Test Information Guide

Field 14: Earth Science
Sample Multiple-Choice Questions

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Nature of Science

Objective 0002
Understand the processes of gathering, organizing, analyzing, and reporting scientific data.

1. Use the passage below to answer the question that follows.

Scientists have had difficulty using previously reliable computer models to predict accurately the duration of El Niņo episodes. In the past, available computer models have accurately projected the duration of El Niņo episodes. However, the models, which simulate the interaction between atmospheric and oceanic conditions, predicted that the El Niņo that began in mid-1991 would end by late 1992. Instead, El Niņo conditions strengthened and persisted well past that time.

The problems experienced with the computer models described in this passage were most likely caused by the fact that the models:

  1. include significant accuracy errors in the data used to develop them.
  2. focus on isolated data points rather than exploring patterns and relationships in data gathered over time.
  3. rely too heavily on empirical data, which makes it difficult to use the models to recognize and predict qualitative changes.
  4. do not accurately represent the influence and interactions of every variable that may affect the system.
Correct Response: D.

Correct Response: D.

Objective 0004
Understand the historical and contemporary relationships among science, technology, and society.

2. A town has detected nitrates in its water supply, which is drawn from a reservoir and from a number of wells that tap a small aquifer. The nitrates have been traced to wells in one area. Which of the following is the most likely source of the contamination?

  1. leakage from underground gasoline storage tanks
  2. ash and particulates from upwind industrial stacks
  3. leachate from naturally occurring minerals
  4. runoff from farms and feedlots
Correct Response: D.

Correct Response: D.


Objective 0005
Understand the characteristics, classification, and formation of rocks, minerals, and geologic energy resources.

3. The chemical breakdown of which of the following types of rock involves the transfer of carbon from the lithosphere to the atmosphere?

  1. marble
  2. granite
  3. basalt
  4. sandstone
Correct Response: A.

Correct Response: A.

Objective 0008
Understand geologic time divisions, methods of relative and absolute dating, and major events in the earth's geologic history.

4. Use the diagram below to answer the question that follows.

Based on the cross-sectional diagram above, which of the following was the most likely sequence of geologic events?

  1. sedimentation–faulting–intrusion–erosion–sedimentation
  2. sedimentation–intrusion–erosion–faulting–sedimentation
  3. sedimentation–folding–faulting–erosion–sedimentation
  4. sedimentation–erosion–sedimentation–erosion–faulting
Correct Response: A.

Correct Response: A.

Oceanography and Freshwater Systems

Objective 0009
Understand the hydrologic cycle and types, characteristics, and uses of freshwater systems.

5. A sediment with which of the following structures would have the greatest permeability?

  1. many tiny pebbles about the same size

  2. tiny pebbles mixed in with a few large stones

  3. larger pebbles and a few larger stones

  4. large stones
Correct Response: D.

Correct Response: D.

Objective 0010
Understand the characteristics of ocean water, ocean currents, tides, and waves.

6. Which of the following most accurately represents the air circulation patterns likely to develop on a hot summer afternoon in a coastal area?

Correct Response: B.

Correct Response: B.


Objective 0012
Understand the composition, structure, and properties of the earth's atmosphere.

7. Nitrogen gas in the atmosphere becomes available to plants through which of the following processes?

  1. denitrification of nitrate compounds in the atmosphere
  2. direct diffusion of elemental nitrogen into water vapor
  3. fixation of gaseous nitrogen by bacteria in the soil
  4. breakdown of ammonia gas into elemental nitrogen
Correct Response: C.

Correct Response: C.

Objective 0014
Understand the conditions in the atmosphere that produce different types of weather.

8. Which of the following is the primary reason cloud droplets that condense around salt particles can grow into raindrops at a relative humidity significantly lower than 100 percent?

  1. Water molecules evaporate less easily from a salt solution than from pure water.
  2. Salt reduces the surface tension of interconnected water molecules within the cloud droplet.
  3. Water vapor condenses on the surface of a salt solution more easily than it does on pure water.
  4. Salt increases the viscosity of water molecules trying to leave the surface of the cloud droplet.
Correct Response: A.

Correct Response: A.


Objective 0017
Understand the organization and components of the solar system.

9. Kepler's second law states that the orbital speed of a planet varies so that a line joining the sun and the planet will sweep over a certain area in a specified amount of time. In the diagrams below, the speed of the planet's motion is shown in months and the area that is covered during that time is shown as either a1 or a2. Which of the following diagrams accurately summarizes the relationships described by Kepler's second law?

Correct Response: C.

Correct Response: C.

Objective 0018
Understand stars and their evolution.

10. Binary stars have provided scientists with essential information necessary for determining which of the following properties of stars?

  1. surface temperature
  2. age
  3. core composition
  4. mass
Correct Response: D.

Correct Response: D.