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These 11 Questions Are Used to Test Americans’ Knowledge of Science

Do you know more science than the average American?

| 3 min read

Do you know more science than the average American?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has developed a way of measuring Americans’ knowledge on the topic of science.  In a 2014 report on science and technology, the NSF included a set of 11 questions that they used to tests the public’s knowledge of scientific facts.

Not all of the questions were asked every year, however they were asked at some point between the years 1988 and 2012.  Take the test to see how many you can get right and find out how you fare against the national average.  Good luck!

  1. True or False?  The center of the Earth is very hot.

  2. True or False?  The continents on which we live have been moving their locations for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.

  3. Does Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around Earth?

  4. How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun?

  5. True or False?  All radioactivity is man-made.

  6. True or False?  Electrons are smaller than atoms.

  7. True or False?  Lasers work by focusing sound waves.

  8. True or False?  The universe began with a huge explosion.

  9. True or False?  It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

  10. True or False?  Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria.

  11. True or False?  Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

SEE ALSO: Should Scientific Information Be Reserved for the Wealthy?


  1. True: Scientists have estimated that Earth's core is probably more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit — close to the temperature on the surface of the Sun.

  2. True: Plate tectonics describes how the plates forming Earth's outermost layer (the crust) are constantly moving — but they're moving very slowly — about a couple inches a year.

  3. The Earth goes around the Sun: We know this is true because the position of the stars change over time.

  4. One year: Or 365.25 days.

  5. False: There is a lot of radiation in space, and small amounts of natural radiation are present in soil, water and vegetation.

  6. True: Electrons are much smaller than the protons and neutrons that make up the nucleus (core) of atoms.

  7. False: Lasers concentrate light waves.

  8. True (probably): This is the leading theory about how the universe began: a point of infinite density at the beginning of the universe began to expand and created the galaxies, planets, and stars that we see today — known as “the Big Bang.”

  9. True: Sperm carry an X chromosome (girl) or Y chromosome (boy) and whichever sperm makes it to the egg first will determine the baby's sex.

  10. False: Antibiotics only kill bacteria.

  11. True: Tests indicate that humans evolved from other animals — it is called evolution.  

According to NSF, in 2012 the average number of correct answers was 5.8 — a score that has remained relatively unchanged.  However, that score was out of 9, not 11.  

NSF removed questions about evolution and the origins of the universe because as a 2008 report notes, “Many Americans appear skeptical of established scientific ideas in these areas, even when they have some basic familiarity with them.”

How did you do? Next try The Pseudoscience Quiz: Can You Distinguish Common Science Myths from Fact?

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