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Earth Science

Earth science exercises on the NAEP 2005 science assessment measure the following topics.

  • What students know about their own position with respect to objects and structures on, below, and above the Earth's surface;
  • What students know about the changes in position of objects and environments through time; and
  • What students know about the relative movements of the Earth, Moon, Sun, and the planets.

The assessment includes exercises from the following categories.

Solid Earth

  • composition of Earth;
  • forces that alter Earth's surface;
  • the formation, characteristics, and uses of rocks;
  • the changes and uses of water;
  • natural resources used by humankind; and
  • forces within Earth.


  • water cycle;
  • nature of the oceans and their effects on water and climate; and
  • location, distribution, and characteristics of water and water's effect and influence on human activity.


  • composition and structure of the atmosphere, including energy transfer;
  • nature of weather;
  • common weather hazards; and
  • air quality and climate.

Earth in Space

  • setting of Earth in the solar system;
  • setting and evolution of the solar system in the universe;
  • tools and technology used to gather information about space;
  • apparent daily motions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars;
  • rotation of Earth about its axis and the Earth's revolution around the Sun;
  • tilt of Earth's axis that produces seasonal variations in climate; and
  • Earth as a unique member of the solar system that may be approximated in other galaxies of the universe and that evolved at least 4.5 billion years ago.

For further examples of questions measuring student understanding of Earth science at each grade level, as well as student responses, go to the NAEP Questions Tool.

Last updated 21 December 2010 (RF)