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Physical Science

Physical science exercises in the NAEP 2005 science assessment measures basic knowledge and understanding of the structure of the universe as well as the physical principles that operate within it. The assessment covers the following topics.

Matter and Its Transformations

  • diversity of materials, including the classification, types, and particular nature of matter;
  • temperature and states of matter;
  • properties and uses of material, including modifying properties and the synthesis of materials with new properties; and
  • resource management.

Energy and Its Transformations

  • forms of energy;
  • energy transformations in living systems, natural physical systems, and artificial systems constructed by humans; and
  • energy sources and its use, including distribution, energy conversion, and energy costs and depletion.


  • an understanding of frames of reference;
  • force and changes in position and motion;
  • action and reaction;
  • vibrations and waves as motion;
  • general wave behavior;
  • electromagnetic radiation; and
  • interactions of electromagnetic radiation with matter.

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

Last updated 21 December 2010 (RF)