The TExES Science 4 – 8 Exam is a certification examination that is designed to determine if an individual has the knowledge necessary to teach science at the middle school level in the Texas public school system. This exam assesses an individual’s knowledge of science-related topics such as earth and space science, life science, physical science, and the individual’s knowledge of methods to effectively teach these topics and other similar topics related to general science. This exam may be required, in addition to or instead of the Generalist 4 – 8 Exam, in order to become a certified middle school teacher in the state of Texas depending on the exact type of teaching position the individual is pursuing. The exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that are related to the following areas:
- Scientific Inquiry and Processes (22%)
- Physical Science (22%)
- Life Science (22%)
- Earth and Space Science (22%)
- Scientific Learning, Instruction and Assessment (13%)
The exam-taker will have 5 hours to complete the exam and the exam will be scored on a scale of 100 – 300 with 240 set as the minimum score considered as passing for the exam. The registration fee for the Science 4 – 8 Exam is $131 and the exam is only administered in a computer-based format. However, there are usually other exams and fees that are required in addition to this exam in order to become certified as an entry-level middle school teacher within the state of Texas.
Sample Study Notes
1. Discuss science in middle school.
Adolescents come to school with background knowledge and a basic understanding of how things work. They have reached conclusions based on their perception of the physical world and what they learned in previous classes. A wise teacher uses students’ knowledge and natural curiosity when introducing and explaining complicated scientific concepts. He builds on ideas already known and corrects any misconceptions. Science has a history. Students need to be familiar with the socio-economic environment in which a theory was introduced in order to truly understand why something did or did not work, why it may have been proven wrong or why a better way was discovered with later experimentation. In a science classroom, safety must always be a priority. Since it is an interactive area, it needs to be ventilated and appropriate safety equipment (e.g. water, fire extinguisher, protective gear, etc.) needs to be available. The students need to understand how to operate the instruments in a safe manner, so instructions should be provided in writing as well as verbally. Questions should be asked and answered before any activity is started.
2. Define the term science.
The American Heritage College Dictionary defines science as “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” Its Latin root is scientia, which means “knowledge.”
- NATURAL SCIENCE is concerned with the natural world; SOCIAL SCIENCE studies human behavior. Both are based on empirical evidence, which is observable data that can be verified by other scientists who are working in similar situations under the same conditions.
- FORMAL SCIENCE is the systematic study of a specific area; it is essential to developing the hypotheses, theories and laws used in other scientific disciplines, i.e. describing how things work (natural science), how people think, and why they do what they do individually and as a society (social sciences). It is based on a priori evidence, which proceeds from a theory or assumption rather than from observable phenomena.
- APPLIED SCIENCE is using scientific research in any of the natural, social and formal sciences to address human needs.
3. Define scientific method, scientific inquiry, deductive and inductive reasoning.
- SCIENTIFIC METHOD: a set of procedures used to study natural phenomena. It provides guidelines with which to pose questions, analyze data and reach conclusions. It is used to investigate an event, gain knowledge or correct earlier conclusions about the occurrence and integrate the new information with previously learned data. Researchers pose hypotheses, and design experiments and studies to test them. The process must be objective, documented and shared with other researchers so the results can be verified by replicating the study in similar situations under the same conditions.
- SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY: used to explore theories and develop explanations for natural phenomena. It has two functions: to provide a description of how something happens and to explain why the process succeeds or fails.
- DEDUCTIVE REASONING: a process in which a specific conclusion logically follows from a general premise. If the premise is true, the conclusion is true. Deductive reasoning is used in mathematics.
- INDUCTIVE REASONING: a process in which a universal conclusion is formed from considering an individual example. Inductive reasoning is the methodology of the natural and social sciences.
4. Describe the steps used in the scientific method.
The steps of the scientific method described here are not necessarily used in exactly the same way in all sciences. Sometimes they happen at the same time or in a different order and may be repeated during the course of the study. Whatever order researchers use, the steps should be applied with intelligence, imagination and creativity. The following sequence is the one used most of the time.
1. A question is asked about a natural phenomenon. It should be stated in specific language to focus the inquiry.
2. The subject is thoroughly researched. Previous test results are studied. It is important to understand what the earlier experiment(s) proved or disproved.
3. With information gleaned from researching the topic, a hypothesis is formed about a cause or effect of the event, or its relationship to other occurrences.
4. An experiment is designed and conducted to test the hypothesis and gather information.
5. The resulting data is analyzed to determine if they support or refute the hypothesis.
It is common for test results to lead to more questions about the subject or a related phenomenon.
5. Discuss life science.
Life science (or biology) is the study of living organisms: their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution and distribution. The word biology is Greek: bio means “life”; logos means “speech”; biology literally means, “discussion about life.” It became a separate science in the late nineteenth century, when researchers discovered that all organisms shared basic traits. Biology studies how living things began, divides them into species, and describes what they do and how they relate to each other and the rest of the natural world. There are four unifying principles in biology: cell theory, evolution, genetics, and homeostasis. The disciplines in the life sciences are grouped by the organisms they study: botany studies plants; zoology studies animals; and microbiology studies microorganisms. These groups are further divided into smaller, specialized categories based on the level at which they are studied and the methods used to study them; for example, biochemistry studies the chemistry of life while ecology studies how organisms interrelate in the natural world. Applied fields of the life sciences, such as medicine and genetic research, combine multiple specialized categories.
6. Define the unifying principles of biology: cell theory, evolution, gene theory, and homeostasis.
- CELL THEORY: the cell is the basic building block of all living things; it is the smallest unit of life able to function on its own, e.g. bacteria and protozoa. In higher organisms, groups of cells form the organs and tissues. There are two kinds of cells: prokaryotic, which are present only in bacteria; and eukaryotic, which are found in all other life forms. New cells form by dividing from existing cells.
- EVOLUTION: as a result of natural selection and changes in the gene pool (genetic drift), inherited traits morph from one generation to the next.
- GENE THEORY: the traits of all living organisms are encoded in their DNA, the chromosome component that carries genetic information. These traits are passed from generation to generation. The physical or biochemical characteristics are capable of adapting to changes in the environment, but the only way these adaptations can be transferred to the genes is through evolution (see above).
- HOMEOSTASIS: a self-regulating, physiological process that keeps biological systems stable and in proper balance internally, no matter what is happening in the external environment.
7. Define and discuss physical science.
Physical science is the general term for all the disciplines within natural science, which is the study of non-living systems. In many instances an arbitrary division is made between physical science and life science. However, each of these two branches is liable to use phenomena observed in the other’s field. They are not mutually exclusive and, at times, complement one another. There are four major areas in physical science; each is divided into specialized disciplines:
- ASTRONOMY is the study of the universe, celestial bodies, including the phenomena of our galaxy and beyond the Milky Way.
- CHEMISTRY is the study of matter at the micro-level, including composition and reactions.
- EARTH SCIENCE is the study of all things related to the earth: how it is made and of what materials (geology), movement and distribution of water (hydrology), weather patterns (meteorology), and the ocean as a physical system (oceanography).
- PHYSICS is the study of the laws of matter and energy. All the other physical sciences depend on the laws of physics.
8. Describe the basic principles of the earth sciences.
The earth sciences (or geosciences) are studies of the earth, the only known life-bearing planet. This field is concerned with the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere. These three, working together, create the conditions needed to sustain the biosphere, which is composed of all living organisms.
- GEOLOGY is the study of the “origin, history and structure of the earth”: that is, its lithosphere. This branch of earth science looks at when the earth was formed, how and why it formed as it did, and how and why it changes through the millennia. It is the study of soil and minerals, the core and mantle, and tectonic and seismic activity.
- OCEANOGRAPHY is the “exploration of the ocean and its phenomena.” HYDROLOGY is the study of the “properties, distribution, and effects of water on the earth’s surface, soil, rocks and atmosphere.” Both disciplines include the study of water systems and marine life (the earth’s hydrosphere).
- ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE is the study of the “gaseous mass surrounding the earth”: the atmosphere. This field includes the examination meteorology, climate, and weather, and how these phenomena affect the earth and its organisms.
NOTE: Definitions are from The American Heritage College Dictionary.
9. Describe the basic principles of astronomy.
Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences; man has been studying the sky since the beginning of time. When the telescope was invented, sometime around 1600, the layman’s observation of the heavens gradually developed into the science of astronomy. It is one science where amateurs have made notable contributions, many while gazing at the sky through the backyard telescope. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines astronomy as “the study of matter in outer space, such as the positions, dimensions, energy and evolution of the stars and planets.” It is the study of the evolution, physics, chemistry and motion of celestial objects. Astronomy examines the origins of the universe, the shape and structure of planets, comets, asteroids, and meteors, and how planets and their moons interact. It is concerned with the life span and traits of stars and galaxies, and with the measurement of time. Astronomy is divided into two areas. Observational astronomy collects and analyzes data. Theoretical astronomy develops analytical models to explain celestial objects and phenomena. The two often work together: theories explain observations and observations confirm theoretical results.
10. Discuss the National Assessment of Educational Progress requirements for assessments in science.
The study of science is divided into three major areas: earth, physical and life sciences. Each of these is sub-divided into specialized fields of study. The U.S. Department of Education established criteria for testing comprehension of science concepts, using recommendations from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Students are required not only to know facts, but to integrate those facts into previously-learned information by using critical thinking. In other words, students need to be able to apply the facts they learn in class to phenomena found in the real world. The assessments developed by educators, curriculum specialists and the business community emphasize the importance of assessing students’ ability to reason, understand concepts, solve problems, evaluate results, and communicate knowledge of the subject matter. The tests attempt to measure whether students can take cognitive skills learned in science, apply them in other disciplines, and use them outside of school in meaningful ways.