependency against the rootworm, by planting soybean and corn in alternate years. 15 These rotations mean that rootworms lay eggs into corn fields but their larvae hatch among soybean, and die.

But the rootworms have adapted to this strategy by reducing their strong instincts for laying eggs in 20 corn. These rotation-resistant females might lay among soybean fields, so their larvae hatch into a crop of corn.

There are almost certainly genetic differences that separate the rotation-resistant rootworms from their 25 normal peers, but what are they? Researchers at the University of Illinois have been studying the problem since 2000 and, despite generating a vast mountain of data, have failed to find the genes in question. “The western corn rootworm has been an enigma for 30 a long time,” says Manfredo Seufferheld. “This insect has the ability to adapt to practically all control methods deployed against it, including crop rotation.

After many years of research about the mechanisms of rotation resistance, results were mostly 35 inconclusive.” So, Seufferheld looked elsewhere. Rather than focusing on the rootworm’s own genes, he studied the genes of the bacteria in its gut . . . and found
some answers. The rotation-resistant varieties have 40 very different gut bacteria from the normal ones. And when the team killed these microbes with antibiotics, they severely reduced the beetle’s ability to cope with rotation.

“The bad guy in the story—the western corn 45 rootworm—was actually part of a multi-species conspiracy,” says Joe Spencer, who was part of the study.

The team, including graduate student Chia-Ching Chu, found that a third of the rootworms’ gut 50 bacteria comprise species that are unique to either the resistant or normal varieties. These two factions also differ in the relative numbers of the bacteria that they share.

These different microbes give the resistant beetles 55 an edge when eating soybeans. The rootworms digest the protein in their meals using enzymes called cysteine proteases, and soybeans defend themselves with substances that can block these enzymes.

But Chu found that the more the beetles’ bacteria 60 differed from the normal set, the higher the levels of cysteine proteases in their guts. By avoiding indigestion, these beetles were better at surviving among soybeans, and more likely to lay their eggs there.

65 The team proved that the bacteria were responsible by killing them with antibiotics. Sure enough, this drastically lowered the cysteine protease activity in the guts of the rotation-resistant beetles and wrecked their ability to thrive among soybeans.

39. Over the course of the passage, the main focus shifts from a
A) statement about the challenge posed by a particular insect to an indication of why that
challenge was easy to overcome.
B) summary of a once-unexplained natural phenomenon to a biography of the scientists
who researched that phenomenon.
C) description of a problem affecting agriculture to an explanation of how scientists identified the cause of that problem.
D) discussion about a scientific field to an anecdote showing how research is done in that field.

40. The statement “zoology is ecology” (line 6) mainly serves to
A) propose that two areas of scientific knowledge be merged.
B) point out that knowledge obtained in one field of research will lead to expertise in another.
C) assert a point about biological science that is supported by the example in the passage.
D) suggest that one field of scientific research has completely supplanted another.

41. According to the passage, one similarity between rotation-resistant rootworms and normal rootworms is that they both
A) reduce crop productivity by extracting nutrients from the soil.
B) produce larvae that feed on the plant roots of crops.
C) adapt to crop rotation by maintaining high levels of enzymes in their guts.
D) contain the same quantity and composition of bacteria in their guts.

42. Which choice most clearly provides information indicating how some rootworms have overcome farmers’ efforts to eradicate them?

A) Lines 15-17 (“These… die”)
B) Lines 18-20 (“But… corn”)
C) Lines 25-28 (“Researchers… question”)
D) Lines 41-43 (“And… rotation”)

43. The central claim in the fourth paragraph (lines 23-35) is that

A) extensive study of the rootworm’s genes was insufficient to determine why some rootworms are rotation resistant.
B) the rootworm’s ability to adapt to pest control methods is unique among insects.
C) the genetic profile of rootworms is significantly more complex than researchers initially believed.
D) our current understanding of genetics is inadequate to allow researchers to understand why some rootworms are rotation resistant.

44. As used in line 24, “separate” most nearly means
A) distinguish.
B) discharge.
C) extract.
D) scatter.

45. According to the passage, the gut bacteria of rotation-resistant rootworms

A) help the rootworms survive in soybean crops.
B) are responsible for lowering the amount of cysteine protease in the rootworms’ guts.
C) make the rootworms less vulnerable to being killed by antibiotics.
D) are transferred to the larvae that hatch from the rootworms’ eggs.

46. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 29-30 (“The western… Seufferheld”)
B) Lines 39-40 (“The rotation-resistant… ones”)
C) Lines 44-47 (“The bad… study”)
D) Lines 54-55 (“These… soybeans”)

47. The main idea of the last paragraph is that

A) cysteine proteases are harmful to rootworms when present in large quantities in the body.
B) eggs laid by rotation-resistant rootworms will hatch into crops of soybeans.
C) bacteria unique to rotation-resistant rootworms allow them to digest soybeans.
D) rotation-resistant rootworms do not digest soybeans using cysteine proteases.



Questions 12-22 are based on the following passage and supplementary material.
A Study in Arctic Migration

Each year, many species of shorebirds migrate from locations in the Southern Hemisphere to their breeding grounds in the 12 Arctic. A journey of thousands of
kilometers that requires frequent stops to fuel up. The risk of death is significant, and the Arctic is an inhospitable region for most of the 13 year, yet the shorebirds never failing to make their annual pilgrimage.

Come spring, the Arctic becomes a suitable habitat, providing many benefits: an abundant supply of food, permanent daylight, ample nesting space, fewer pathogens, and fewer predators to invade the nests of these ground-dwelling birds. These benefits are found in all regions of the 14 Arctic regardless of latitude yet some shorebirds continue on to the high Arctic. If these birds are simply looking for open space and enough food to eat, then why not end their long journey in the low Arctic? Continuing on to the north requires more fuel and carries an even greater risk of 15 mortality if the
birds continue on. The most likely reason certain shorebirds head to the high Arctic is to escape their predators.

B) Arctic, a
C) Arctic; a
D) Arctic; which is a

B) year, the shorebirds never fail
C) year, yet the shorebirds never fail
D) year; yet the shorebirds never failing

B) Arctic, regardless of latitude
C) Arctic, regardless of latitude,
D) Arctic: regardless of latitude,

B) mortality if they keep going.
C) mortality and death.
D) mortality.

[1] A four-year study by a team of Canadian scientists, headed by student Laura McKinnon of the Université du Québec, 16 provide evidence in support of this hypothesis. [2] The scientists created artificial nests that resembled a typical shorebird’s nest. [3] Then each year, during the shorebirds’ breeding season, forty of the nests were placed in each of seven locations that ranged in latitude from the low Arctic to the high Arctic. [4] Each nest had been baited with four 17 quail egg’s, which are similar in size and shape to a shorebird’s eggs. [5] The scientists returned to the nests many times over nine days to check how many eggs remained in the nests. [6] A nest was said to have survived if, at the end of the nine days, it contained at least one undisturbed quail egg.

B) provides
C) are providing
D) have provided

B) quail eggs,
C) quail eggs’,
D) quails eggs,

To make this paragraph most logical, sentence 5 should be placed
A) where it is now.
B) after sentence 1.
C) after sentence 2.
D) after sentence 6

Nest survival by site

The figure shows the results for the nesting 19 sites,
furthermore, at four of the seven locations, averaged over
the four years of the study. The 20 number of predators
invading the nests increased over time at each location.
This result confirmed that predators were present at the
researchers’ chosen locations. The researchers found that
the percent of 21 surviving nests was greater at locations
having higher latitudes. For example, on day 9,
approximately 55 percent of nests were found to have
survived at the 82°N location compared to approximately 10 percent of nest survival at the 63°N location. This study provides the first known quantifiable evidence for the previously unanswered question of why shorebirds
continue on to the high Arctic. 22 The shorebirds risk
their own survival by flying farther. Their offspring have a better chance of survival because fewer predators invade the nests.




Sample tests

2015 Practice Test PSAT/NMSQT


Related topics

PSAT History/Social studies questions

PSAT World Literature questions


Astronomy Learning Standards

Learning standards for astronomy, and related parts of Earth Science.


Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks Science and Technology/Engineering (2016) 

6.MS-ESS1-1a. Develop and use a model of the Earth-Sun-Moon system to explain the causes of lunar phases and eclipses of the Sun and Moon.

6.MS-ESS1-5(MA). Use graphical displays to illustrate that Earth and its solar system are one of many in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of billions of galaxies in the universe.

8.MS-ESS1-1b. Develop and use a model of the Earth-Sun system to explain the cyclical pattern of seasons, which includes Earth’s tilt and differential intensity of sunlight on
different areas of Earth across the year

8.MS-ESS1-2. Explain the role of gravity in ocean tides, the orbital motions of planets, their moons, and asteroids in the solar system

HS-ESS1-1. Use informational text to explain that the life span of the Sun over approximately 10 billion years is a function of nuclear fusion in its core. Communicate that stars, through nuclear fusion over their life cycle, produce elements from helium to iron and release energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation.

HS-ESS1-2. Describe the astronomical evidence for the Big Bang theory, including the red shift of light from the motion of distant galaxies as an indication that the universe is currently expanding, the cosmic microwave background as the remnant radiation from the Big Bang, and the observed composition of ordinary matter of the universe, primarily found in stars and interstellar gases, which matches that predicted by the Big Bang theory (3/4 hydrogen and 1/4 helium).

HS-ESS1-4. Use Kepler’s laws to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.
Describe how orbits may change due to the gravitational effects from, or collisions
with, other objects in the solar system. Kepler’s laws apply to human-made satellites as well as planets, moons, and other objects.


A Framework for Science Education

A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012)

Stars’ radiation of visible light and other forms of energy can be measured and studied to develop explanations about the formation, age, and composition of the universe. Stars go through a sequence of developmental stages—they are formed; evolve in size, mass, and brightness; and eventually burn out. Material from earlier stars that exploded as supernovas is recycled to form younger stars and their planetary systems. The sun is a medium-sized star about halfway through its predicted life span of about 10 billion years.

Grade Band Endpoints for ESS1.A

By the end of grade 2. Patterns of the motion of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, and predicted. At night one can see the light coming from many stars with the naked eye, but telescopes make it possible to see many more and to observe them and the moon and planets in greater detail.

By the end of grade 5. The sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it is closer. Stars range greatly in their size and distance from Earth.

By the end of grade 8. Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models. The universe began with a period of extreme and rapid expansion known as the Big Bang. Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe.

By the end of grade 12. The star called the sun is changing and will burn out over a life span of approximately 10 billion years. The sun is just one of more than 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way is just one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. The study of stars’ light spectra and brightness is used to identify compositional elements of stars, their movements, and their distances from Earth.

Grade Band Endpoints for ESS1.B

By the end of grade 2. Seasonal patterns of sunrise and sunset can be observed, described, and predicted.

By the end of grade 5. The orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns. These include day and night; daily and seasonal changes in the length and direction of shadows; phases of the moon; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year.

Some objects in the solar system can be seen with the naked eye. Planets in the night sky change positions and are not always visible from Earth as they orbit the sun. Stars appear in patterns called constellations, which can be used for navigation and appear to move together across the sky because of Earth’s rotation.

By the end of grade 8. The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them. This model of the solar system can explain tides, eclipses of the sun and the moon, and the motion of the planets in the sky relative to the stars. Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.

By the end of grade 12. Kepler’s laws describe common features of the motions of orbiting objects, including their elliptical paths around the sun. Orbits may change due to the gravitational effects from, or collisions with, other objects in the solar system. Cyclical changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit around the sun, together with changes in the orientation of the planet’s axis of rotation, both occurring over tens to hundreds of thousands of years, have altered the intensity and distribution of sunlight falling on Earth. These phenomena cause cycles of ice ages and other gradual climate changes.

Earth exchanges mass and energy with the rest of the solar system. It gains or loses energy through incoming solar radiation, thermal radiation to space, and gravitational forces exerted by the sun, moon, and planets. Earth gains mass from the impacts of meteoroids and comets and loses mass from the escape of gases into space. (p.180)


AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy Project 2061

Benchmarks: American Association for the Advancement of Science

By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that

Because every object is moving relative to some other object, no object has a unique claim to be at rest. Therefore, the idea of absolute motion or rest is misleading. 10A/M1*
Telescopes reveal that there are many more stars in the night sky than are evident to the unaided eye, the surface of the moon has many craters and mountains, the sun has dark spots, and Jupiter and some other planets have their own moons. 10A/M2

By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that

To someone standing on the earth, it seems as if it is large and stationary and that all other objects in the sky orbit around it. That perception was the basis for theories of how the universe is organized that prevailed for over 2,000 years. 10A/H1*

Ptolemy, an Egyptian astronomer living in the second century A.D., devised a powerful mathematical model of the universe based on continuous motion in perfect circles, and in circles on circles. With the model, he was able to predict the motions of the sun, moon, and stars, and even of the irregular “wandering stars” now called planets. 10A/H2*

In the 1500s, a Polish astronomer named Copernicus suggested that all those same motions could be explained by imagining that the earth was turning around once a day and orbiting around the sun once a year. This explanation was rejected by nearly everyone because it violated common sense and required the universe to be unbelievably large. Worse, it flew in the face of the belief, universally held at the time, that the earth was at the center of the universe. 10A/H3*

Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer, worked with Tycho Brahe for a short time. After Brahe’s death, Kepler used his data to show mathematically that Copernicus’ idea of a sun-centered system worked well if uniform circular motion was replaced with uneven (but predictable) motion along off-center ellipses. 10A/H4*

Using the newly invented telescope to study the sky, Galileo made many discoveries that supported the ideas of Copernicus. It was Galileo who found the moons of Jupiter, sunspots, craters and mountains on the moon, and many more stars than were visible to the unaided eye. 10A/H5

Writing in Italian rather than in Latin (the language of scholars at the time), Galileo presented arguments for and against the two main views of the universe in a way that favored the newer view. His descriptions of how things move provided an explanation for why people might notice the motion of the earth. Galileo’s writings made educated people of the time aware of these competing views and created political, religious, and scientific controversy. 10A/H6*

Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer, proposed a model of the universe that was popular for a while because it was somewhat of a compromise of Ptolemy’s and Copernicus’ models. Brahe made very precise measurements of the positions of the planets and stars in an attempt to validate his model. 10A/H7**

The work of Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, and Kepler eventually changed people’s perception of their place in the universe. 10A/H8** (SFAA)

By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that

Isaac Newton, building on earlier descriptions of motion by Galileo, Kepler, and others, created a unified view of force and motion in which motion everywhere in the universe can be explained by the same few rules. Newton’s system was based on the concepts of mass, force, and acceleration; his three laws of motion relating them; and a physical law stating that the force of gravity between any two objects in the universe depends only upon their masses and the distance between them. 10B/H1*

Newton’s mathematical analysis of gravitational force and motion showed that planetary orbits had to be the very ellipses that Kepler had proposed two generations earlier. 10B/H2*

The Newtonian system made it possible to account for such diverse phenomena as tides, the orbits of planets and moons, the motion of falling objects, and the earth’s equatorial bulge. 10B/H3*

For several centuries, Newton’s science was accepted without major changes because it explained so many different phenomena, could be used to predict many physical events (such as the appearance of Halley’s comet), was mathematically sound, and had many practical applications. 10B/H4

Although overtaken in the 1900s by Einstein’s relativity theory, Newton’s ideas persist and are widely used. Moreover, his influence has extended far beyond physics and astronomy, serving as a model for other sciences and even raising philosophical questions about free will and the organization of social systems. 10B/H5*

By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that

Prior to the 1700s, many considered the earth to be just a few thousand years old. By the 1800s, scientists were starting to realize that the earth was much older even though they could not determine its exact age. 10D/H1*

In the early 1800s, Charles Lyell argued in Principles of Geology that the earth was vastly older than most people believed. He supported his claim with a wealth of observations of the patterns of rock layers in mountains and the locations of various kinds of fossils. 10D/H2*

In formulating and presenting his theory of biological evolution, British naturalist Charles Darwin adopted Lyell’s claims about the age of the earth and his assumption that the processes that occurred in the past are the same as the processes that occur today. 10D/H3*

By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that

The patterns of stars in the sky stay the same, although they appear to move across the sky nightly, and different stars can be seen in different seasons. 4A/E1

Telescopes magnify the appearance of some distant objects in the sky, including the moon and the planets. The number of stars that can be seen through telescopes is dramatically greater than can be seen by the unaided eye. 4A/E2

Planets change their positions against the background of stars. 4A/E3

The earth is one of several planets that orbit the sun, and the moon orbits around the earth. 4A/E4

Stars are like the sun, some being smaller and some larger, but so far away that they look like points of light. 4A/E5

A large light source at a great distance looks like a small light source that is much closer. 4A/E6** (BSL)

By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that

The sun is a medium-sized star located near the edge of a disc-shaped galaxy of stars, part of which can be seen as a glowing band of light that spans the sky on a very clear night. 4A/M1a

The universe contains many billions of galaxies, and each galaxy contains many billions of stars. To the naked eye, even the closest of these galaxies is no more than a dim, fuzzy spot. 4A/M1bc

The sun is many thousands of times closer to the earth than any other star. Light from the sun takes a few minutes to reach the earth, but light from the next nearest star takes a few years to arrive. The trip to that star would take the fastest rocket thousands of years. 4A/M2abc

Some distant galaxies are so far away that their light takes several billion years to reach the earth. People on earth, therefore, see them as they were that long ago in the past. 4A/M2de

Nine planets of very different size, composition, and surface features move around the sun in nearly circular orbits. Some planets have a variety of moons and even flat rings of rock and ice particles orbiting around them. Some of these planets and moons show evidence of geologic activity. The earth is orbited by one moon, many artificial satellites, and debris. 4A/M3

Many chunks of rock orbit the sun. Those that meet the earth glow and disintegrate from friction as they plunge through the atmosphere—and sometimes impact the ground. Other chunks of rock mixed with ice have long, off-center orbits that carry them close to the sun, where the sun’s radiation (of light and particles) boils off frozen materials from their surfaces and pushes it into a long, illuminated tail. 4A/M4*

By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that

The stars differ from each other in size, temperature, and age, but they appear to be made up of the same elements found on earth and behave according to the same physical principles. 4A/H1a

Unlike the sun, most stars are in systems of two or more stars orbiting around one another. 4A/H1b

On the basis of scientific evidence, the universe is estimated to be over ten billion years old. The current theory is that its entire contents expanded explosively from a hot, dense, chaotic mass. 4A/H2ab

Stars condensed by gravity out of clouds of molecules of the lightest elements until nuclear fusion of the light elements into heavier ones began to occur. Fusion released great amounts of energy over millions of years. 4A/H2cd

Eventually, some stars exploded, producing clouds containing heavy elements from which other stars and planets orbiting them could later condense. The process of star formation and destruction continues. 4A/H2ef

Increasingly sophisticated technology is used to learn about the universe. Visual, radio, and X-ray telescopes collect information from across the entire spectrum of electromagnetic waves; computers handle data and complicated computations to interpret them; space probes send back data and materials from remote parts of the solar system; and accelerators give subatomic particles energies that simulate conditions in the stars and in the early history of the universe before stars formed. 4A/H3

Mathematical models and computer simulations are used in studying evidence from many sources in order to form a scientific account of the universe. 4A/H4

As the earth and other planets formed, the heavier elements fell to their centers. On planets close to the sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), the lightest elements were mostly blown or boiled away by radiation from the newly formed sun; on the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) the lighter elements still surround them as deep atmospheres of gas or as frozen solid layers. 4A/H5** (SFAA)

Our solar system coalesced out of a giant cloud of gas and debris left in the wake of exploding stars about five billion years ago. Everything in and on the earth, including living organisms, is made of this material. 4A/H6** (SFAA)

The Writing Revolution

The Atlantic, October 2012

By Peg Tyre

in 2009, when Monica DiBella entered New Dorp, a notorious public high school on Staten Island, her academic future was cloudy. Monica had struggled to read in early childhood, and had repeated first grade. During her elementary-school years, she got more than 100 hours of tutoring, but by fourth grade, she’d fallen behind her classmates again. In the years that followed, Monica became comfortable with math and learned to read passably well, but never seemed able to express her thoughts in writing. During her freshman year at New Dorp, a ’70s-style brick behemoth near a grimy beach, her history teacher asked her to write an essay on Alexander the Great. At a loss, she jotted down her opinion of the Macedonian ruler: “I think Alexander the Great was one of the best military leaders.” An essay? “Basically, that wasn’t going to happen,” she says, sweeping her blunt-cut brown hair from her brown eyes. “It was like, well, I got a sentence down. What now?” Monica’s mother, Santa, looked over her daughter’s answer—six simple sentences, one of which didn’t make sense—with a mixture of fear and frustration. Even a coherent, well-turned paragraph seemed beyond her daughter’s ability. An essay? “It just didn’t seem like something Monica could ever do.”

For decades, no one at New Dorp seemed to know how to help low-performing students like Monica, and unfortunately, this troubled population made up most of the school, which caters primarily to students from poor and working-class families. In 2006, 82 percent of freshmen entered the school reading below grade level. Students routinely scored poorly on the English and history Regents exams, a New York State graduation requirement: the essay questions were just too difficult. Many would simply write a sentence or two and shut the test booklet. In the spring of 2007, when administrators calculated graduation rates, they found that four out of 10 students who had started New Dorp as freshmen had dropped out, making it one of the 2,000 or so lowest-performing high schools in the nation. City officials, who had been closing comprehensive high schools all over New York and opening smaller, specialized ones in their stead, signaled that New Dorp was in the crosshairs.

And so the school’s principal, Deirdre DeAngelis, began a detailed investigation into why, ultimately, New Dorp’s students were failing. By 2008, she and her faculty had come to a singular answer: bad writing. Students’ inability to translate thoughts into coherent, well-argued sentences, paragraphs, and essays was severely impeding intellectual growth in many subjects. Consistently, one of the largest differences between failing and successful students was that only the latter could express their thoughts on the page.

If nothing else, DeAngelis and her teachers decided, beginning in the fall of 2009, New Dorp students would learn to write well. “When they told me about the writing program,” Monica says, “well, I was skeptical.” With disarming candor, sharp-edged humor, and a shy smile, Monica occupies the middle ground between child and adult—she can be both naive and knowing. “On the other hand, it wasn’t like I had a choice. I go to high school. I figured I’d give it a try.”

New Dorp’s Writing Revolution, which placed an intense focus, across nearly every academic subject, on teaching the skills that underlie good analytical writing, was a dramatic departure from what most American students—especially low performers—are taught in high school. The program challenged long-held assumptions about the students and bitterly divided the staff. It also yielded extraordinary results. By the time they were sophomores, the students who had begun receiving the writing instruction as freshmen were already scoring higher on exams than any previous New Dorp class. Pass rates for the English Regents, for example, bounced from 67 percent in June 2009 to 89 percent in 2011; for the global-­history exam, pass rates rose from 64 to 75 percent. The school reduced its Regents-repeater classes—cram courses designed to help struggling students collect a graduation requirement—from five classes of 35 students to two classes of 20 students.

…[Why were the students previously failing?]

…. New Dorp students were simply not smart enough to write at the high-school level. You just had to listen to the way the students talked, one teacher pointed out—they rarely communicated in full sentences, much less expressed complex thoughts… Scharff, a lecturer at Baruch College, a part of the City University of New York, kept pushing, asking: “What skills that lead to good writing did struggling students lack?” …

Maybe the struggling students just couldn’t read, suggested one teacher.

A few teachers administered informal diagnostic tests the following week and reported back. The students who couldn’t write well seemed capable, at the very least, of decoding simple sentences. A history teacher got more granular. He pointed out that the students’ sentences were short and disjointed. What words, Scharff asked, did kids who wrote solid paragraphs use that the poor writers didn’t? Good essay writers, the history teacher noted, used coordinating conjunctions to link and expand on simple ideas—words like for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. Another teacher devised a quick quiz that required students to use those conjunctions. To the astonishment of the staff, she reported that a sizable group of students could not use those simple words effectively. The harder they looked, the teachers began to realize, the harder it was to determine whether the students were smart or not—the tools they had to express their thoughts were so limited that such a judgment was nearly impossible.

The exploration continued. One teacher noted that the best-written paragraphs contained complex sentences that relied on dependent clauses like although and despite, which signal a shifting idea within the same sentence. Curious, Fran Simmons devised a little test of her own. She asked her freshman English students to read Of Mice and Men and, using information from the novel, answer the following prompt in a single sentence:

“Although George …”

She was looking for a sentence like: Although George worked very hard, he could not attain the American Dream.

Some of Simmons’s students wrote a solid sentence, but many were stumped. More than a few wrote the following: “Although George and Lenny were friends.”

A lightbulb, says Simmons, went on in her head. These 14- and 15-year-olds didn’t know how to use some basic parts of speech. With such grammatical gaps, it was a wonder they learned as much as they did. “Yes, they could read simple sentences,” but works like the Gettysburg Address were beyond them—not because they were too lazy to look up words they didn’t know, but because “they were missing a crucial understanding of how language works. They didn’t understand that the key information in a sentence doesn’t always come at the beginning of that sentence.”

Some teachers wanted to know how this could happen. “We spent a lot of time wondering how our students had been taught,” said English teacher Stevie D’Arbanville. “How could they get passed along and end up in high school without understanding how to use the word although?”

…The Hochman Program, as it is sometimes called, would not be un­familiar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950. Children do not have to “catch” a single thing. They are explicitly taught how to turn ideas into simple sentences, and how to construct complex sentences from simple ones by supplying the answer to three prompts—but, because, and so. They are instructed on how to use appositive clauses to vary the way their sentences begin. Later on, they are taught how to recognize sentence fragments, how to pull the main idea from a paragraph, and how to form a main idea on their own. It is, at least initially, a rigid, unswerving formula. “I prefer recipe,” Hochman says, “but formula? Yes! Okay!”

…Within months, Hochman became a frequent visitor to Staten Island. Under her supervision, the teachers at New Dorp began revamping their curriculum. By fall 2009, nearly every instructional hour except for math class was dedicated to teaching essay writing along with a particular subject. So in chemistry class in the winter of 2010, Monica DiBella’s lesson on the properties of hydrogen and oxygen was followed by a worksheet that required her to describe the elements with subordinating clauses—for instance, she had to begin one sentence with the word although.

Although … “hydrogen is explosive and oxygen supports combustion,” Monica wrote, “a compound of them puts out fires.”

Unless … “hydrogen and oxygen form a compound, they are explosive and dangerous.”

If … This was a hard one. Finally, she figured out a way to finish the sentence. If … “hydrogen and oxygen form a compound, they lose their original properties of being explosive and supporting combustion.”

As her understanding of the parts of speech grew, Monica’s reading comprehension improved dramatically. “Before, I could read, sure. But it was like a sea of words,” she says. “The more writing instruction I got, the more I understood which words were important.”

Classroom discussion became an opportunity to push Monica and her classmates to listen to each other, think more carefully, and speak more precisely, in ways they could then echo in persuasive writing.

PEG TYRE is the director of strategy at the Edwin Gould Foundation and the author of The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve.

New MA science standards

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is adopting revised science standards. They are based on the Next Generation Science Standards, which itself is based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012), from the National Research Council of the National Academies.

Board of edNext Gen Science Standards

External link: Adoption of 2016 Science and Technology/Engineering Standards

The Board of Early Education and Care (EEC) is scheduled to vote to adopt the Pre-Kindergarten STE standards on February 9, 2016. …Assuming the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education votes to adopt the 2016 STE Standards, the Department will then copyedit the full 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework. The Framework includes the standards and a variety of additional guidance and supporting materials….

We expect to publish and post the completed 2016 STE Curriculum Framework in early spring 2016. At that point, the Department will distribute copies … to schools… for their use in improving curriculum, instruction, and assessment in science and technology/engineering starting in the 2016-17 school year….high school STE MCAS assessments will be revised later on a timetable that provides fair notice to students and schools with respect to the science testing component of the state’s Competency Determination (high school graduation) requirement.

Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life and hold the key to solving many of humanity’s most pressing current and future challenges. The United States’ position in the global economy is declining, in part because U.S. workers lack fundamental knowledge in these fields. To address the critical issues of U.S. competitiveness and to better prepare the workforce, A Framework for K-12 Science Education proposes a new approach to K-12 science education that will capture students’ interest and provide them with the necessary foundational knowledge in the field.

A Framework for K-12 Science Education outlines a broad set of expectations for students in science and engineering in grades K-12. These expectations will inform the development of new standards for K-12 science education and, subsequently, revisions to curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development for educators.

The high school Introductory Physics standards build from middle school and allow grade 9 or 10 students to explain additional and more complex phenomena central to the physical world. The standards expect students to apply a variety of science and engineering practices to three core ideas of physics:

Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions support students’ understanding of ideas related to why some objects move in certain ways, why objects change their motion, and why some materials are attracted to each other while others are not. This core idea helps students answer the question, “How can one explain and predict interactions between objects and within systems of objects?” Students are able to demonstrate their understanding by applying scientific and engineering ideas related to Newton’s Second Law, total momentum, conservation, system analysis, and gravitational and electrostatic forces.

A focus on Energy develops students’ understanding of energy at both the macroscopic and atomic scale that can be accounted for as either motions of particles or energy stored in fields. This core idea helps students answer the question, “How is energy transferred and conserved?” Energy is understood as quantitative property of a system that depends on the motion and interactions of matter and radiation within that system, and the total change of energy in any system is always equal to the total energy transferred into or out of the system. Students apply their understandings to explain situations that involve conservation of energy, energy transfer, and tracing the relationship between energy and forces.

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer support students’ understanding of the physical principles used in a wide variety of existing and emerging technologies. As such, this core idea helps students answer the question, “How are waves used to transfer energy and send and store information?”

Students are able to apply understanding of how wave properties and the interactions of electromagnetic radiation with matter can transfer information across long distances, store information, and investigate nature on many scales. Models of electromagnetic radiation as either a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles are developed and used. Students understand that combining waves of different frequencies can make a wide variety of patterns and thereby encode and transmit information. Students can demonstrate their understanding by explaining how the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter are used in technological devices to transmit and capture information and energy.

PS1. Matter and Its Interactions

HS-PS1-8. Develop a model to illustrate the energy released or absorbed during the processes of fission, fusion, and radioactive decay.

Clarification Statements:

  • Examples of models include simple qualitative models, such as pictures or diagrams.

  • Types of radioactive decays include alpha, beta, and gamma.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Quantitative calculations of energy released or absorbed are not expected in state assessment.

[Note: HS-PS1-1, HS-PS1-2, HS-PS1-3, HS-PS1-4, HS-PS1-5, HS-PS1-6, and HS-PS1-7 are found in Chemistry.]

PS2. Motion and Stability:  Forces and Interactions

HS-PS2-1. Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion is a mathematical model describing change in motion (the acceleration) of objects when acted on by a net force.

Clarification Statements:

  • Examples of data could include tables or graphs of position or velocity as a function of time for objects subject to a net unbalanced force, such as a falling object, an object rolling down a ramp, and a moving object being pulled by a constant force.

  • Forces can include contact forces, including friction, and forces acting at a distance, such as gravity and magnetic forces.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Variable forces are not expected in state assessment.

HS-PS2-2. Use mathematical representations to show that the total momentum of a system of interacting objects is conserved when there is no net force on the system.

Clarification Statement:

  • Emphasis is on the qualitative meaning of the conservation of momentum and the quantitative understanding of the conservation of linear momentum in interactions involving elastic and inelastic collisions between two objects in one dimension.

HS-PS2-3. Apply scientific principles of motion and momentum to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force on a macroscopic object during a collision.*

Clarification Statement:

  • Both qualitative evaluations and algebraic manipulations may be used.

HS-PS2-4. Use mathematical representations of Newton’s Law of Gravitation and Coulomb’s Law to both qualitatively and quantitatively describe and predict the effects of gravitational and electrostatic forces between objects.

Clarification Statement:

  • Emphasis is on the relative changes when distance, mass or charge, or both are changed; as well as the relative strength comparison between the two forces.

State Assessment Boundaries:

  • State assessment will be limited to systems with two objects.

  • Permittivity of free space is not expected in state assessment.

HS-PS2-5. Provide evidence that an electric current can produce a magnetic field and that a changing magnetic field can produce an electric current.

Clarification Statement:

  • Examples of evidence can include movement of a magnetic compass when placed in the vicinity of a current-carrying wire, and a magnet passing through a coil that turns on the light of a Faraday flashlight.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Explanations of motors or generators are not expected in state assessment.

HS-PS2-9(MA). Evaluate simple series and parallel circuits to predict changes to voltage, current, or resistance when simple changes are made to a circuit.

Clarification Statements:

  • Predictions of changes can be represented numerically, graphically, or algebraically using Ohm’s Law.

  • Simple changes to a circuit may include adding a component, changing the resistance of a load, and adding a parallel path, in circuits with batteries and common loads.

  • Simple circuits can be represented in schematic diagrams.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Use of measurement devices and predictions of changes in power are not expected in state assessment.

HS-PS2-10(MA). Use free-body force diagrams, algebraic expressions, and Newton’s laws of motion to predict changes to velocity and acceleration for an object moving in one dimension in various situations.

Clarification Statement:

  • Predictions of changes in motion can be made numerically, graphically, and algebraically using basic equations for velocity, constant acceleration, and Newton’s first and second laws.

  • Forces can include contact forces, including friction, and forces acting at a distance, such as gravity and magnetic forces.

[Note: HS-PS2-6, HS-PS2-7(MA), and HS-PS2-8(MA) are found in Chemistry.]

PS3. Energy

HS-PS3-1. Use algebraic expressions and the principle of energy conservation to calculate the change in energy of one component of a system when the change in energy of the other component(s) of the system, as well as the total energy of the system including any energy entering or leaving the system, is known. Identify any transformations from one form of energy to another, including thermal, kinetic, gravitational, magnetic, or electrical energy, in the system.

Clarification Statement:

  • Systems should be limited to two or three components; and to thermal energy, kinetic energy, or the energies in gravitational, magnetic, or electric fields.

HS-PS3-2. Develop and use a model to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as either motions of particles and objects or energy stored in fields.

Clarification Statements:

  • Examples of phenomena at the macroscopic scale could include evaporation and condensation, the conversion of kinetic energy to thermal energy, the gravitational potential energy stored due to position of an object above the Earth, and the energy stored (electrical potential) of a charged object’s position within an electrical field.

  • Examples of models could include diagrams, drawings, descriptions, and computer simulations.

HS-PS3-3. Design and evaluate a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.*

Clarification Statements:

  • Emphasis is on both qualitative and quantitative evaluations of devices.

  • Examples of devices could include Rube Goldberg devices, wind turbines, solar cells, solar ovens, and generators.

  • Examples of constraints could include use of renewable energy forms and efficiency.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Quantitative evaluations will be limited to total output for a given input in state assessment.

HS-PS3-4a. Provide evidence that when two objects of different temperature are in thermal contact within a closed system, the transfer of thermal energy from higher temperature objects to lower temperature objects results in thermal equilibrium, or a more uniform energy distribution among the objects and that temperature changes necessary to achieve thermal equilibrium depend on the specific heat values of the two substances.

Clarification Statement:

  • Energy changes should be described both quantitatively in a single phase (Q = mc∆T) and conceptually in either a single phase or during a phase change.

HS-PS3-5. Develop and use a model of magnetic or electric fields to illustrate the forces and changes in energy between two magnetically or electrically charged objects changing relative position in a magnetic or electric field, respectively.

Clarification Statements:

  • Emphasis is on the change in force and energy as objects move relative to each other.

  • Examples of models could include drawings, diagrams, and texts, such as drawings of what happens when two charges of opposite polarity are near each other.

[Note: HS-PS3-4b is found in Chemistry.]

PS4. Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer

HS-PS4-1. Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling within various media. Recognize that electromagnetic waves can travel through empty space (without a medium) as compared to mechanical waves that require a medium.

Clarification Statements:

  • Emphasis is on relationships when waves travel within a medium, and comparisons when a wave travels in different media.

  • Examples of situations to consider could include electromagnetic radiation traveling in a vacuum and glass, sound waves traveling through air and water, and seismic waves traveling through the Earth.

  • Relationships include v = λf, T = 1/f, and the qualitative comparison of the speed of a transverse (including electromagnetic) or longitudinal mechanical wave in a solid, liquid, gas, or vacuum.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Transitions between two media are not expected in state assessment.

HS-PS4-3. Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind the idea that electromagnetic radiation can be described either by a wave model or a particle model, and that for some situations involving resonance, interference, diffraction, refraction, or the photoelectric effect, one model is more useful than the other.

Clarification Statement:

  • Emphasis is on qualitative reasoning and comparisons of the two models.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Calculations of energy levels or resonant frequencies are not expected in state assessment.

HS-PS4-5. Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy.*

Clarification Statements:

  • Emphasis is on qualitative information and descriptions.

  • Examples of technological devices could include solar cells capturing light and converting it to electricity; medical imaging; and communications technology.

  • Examples of principles of wave behavior include resonance, photoelectric effect, and constructive and destructive interference.

State Assessment Boundary:

  • Band theory is not expected in state assessment.

[Note: HS-PS4-2 and HS-PS4-4 from NGSS are not included.]

Also see: A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012)