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What Does the NAEP Geography Assessment Measure?

The National Assessment Governing Board oversees the development of the NAEP frameworks that describe the specific knowledge and skills that should be assessed in each subject. Frameworks incorporate ideas and input from subject area experts, school administrators, policymakers, parents, and others. The Geography Framework (587K PDF) specifies that the assessment should be organized around two primary dimensions: a content dimension and a cognitive dimension. Each question in the assessment has a content and a cognitive skills dimension.

The content dimension includes the following three areas:

  • Space and place questions measure students' knowledge of geography related to particular places on Earth, spatial patterns on Earth's surface, and physical and human processes that shape spatial patterns. 
  • Environment and society questions measure students' knowledge of how people depend upon, adapt to, are affected by, and modify the natural environment.
  • Spatial dynamics and connections questions measure students' ability to understand geography as it relates to spatial variations and the connections among people and places.

The cognitive dimension of the assessment includes the following three categories:

  • Knowing questions ask: What is it? Where is it?
  • Understanding questions ask: Why is it there? How did it get there? What is its significance? 
  • Applying questions ask: How can knowledge and understanding be used to solve geographic problems?

The geography framework specifies the amount of assessment time to be devoted to each of the dimensions by grade.

The framework required that the assessment test the elements in an interactive manner: items were created by applying each cognitive dimension to each content dimension. See the elements of the geography assessment.

Sample Question booklets for the geography assessment are available for download.

Explore sample questions in the NAEP Questions Tool.

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Last updated 20 June 2011 (JM)
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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education