Table 7-8
Comparison of correct answers given by adults and students to factual knowledge questions: Most recent year
          Adult   Student
Question   Field of study   Concepts
  International   Question
1. 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?   Earth and space sciences   Water cycle; nature of the oceans and their effects on water and climate; location of water, its distribution, characteristics, and its effect and influence on human activity 84   61   NA   NAEP 2005, grade 4
2. Traits are transferred from generation to generation through the…   Life sciences   Reproduction and heredity 79   86   74   TIMSS 2003, grade 8
3. How do most fish get the oxygen they need to survive?   Life sciences   Change and evolution; adaptation and natural selection 75   78   NA   NAEP 2005, grade 8
4. What property of water is most important for living organisms?   Physical sciences   Matter and its transformations 68   76   NA   NAEP 2000, grade 8
5. Which one of the following is NOT an example of erosion?   Earth and space sciences   Composition of the Earth; forces that alter the Earth's surface; rocks: their formation, characteristics, and uses; soil: its changes and uses; natural resources used by humankind; and forces within the Earth 54   37   NA   NAEP 2005, grade 8
6. Lightning and thunder happen at the same time, but you see the lightning before you hear the thunder. Explain why this is so.   Physical sciences   Frames of reference; force and changes in position and motion; action and reaction; vibrations and waves as motion; electromagnetic radiation and interactions of electomagnetic radiation with matter 44   36   NA   NAEP 2005, grade 8
7. A solution of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in water will turn blue litmus paper red. A solution of the base sodium hydroxide (NaOH) in water will turn red litmus paper blue. If the acid and base solutions are mixed in the right proportion, the resulting solution will cause neither red nor blue litmus paper to change color. Explain why the litmus paper does not change color in the mixed solution.   Chemistry   Acids and bases 20   17   21   TIMSS 2003, grade 8

NA = not available, question not asked

NAEP = National Assessment of Educational Progress; TIMSS = Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study

NOTES: Questions appeared in 2008 General Social Survey; see appendix table 7-17 for complete questions. Original sources of questions are NAEP and TIMSS.

SOURCES: University of Chicago, National Opinion Research Center, General Social Survey (2008), see appendix table 7-18; NAEP,, accessed 22 September 2009; TIMSS,, accessed 22 September 2009.

Science and Engineering Indicators 2012