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You may think that you are pretty scientifically smart, but how can you be sure without testing yourself?

Here I will replicate one of the scientific literacy tests that the National Science Foundation gives out each year to determine how fluent the country is in science. In other words, you should know these ones. I will have the ten questions below, and you can find the correct answers (with percentages of the country that got them correct, by male and female) at the very bottom of the post. Use a pen and paper to keep track of your answers.

NSF Questions

1. The center of the Earth is very hot. (True/False)

2. All radioactivity is man-made. (True/False)

3. Lasers work by focusing sound waves. (True/False)

4. Electrons are smaller than atoms. (True/False)

5. The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move. (True/False)

6. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun?

7. It is the father’s gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl. (True/False)

8. Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria. (True/False)

9. A doctor tells a couple that their genetic makeup means that they’ve got one in four chances of having a child with an inherited illness. Does this mean that if their first child has the illness, the next three will not? (Yes/No) Does this mean that each of the couple’s children will have the same risk of suffering from the illness? (Yes/No)

10. Two scientists want to know if a certain drug is effective against high blood pressure. The first scientist wants to give the drug to 1,000 people with high blood pressure and see how many of them experience lower blood pressure levels. The second scientist wants to give the drug to 500 people with high blood pressure and not give the drug to another 500 people with high blood pressure, and see how many in both groups experience lower blood pressure levels. Which is the better way to test this drug? Why is it better to test the drug this way?

If you feel like that was too easy, try this 50 question scientific literacy test, which is a good general evaluation. For your information, I scored 41/50 (yeah I know, not great. I was…um…tired), so beat that my fellow geeks (no internet cheating, no calculators!) and tell me your score in the comments.


1. True, 2. False, 3. False, 4. True, 5. True, 6a. Earth around Sun, 6b. One year, 7. True, 8. False, 9a. No, 9b. yes, 10. The second way because a control group is used for comparison

Percentage of US citizens answering correctly (data from 2008):

  1. 88% of Males, 80% of Females
  2. 74% of Males, 67% of Females
  3. 64% of Males, 34% of Females
  4. 59% of Males, 47% of Females
  5. 82% of Males, 73% of Females
  6. 58% of Males, 44% of Females
  7. 53% of Males, 71% of Females
  8. 47% of Males, 60% of Females
  9. 66% of Males, 63% of Females
  10. 37% of Males, 39% of Females