Take the Pew Research Center Science Knowledge Quiz.

From the You-Have-To-Be-Fucking-Kidding-Me department comes this Pew Research Center Science Knowledge Quiz. It’s a series of 12 questions on what can only be described as stunningly basic science knowledge. Questions such as “Which over-the-counter drug do doctors recommend that people take to help prevent heart attacks?” Stuff that all you’d have to do is pay cursory attention to the news to know as opposed to, say, actually reading a science book or watching something on the Discovery channel.

Not surprisingly, as you can see in the graphic to the left (click to embiggen), I managed to score 100% which isn’t all that surprising given my addiction to both science books and the various Discovery channel incarnations.

What is surprising is that only 10% of the public can say the same. They allow you to break it down question by question and, as it turns out, the question I listed above is the one most folks got right (91%) and the question most folks got wrong, which is amazing cause it’s a True or False question, was “Electrons are smaller than atoms.” Only 46% of people got that one right.

When you break it down by demographics it’s amazing to realize that the average number of questions answered correctly by college graduates was only 9.5. Which is amazing considering how basic these questions are. But don’t take my word for it, go take the quiz yourself.

Found via DOF.

What’s also amazing is the number of times I use the word amazing in this entry.

34 thoughts on “Take the Pew Research Center Science Knowledge Quiz.

  1. I kept expecting the 12th question to be something like; “The phase change to metallic hydrogen occurs at n gigapascals.  What is the value of n?”  But nothing like that, so the graph is kind of an indictment of our education system, or our media, or… something.

  2. And that’s a question I’d be able to understand folks getting wrong. I had no idea what N would be in that question. But these were amazingly basic.

    Edited to add: This was directed at DOF, not Tina.

  3. Probably more surprising than your own results are mine – I got 9 correct, failing on tsunamis, lasers and moving continents, and the majority of adults get two of those three right.  The surprise is that I did as well as I did. 

    As far as “Which over-the-counter drug do doctors recommend that people take to help prevent heart attacks?”, it should have been *did* doctors recommend, as they changed that advice some time ago.

  4. It’s not that they misunderestimate electrons, though.  It’s that they’re not quite sure about the meaning of “smaller”.

  5. I had no idea what N would be in that question.

    Approximately 25 (later calculated to be closer to 150 to 250).
    So, yes, I got 100%.
    Now, as to tsunamis, if the chunk of the melting glacier were large enough, it could probably generate one.
    And, Barry, you know how we humans have a thing about size! wink

  6. 12/12

    And very surprised that so many people got the lasers question wrong.

    Everyone knows lasers are made of pew pew.

  7. I felt the same as Brooks, a little pressure, so glad I got 100%. Of course, if I got way less I wouldn’t have posted my results!

  8. Glad I got 100%. I would have hated to have to quit my job.

    Yes…. aspirin is still recommended.

    The scariest thing to me is thinking that this is our electorate. Sigh…..

  9. Most of that I knew before I left high school. The questions about lasers and GPS are the exceptions. I know GPS didn’t exist and don’t think lasers quite did.

    The curve resembles a Bell curve (or is it bell curve?) on the left and I susupect that if it were longer would more closely resemble one on the right.

  10. Gah- couldn’t remember what they had found on Mars- sure I had seen some reporting re some sort of bacteria (which is why I put mold). I was probably thinking of


    Water was discovered 5 years ago- I went with the latest research- didn’t set my sights low enough! Hmmm- actually surely that means you all got 11 and I got 12! wink  grin

    My 13 y/o son got 8, failing on ‘asprin’, Stem cells, electrons (which surprised me) and radiation.  Still makes him equal to the average American adult.

  11. “All radioactivity is man-made.” 37%  believe this to be true. I’ve suspected for quite a while that there is widespread lack of understanding of all things nuclear, and that’s what drives opposition to nuclear power.

  12. I got them all correct too…but I will say that they all seemed to be commons sense questions.  Like you said, just looking at the headlines of the news would teach you most of that stuff…Wow.

  13. It would been cooler if the questions got progressively harder. I think I’d have gotten 100% on something like that in Middle or Grade school, even for the hypothetical GPS system that didn’t exist yet (because I read way too much science fiction even back then.)

  14. I got the electrons one wrong because while my brain thought ‘false’ my hand wasn’t listening and i clicked ‘true’. Honest.

    Let down by my own hand eye co-ordination.

  15. The atomic clocks that make GPS possible, almost certainly use magnets (I’ve never heard of one that didn’t) and may use lasers, so that is an example of a very bad question.

  16. The atomic clocks that make GPS possible, almost certainly use magnets (I’ve never heard of one that didn’t) and may use lasers, so that is an example of a very bad question.

    Is GPS run by clocks?  I thought it was by triangulation to satellites in geosynchronous orbits. (and even if those satellites are kept in geosync orbit with the aid of atomic clocks, that would surely be a case of missing the forest for the trees.)

  17. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear hoofbeats? Most think horses, I think Zebras. Who’s right?

  18. GPS has to be reset daily because of Relativity- satelittes are moving through time slower than we are because of their speed. I do think NTSC is trying to be to clever- it’s like trying to explain the LHA by discussing prehistoric trees, because they made the oil for powerstations.

  19. 12/12.

    I think it is sad the results are as poor as they are. All you need to do is listen to NPR occasionally and all the answers would be known. So we can say lack of education yes but and/or a lack of interest in the world too.

  20. …a lack of interest in the world too.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Webs.  There seems to be almost no intellectual curiosity in the teeming masses of Americans today.  I think the public’s perverse fascination with non-entities like Paris Hilton and other “reality stars” (to the exclusion of anything else) illustrates this point brilliantly.

  21. The public’s fascination with pop culture is fine with me. It would be stupid and petty for me to argue against caring about pop culture while spending a few hours every week playing WOW and AoE3. The problem is doing these things so much it completely envelopes your life and important things sit on the back burner. If you can manage the pointless things with the important ones than that is what matters. Everyone needs a little escape from life.

    I don’t know what the solution is but I suspect there a multiple areas with problems and we need to attack the problem form multiple angles. Education is a great place to start though.

  22. Well, you have to admit that a bell-curve distribution would be considerably more depressing…

    Alas, that’s probably what it would look like if the questions were a little harder.

  23. Science is evil!  Scientists are lying godless scum who want to steer you away from The Truth! 

    I missed the one about electrons but got everything else right.

  24. What I thought was interesting was that, in its’ own small way, the survey supported the theory of women as the primary caregivers.  There were three questions that touched on aspects of the topic (preventing heart attacks, stem cells and antibiotics) and those were the three in which women outperformed men.

  25. The scariest thing to me is thinking that this is our electorate. Sigh…..

    Actually, scarier still is a quiz that my father gave his college students in an intro political science class a few years ago.

    There were about 20 very basic history and government questions, and he was extremely liberal in accepting answers:

    “What year did the US become a country?” Acceptable answers were 1776, 1783, 1787…almost anything with some rational thought behind it.

    The average score was between 5 and 10.

    THAT quiz made me worry about our electorate.

  26. i got 10/12
    i’m year 10 in a top 5 selective school in NSW, Australia
    i guessed correctly the two i got wrong, 1 and 9, but second-guessed because it sounded too obvious to be true.
    i’m not proud of my result considering i am an avid news-watcher but it isn’t too bad.

    CAPTCHA is “right arguing”
    heehee how do they make these things.

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