Praxis®️ Middle School Social Studies Practice Test and Prep

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Quick Facts

The Praxis®️ Middle School: Social Studies exam is designed to measure the skills and knowledge necessary for a beginning middle school social studies teacher.

Praxis Middle School Social Studies PinThe test is:

  • computer based
  • a two-part test
    • Part A: 90 selected-response questions
    • Part B: 3 constructed-response questions




The selected response scores account for 75% of your overall score. The range of scores for the selected-response portion of the exam is 100-200, and you can receive a 1-6 rating on each essay (see essay section for more information).

Scores are reported by ETS to your institution. The minimum required score varies by state, ranging from 145 to 165.  You can find your state’s passing score here.

You will receive a score report that details your performance compared to others who took the same test, as well as if you passed or failed based on the agency that your scores were reported to.

Pass rate:

The pass rate percentage varies by state, but the median score of the Praxis®️ Middle School: Social Studies exam is 161.

Study time:

You can find a study plan here: https://www.ets.org/s/praxis/doc/studyplan_5089.docx . Use it to plan time to study each of the topics covered on this exam. You will want to plan to take the test a couple months after you register so that you have enough time to review all the topics covered.

What test takers wish they would’ve known:

  • There is no penalty for answering incorrectly. If you don’t know the answer, guess.
  • All questions ask about the subject in a straightforward manner; there are no trick questions.
  • Skip questions that are particularly difficult; you can come back to them later.

Information and screenshots obtained from the ETS Praxis®️ website: https://www.ets.org/praxis/prepare/materials/5089

Praxis Middle School Format

United States History


The United States History content category has about 22 selected-response questions. These questions account for 19% of the entire exam.

This content category can be neatly divided into 2 sections:

  • Chronological Developments
  • Major Themes

So, let’s talk about the Chronological Developments section first.

Chronological Developments

This section tests your knowledge of all the notable events and developments in the history of the United States, especially the cause and effect of those events and developments.

Let’s talk about some concepts that you will more than likely see on the test.


The term sectionalism refers to how people who live in “sections” or regions of the United States have different social, cultural, economic, and political ideas and perspectives.

Sectionalism began in the United States when the thirteen original colonies were broken into the New England, middle, and southern regions, but identities became even more different following the War of 1812. At this time, people and politicians from the northern region of the country began to strongly disagree and have a different perspective than people and politicians from the southern region of the United States, particularly on the institution of slavery. The result of sectionalism at that time was ultimately The Civil War.

Many Americans moved west during the time period following the Civil War and reconstruction. Americans in the west primarily worked in mines or farmed, and at that time, growing sectionalism between those living west of the Mississippi River and those living east of it began to grow due to different economic and political interests.

The New Deal

The New Deal was a series of programs, economic reforms, regulations, and public work projects put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to try and bring the United States out of the Great Depression. Roosevelt was a progressive who believed that society could improve when improvements were made to government regulations. Roosevelt’s New Deal was active from March 1933 to 1939 which marked the beginning of a new focus to defense and preparing for war.

The New Deal did not end the Depression, but it did help restore public confidence in the federal government and banks. The programs the New Deal put in place did bring relief to millions of Americans.

Roosevelt’s New Deal tried to fix:

  • the sense of despair among the American people
  • the collapse of America’s financial system
  • the high unemployment rate
  • the shrinking economy

Here are the major successes of the New Deal:

  • It created a range of programs that helped lower the unemployment rate and create jobs for many unemployed Americans.
  • Many beneficial public construction projects such as dams, parks, schools, libraries, and highways were built by Americans who needed work.
  • It created Social Security which has become a necessity for many senior citizens living in America.
  • Multiple laws, or acts, were put into place that more closely regulated banks and businesses. This helped the American people regain trust in these institutions.

Let’s talk about the failures of the New Deal:

  • It did not end the Depression (World War II did), but it did lessen the worst effects.
  • Some of the laws Roosevelt put into place were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The greatest impression the Depression and the New Deal left on the United States was a change in government philosophy. Until this time, it was largely accepted that Americans were “on their own” when it came to their well-being and prosperity; however, following the New Deal, Americans came to believe that the federal government has a duty to ensure the health of the United States’ economy, as well as the welfare of its citizens.

Spanish Colonies in North America

Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in 1492 with a goal of finding a new trade route to Asia. Spain was a “super power” of Europe during the Age of Exploration and was competing with other European powers for global control.

Columbus first docked his ships in what is today the Bahamas and shared his discovery with the leaders of Spain. Columbus’ voyage was the first of many from Spain since Spanish leaders saw Columbus’ discovery as an opportunity for Spain to continue colonization and their pursuit of global dominance.

Spanish conquistadors (conquerors) conquered multiple North American civilizations, as well as claimed land for themselves and formed settlements with motivation from what is often referred to as “The three G’s:”

  • Gold (claiming any riches acquired through conquests for Spain)
  • Glory (taking over land to expand their empire)
  • God (sending Catholic priests to spread Catholicism throughout conquered territories)

Here’s a basic timeline of Spanish colonization:

  • 1519-1521: Present-day Mexico and the Aztec people were conquered by Hernando Cortes. Multiple missions were built with the intent to spread Catholicism throughout the world.
  • 1528-1565: Multiple Spanish explorers (Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando de Soto, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, and more) traveled throughout North America (what is present day California, as well as the southwestern and southeastern United States) gathering information about the land, people, and potential benefits of that land for Spain.
  • 1565: The first permanent North American settlement is settled by Spain at St. Augustine, Florida.
  • 1573: Catholic priests arrive in Florida to build missions which went north up the coast of North America. Missions were spread from St. Augustine, Florida to what is present day North Carolina, and then southwest to present day Tallahassee, Florida.
  • 1763: Spain trades Florida to Great Britain for Havana, Cuba.
  • 1783: The Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution, returned all of Florida to Spanish control.
  • 1821: Spain gives the United States control of Florida.
  • 1824: Mexicans win their independence from Spain, and Spanish rule in North America comes to an end.

Major Themes

This section tests your knowledge of major themes in United States history, including but not limited to:

  • immigration
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Robert LaFollete

Here are some concepts you should know.



What would become the United States of America was welcoming immigrants from primarily Europe who were seeking a better life. Spanish exploration sparked interest in North America and the vast and prosperous land it had to offer. Immigrants came during this time period for a few reasons:

  • religious freedom
  • the opportunity to own land and/or their own business
  • indentured servitude to pay off debts or earn land

This time period is also marked by the beginning of slaves forcibly brought into what is today the United States from Africa and the Caribbean.


British colonies were thriving in North America, but due to this, Britain was losing many skilled workers who were looking for a better life in North America. Some members of British Parliament called for an end to immigration to colonies in North America.


America became, in Thomas Paine’s words, “the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.”

  • 3.9 million people were counted in the first census.
  • The English were the largest group represented.
  • 20% of the 3.9 million were of African descent.

Immigration was slow during the years directly following the American Revolution and through the War of 1812; however, by 1814, during a time of peace, European immigration (specifically, Great Britain and Ireland) resumed in large numbers.


During this time period, the slave trade was slowing, and the Industrial Revolution was beginning. This time period was marked by immigrants seeking:

  • industrial jobs in northern factories, as well as jobs building the Transcontinental Railroad.
  • gold- many immigrants from Europe and Asia came to California in search of gold.
    • In 1882, congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which greatly restricted immigration from China.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Mexicans, Eastern European Jews, Russians, and Armenians were all seeking refuge from their war torn countries. At times, immigrants were welcomed in the United States with open arms (for example, when their service was needed in the Civil War or when the economy was strong); however, at other times (when jobs were hard to find), immigrants were cast out and treated with hostility for “stealing” jobs.


The early to mid 1900s were marked by the Depression, war, and immigrants seeking asylum.

  • The development of the steam engine reduced the amount of time the trip from Europe to the United States took; this encouraged a large amount of immigrants to make a new life in the United States. Between 1880 and 1930, over 27 million people entered the United States.
  • In the 1920s, a series of laws were passed to slow immigration; the Great Depression (1930) also slowed immigration considerably.
  • During and following World War II, the United States was tasked with allowing or rejecting millions of war refugees seeking asylum. President Truman urged congress to allow refugees to enter the country. In 1948, hundreds of thousands of refugees were allowed entry.
  • The trend of accepting refugees continued in the 1950s when tens of thousands of Hungarian refugees entered the United States.

In 1965, the Immigration and Naturalization Act became law, and immigration policies no longer favored western European immigrants.

  • By 1970, Asian immigration rose greatly.
  • United States’ immigration policy favored professionals who were usually the first in their families to come, and then, once successful in the United States, brought other members of their families.
  • The 1980s-1990s were marked by a surge in illegal immigration; for the first time, illegal immigration became a hot political issue.

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was a crusader in the fight to gain women the right to vote (women’s suffrage movement) in the United States.

Susan B. Anthony impacted society by:

  • dedicating her life’s work to fighting for equal rights, specifically for African Americans and women.
  • co-founding the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA).
  • leading the women’s suffrage movement for almost 50 years.
  • presenting a bill to the US Congress in 1878 that gave women the right to vote. This bill later became the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920, and from that point forward, women had the right to vote.

Robert LaFollete

Robert LaFollette was a Republican turned Progressive from Wisconsin who served as a member of the House of Representatives, the US Senate, and Governor of Wisconsin. He is considered to be one of the greatest US Senators to serve in the position.

Robert LaFollete impacted society in the United States by:

  • fighting against and exposing political corruption and inequality.
  • developing the “Wisconsin Idea” which secured the passage of several progressive reforms.
  • helping pass several laws and reforms in the federal government.
  • speaking out against the United States’ involvement in World War I. He believed war would ruin America’s reputation and that the United States should stay neutral.
  • standing up for American taxpayers by fighting against corruption and special interests that big business had in Washington D.C.

And that’s some basic info about the United States History content category.

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World History


This content category can be neatly divided into 2 sections:

  • Chronological Developments
  • Major Themes

So, let’s talk about the Chronological Developments section first.

Chronological Developments

This section tests your knowledge of all the notable events and developments in the history of the world, especially the cause and effect of those events and developments.

Let’s take a look at some concepts that you definitely need to know for the test.

Roman Empire (27 BC- 476 AD)

Rome began as a Republic and was led by elected officials. Rome had laws, a constitution, and a balance of powers. This structure of government continued for hundreds of years, until Julius Caesar took over the Roman Republic as a dictator. Then a few years later, Caesar Augustus became the first Roman Emperor. Caesar’s rise to power marked the beginning of the Roman Empire.

At its peak, the Roman Empire (around 117 AD) included present day Italy, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, France, Southern Britain, and Northern Africa.

The Roman Empire declined due in large part to:

  • attacks from multiple enemies (the greatest contributing factor to its fall)
  • civil wars within the Roman Empire
  • the large size of the Roman Empire that made it difficult to control
  • a less dominant army
  • corrupt political leaders and rulers

The Dark Ages began after the Western Roman Empire fell and would last until the Renaissance in Europe.

Many aspects of Western society have been influenced by Ancient Rome. Roman contributions include:

  • Art
    • Roman art had an impact on Western painting, sculpture, and architecture. The concept of putting pictures of leaders on money is a Roman idea.
  • Literature
    • Many famous writers (Shakespeare, Robert Graves, Milton, Dante, James Joyce) were influenced by the Romans.
  • Language
    • Rome was responsible for spreading the Latin language which formed the basis of Western language (including English).
  • Infrastructure/city planning
    • Romans built advanced roads that considered drainage from rain water. They also used mile markers on their roads and had systems of underground pipes that supplied clean water. Romans also used parks, plazas, and public libraries. Roman cities were laid out in a grid structure, much like many Western cities today.
  • Written law
    • The basis of the US judicial system (a person is innocent until proven guilty) is derived from Roman ideals.
  • Government and democracy
    • The US system of checks and balances comes from Ancient Rome.
  • Religion
    • The Romans spread Christianity (specifically Catholicism) throughout their empire. Eventually there would be a split between Eastern and Western Christians (which today are known as Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics).

The Renaissance

The Renaissance was a period in Europe from the 14th to 17th century that was considered a “rebirth” of culture, art, politics, and economics.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages began. Part of the Middle Ages were referred to as the Dark Ages, because so many of the advancements the Romans made were lost.

The Renaissance brought Europe “out of the dark” and people once again were studying science, art, literature, and music.

Here are some causes of the Renaissance:

  • the invention of the printing press
  • Martin Luther’s writings
  • the Medici family’s financial backing and support of the arts
  • humanism (the belief that Latin and Greek classics were the best examples of morality)

Here are some effects of the Renaissance:

  • criticism of the Catholic Church
    • as people became more educated, they begin to question practices of the Catholic Church
  • people began to use the press
    • printed materials were distributed more than ever, so information reached more people
  • trade began to increase throughout Italy/Europe
  • people began to care about issues larger than themselves and think on a broader scale


Fundamentalism is an extremely conservative religious movement marked by the strict following of sacred texts. At one time, the fundamentalist movement referred to American protestants who followed Biblical scripture to an extreme. More recently, the term has been used to describe any religious movement that takes extreme and strict action to follow sacred texts. Fundamentalism usually rejects modern and progressive ways of thought and insists that traditional values be kept, at times going to extreme lengths to try and conserve traditional values.

Here are some examples of fundamentalism:

  • Jewish fundamentalism
  • Islamic fundamentalism or “Islamists”
    • Well known in today’s world due to the rise of terrorism in the name of preserving fundamental Islamic beliefs. Again, this is extreme in nature and separate from the religion of Islam. Islamists resent Western ideas and domination and fight against it.
  • Sikh fundamentalism
  • Hindu fundamentalism

Major Themes

This section tests your knowledge of major themes in world history including but not limited to:

  • fascism
  • feudalism
  • The United Nations

Here are some concepts you need to know.


Fascism is an extreme political ideology that places a strong emphasis on patriotism and nationalism. The ideology of fascism is that the state must gain glory through constant conquest and war. Fascists believe that the individual citizen has no value outside of his or her role in promoting the glory of the State.

Here are some characteristics of fascism:

  • citizens have few freedoms
  • citizens have no voice in their government
  • the leader controls everything and becomes a symbol of the country
  • the leader builds a police force and/or military to harshly punish citizens who disobey or criticize the government

Here are some examples of fascist leaders:

  • Benito Mussolini (Italy)
  • Adolf Hitler (Germany)
  • Francisco Franco (Spain)

Communism and fascism can be confused at times, but the main difference is that communism is a system based around economic equality and promotes a classless society. Fascism is a nationalistic system that sets up strict class roles and is ruled by one all-powerful dictator.


The Middle Ages in Europe were marked by a period of time where strong leadership and governments were lacking. The system of feudalism was established to create more rules and order to society. In a feudalist system, different groups of people had specific responsibilities. Under this system, people gave kings and lords money and work in exchange for their protection.

Here is the feudalism structure:

  1. King/Queen: Owned all land which was broken up and given to others in exchange for military help. The land given out was called a fief. Fiefs varied in size.
  2. Vassal: Received land from the King or Queen. Vassals could include lords, barons, counts, or knights who fought for the lords. Vassals became lords to the people who worked on the land they were given.
  3. Serfs and Peasants: Serfs and peasants were at the bottom of the system, but made up the largest group of people. Some worked as farmers and others were given a trade by the noble. Serfs were required to remain on the land they were born on and had to ask the lord to leave, marry, or change jobs. Peasants had slightly more freedom and sometimes owned the land they worked. The majority of people were serfs.

The United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that was founded following World War II in an effort to prevent future world wars. Currently, the UN has 193 Member States who send diplomats to headquarters in New York to meet and make decisions about global issues.

The goals of the United Nations include:

  • keeping world peace
  • resolving conflict between Member States
  • improving living conditions for people throughout the world

The United Nations is broken into six separate divisions with various responsibilities. The UN also has “special agencies,” some of which include:

  • United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

And that’s some basic info about the World History content category.

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Government and Civics


The Government/Civics content category has about 17 selected-response questions. These questions account for 14% of the entire exam.

This content category can be neatly divided into 2 sections:

  • United States Government and Civics
  • Comparative Government and International Relations

So, let’s talk about the United States Government and Civics section first.

Government and Civics

This section tests your knowledge of the United States’ government and the duties and rights of citizens.

Here are some concepts you need to know.

Popular Sovereignty

Popular sovereignty, or peoples’ rule, is the idea that the authority of a nation and its government are created and kept by the consent of the people through elected officials. Popular sovereignty is a concept that does not always align with political reality.

The United States was founded on popular sovereignty, the idea of which was spread widely by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract which highlighted the ideals of “general will.”

The Election Process

The United States is most commonly described as a representative/constitutional democracy. United States citizens (who are eligible) vote for representatives at the local, state, and federal level. Elections are held at different times for different offices, but it is important to specifically understand the presidential election process.

United States Presidential Election

  1. Primaries and Caucuses

Many people want to be president of the US, and each of them have an idea of how the government should work. People who have similar ideas usually join the same political party, and the first step in being elected president is to win the favor of their political party through the primary (state-wide) elections.

  1. National Conventions

Once all states have held their primary elections, a national convention is held in which a party’s nominee is announced publicly for the first time.  During the convention, delegates for that party cast a vote for a candidate, and that person gets the party’s nomination. The chosen presidential candidate will also choose a running-mate (vice-president) at the convention. Once the convention is over, the general election process begins.

  1. General Election

During this time, chosen candidates will begin campaigning for president against the candidates from other parties. Candidates will travel the country speaking to as many voters as possible. Debates will also be held so that candidates can express their views to the country.

Voters will begin voting for the president by November of the election year. When voters vote for president, they are actually voting for electors. The electors are authorized members of an electoral college from each state who pledge to support the candidate whom voters in their state have voted for. There are instances where the candidate who receives the popular vote on election day does not become the president due to the next step in the process.

  1. Electoral College

The US president is actually elected by the Electoral College. The Electoral College will usually vote in December. The intent of the framers of the Constitution was to take public opinion into account but to filter the choice for president through a group of wiser and more experienced people. Each state is given a certain number of electoral votes based on that state’s representation in Congress; therefore, states with a greater population will get more electoral votes. There are a total of 538 electoral votes, and the candidate who gets more than 270 is elected president.

Comparative Government and International Relations

This section tests your knowledge of different political systems and the relationships between those systems and economies.

Let’s look at some concepts you need to know.


The word “democracy” is rooted in Greek and when translated means “power to the people.”  In a true democracy, citizens have the power to create laws and decide how to enforce them. Not all democracies are the same; however, the main principles are consistent in every form.

Here are the characteristics of democracy:

  • Citizens rule
    • Citizens share power and responsibilities to make decisions on the government. In the United States, citizens become eligible to vote and participate in the democratic process at the age of 18. The US is an indirect democracy because voters elect representatives who speak on their behalf in the government.
  • Majorities and minorities
    • The majority rules within a democracy, but the minorities’ rights are not excluded. A democratic government works to create a balance between minority and majority interests. If a decision is made by the majority that negatively affects the rights of a minority of the people, the decision can be adjusted to be fairer to all citizens. To ensure this, the United States government is divided into three separate but equal branches. This ensures a system of checks and balances.
  • The Principle of Protection
    • A democracy works to maintain basic human rights that citizens have as outlined in a constitution or other written agreement. Basic rights include freedom of religion and speech, protection under the laws, a right to a fair trial, and privacy. Under the law, Americans are also protected from discrimination based on age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, political beliefs, race, religion, pregnancy, veteran status, and disabilities.
  • Limiting Lawmakers
    • A democratic government does not have specific power in one area. Power is shared among different branches of government. Each branch of government has a process by which they can balance one another. Also, representatives in different branches of government are subject to various term limits, and fair elections are held on a regular basis.



The Geography content category has about 17 selected-response questions. These questions account for 14% of the entire exam.

This content category can be neatly divided into 4 sections:

  • Geographic Literacy
  • Map Skills
  • Physical Geography
  • Human Geography

So, let’s talk about the Geographic Literacy section first.

Geographic Literacy

This section tests your knowledge of basic geography concepts.

Let’s take a look at some concepts that you definitely need to know for the test.

Relative versus Absolute Location

Geographers describe the location of a place as either relative or absolute.

Absolute location describes the location of a place based on a specific and fixed point on earth. The location could be described using a physical address or latitude and longitude coordinates.

Relative location describes the position of a place based on its location related to other locations. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge is located 16 miles west of Oakland, California.

Relative location can be given in terms of distance, time to travel, or cost.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa refers geographically to the area of Africa that is south of the Sahara. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for the majority of the continent. The primary characteristics of sub-Saharan Africa are in contrast to Northern Africa which is part of the Arab League within the Arab world.

Let’s talk about the characteristics of sub-Saharan Africa.

Geographic regions are characterized by:

  • Landforms
  • Climate
  • Natural resources

Characteristics of a region will vary when natural resources, architecture, literature, art, customs, economics, transportation, and religion are considered.

Sub-Saharan Africa can be characterized by:


  • Lake Volta (one of the largest human made lakes in the world)
  • Lake Tangangyika (second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume)
  • Lake Victoria (largest lake in Africa)
  • Lake Chad
  • The Great Rift Valley
  • Congo River
  • Zambezi River
  • Niger River (main route in Western Africa)
  • Ruwenzori Mountains (divides Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Kalahari Desert
  • Sahara Desert (world’s largest desert)


  • Most of sub-Saharan Africa is savanna, or grasslands, with scattered trees.
  • Due to the size of the sub-Saharan region of Africa, climate is influenced mainly by the distance from a location to the equator and by the altitude of that location.
  • Climate in this region can be temperate. Rainy and dry seasons alternate throughout the region, but precipitation is most consistent in humid forests.

Natural Resources:

  • diamonds
  • sugar
  • salt
  • gold
  • iron
  • petroleum
  • cocoa bean
  • cobalt
  • uranium
  • copper
  • silver
  • woods
  • tropical fruit

Map Skills

This section tests your knowledge of the various types of maps and their features.

Here are some concepts you should know.

Types of Maps

There are seven main types of maps:

  • Political Maps

The most common type of map. Political maps focus on boundaries, states, cities, and capitals, but show no topographical features.

political map
  • Physical Maps

Physical maps detail the physical landscape of a certain place. Physical maps show mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes. Elevation changes can be shown by a change in color. Only large cities will be shown on physical maps.

Physical Map
  • Topographical Maps

Topographical maps are similar to physical maps, because they show physical features; however, topographical maps use contour lines instead of color to show a change in elevation/landscape. These maps are most commonly used by hikers and orienteers on trips.

Topographical Map
  • Climate Maps

Climate maps provide information about the climate of a particular area. They are usually separated by color based on average temperatures or climate regions

Climate Map
  • Economic/Resource Maps

Economic maps are used to track economic or natural resource activity in an area through a series of symbols, shapes, or colors.

Economic Resource Map
  • Road Maps

Road maps show major and minor roads, highways, cities, and interest points like parks and landmarks.

Road Map
  • Thematic Maps

Maps that do not fit into any of the previously listed types of maps. Thematic maps are commonly used during elections to show how different populations voted

Thematic Map

Physical Geography

This section tests your knowledge of the physical features and processes of the earth.

Check out these concepts.

The Rock Cycle

Rocks on earth are constantly changing through the rock cycle. During the rock cycle, molten rock from deep within the Earth will move, change, and make its way to the surface. Once the molten rock is released through volcanoes, it will harden, continue through the cycle, and eventually return below ground due to weathering, erosion, and deposition.

Rocks can be classified into three main groups based on how they form:

  • Igneous rock: Igneous translates literally to “of fire” and is the type of rock that is formed when molten lava cools quickly and hardens on the surface (extrusive) or just below the surface (intrusive) of the earth. Igneous rock will usually appear glassy/smooth in texture or will be very rough with visible air bubbles due to how quickly it cools. Examples of igneous rock include obsidian, pumice, and granite.
  • Sedimentary rock: Sedimentary rock is formed when broken down pieces of other rocks (sediments) or remains of animals (bones) collect in areas and are compacted and cemented together over thousands of years (lithification). Sedimentary rocks are formed in layers and many times contain fossils. Examples of sedimentary rock include sandstone, limestone, and shale.
  • Metamorphic rock: Metamorphic rock is based in the root “morph” which means “to change.” Metamorphic rocks began as either sedimentary or igneous rock that worked its way below the surface of the earth. Pressure from the outermost layer of the earth and heat from the core of the earth turn sedimentary and igneous rock into metamorphic rock. Metamorphic rock will usually have crystals and/or bands. Examples of metamorphic rock include quartzite and marble.

Human Geography

This section tests your knowledge of culture, population patterns, migration, political geography, and human adaptation/behavior.

Let’s take a look at some concepts.

Population Pyramids

A population pyramid, also known as an Age & Sex Pyramid, displays population distribution in all age groups and in both sexes. The y-axis is used to list age groups, and the x-axis is used to plot population numbers.

Population pyramids are great for observing changes or differences in population patterns across countries or specific population groups.

The shape of the pattern is what is used to interpret the pyramid. For example, a pyramid that is very wide at the base but narrow at the top shows that a population has a high birth and death rate. A pyramid with a wide top but the narrow base would suggest that a population is aging, but the birth rates are low.

Political Geography

Political geography studies the space of politics and the politics of space. This means that political geography studies how the political process is impacted by geographic location.

Political geography is organized into three groups:

  • international
  • national
  • within nations

Political geography studies:

  • local and national elections
  • international relationships
  • political structure

And that’s some basic info about the Geography content category.

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The Economics content category has about 16 selected-response questions. These questions account for 13% of the entire exam.

This content category can be neatly divided into 3 sections:

  • Microeconomics I
  • Microeconomics II
  • Macroeconomics I

So, let’s talk about the Microeconomics I section first.

Microeconomics I

This section tests your knowledge of basic microeconomic concepts.

Let’s take a look at some concepts.

Opportunity Cost

Because all resources are scarce, all actions have an opportunity cost. An opportunity cost is the benefits you miss out on when you choose one thing over another.

Take a look at this example:

Bob is home alone on Tuesday night. He wants to watch a television program or play a computer game. He decides to play a computer game. The opportunity cost of playing the computer game is not watching television.

Market Economies

A market economy is one in which the prices of products and services are chosen in a free price system that is determined by supply and demand. Market economies are widely used but do tend to increase the gap between the rich and poor. Realistically, no economy is a true market economy, because society and governments do have some control rather than supply and demand being the only force.

Here are the characteristics of a market economy:

  • The only revenue is through services or profits of private companies.
  • There is no planned economy.
  • Owners initiate production.
  • Participants freely choose which products to buy, which jobs they work, and how their money is spent/saved/invested.

Microeconomics II

This section tests your knowledge of advanced microeconomic concepts.

Here are some concepts you definitely need to know for the test.

Perfect Competition

Perfect competition happens when all competing business in the industry is at an equal level. For example, in Times Square, four hot dog vendors have set up stands on opposite corners. All vendors are selling the same thing and cannot change the price, because everyone already knows the deal is two hot dogs for $5. Other vendors are welcome to sell hot dogs there as well, and a vendor can quit selling there and move somewhere else.

Here are the necessary components to the perfect competition:

  • All buyers and sellers are knowledgeable and no one person has control over setting the price.
  • Buyers and sellers are not restricted to when they enter or leave the market.
  • The goal of buyers and sellers is to maximize profits.
  • There are so many buyers and sellers that nobody can take control of the market.
  • All goods are homogeneous (cannot be distinguished from similar competitive products like in the hot dog example).
  • The government is not involved.
  • There are no transportation costs.


An oligopoly is a market or industry that is dominated and controlled by a small number of large sellers. Typically, oligopolies result from forms of collusion between businesses and/or the government that weed out competition. This leads to higher prices for consumers since each market is dominated by a small number of business who set prices.

In the United States, the car manufacturing industry, as well as cell phone service providers are oligopolies. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler dominate the car sales market, and AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon dominate the cell phone service industry. The control these large companies have in their respective markets leaves little space for smaller competitors to gain strength; consumers have no choice but to pay the prices set by the large companies due to the lack of competition.

Macroeconomics I

This section tests your knowledge of basic macroeconomics concepts.

Let’s take a look at some concepts that will more than likely appear on the test.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The gross domestic product, or GDP, is a measure used to define the total value of all the products manufactured and services provided within a territory during a specified time period (typically a year). The GDP explains what a country is good at producing or what is being spent in that economy.

Let’s take a look at the components of GDP:

  • Personal consumption/consumer spending (the purchase of durable and non-durable goods)
  • Business investment (purchases made by companies except to replace goods)
  • Government spending (the majority of which is typically military spending)
  • Net exports (exports add to the GDP; imports subtract)


Unemployment is the situation of looking for employment, but not being currently employed. The unemployment rate is calculated as a percentage by dividing the number of unemployed individuals by all the individuals currently working.

Here are the causes of unemployment:

  • Cyclical– Unemployment due to a lack of demand for work
  • Structural– Unemployment due to advances in technology or outsourcing
  • Frictional– Unemployment that is voluntary due to relocation, newly entering the workplace after graduating from a school or technical program or trying to re-enter the workplace after leaving for a time

Let’s look at the consequences of unemployment on the individual:

  • debt
  • homelessness/housing stress
  • family tension/breakdown
  • alienation
  • shame and stigma
  • social isolation
  • crime rate increase
  • loss of skill
  • poor health

Unemployment also negatively impacts the country’s GDP.

Short Content Essays


There are 3 short content essays. These questions account for 25% of the entire exam.

Argumentative and Source-Based Essay Information

Argumentative Essay:

  • opinion-based
  • 30-minute time limit
  • responds to one statement

The first type of essay that is required is an argumentative essay. You will be given a short opinion statement and will then write an essay detailing how you agree or disagree with the statement. You will have 30 minutes to complete the argumentative essay. Do not be surprised if the statement is controversial and sparks bold opinions and emotions.

For example, you might need to respond to a statement like this:

“Minimum-wage jobs are a ticket to nowhere. They are boring and repetitive and teach employees little or nothing of value. Minimum-wage employers take advantage of people because they need a job. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this point of view. Support your position with specific reasons and examples from your own experiences, observations, or reading” (ETS).

You want to aim for an essay with a final length of 400-500 words.

Source-Based Essay

  • unbiased
  • 30-minute time limit
  • summarizes two longer passages with opposing viewpoints

The second required essay is a source-based essay and will deal with a polarizing issue (most likely); however, you will be given two passages that present opposing views on the issue and, rather than explaining your own opinion, the goal is to write a non-biased explanation of the issue covered in the provided passages. It is very important to use BOTH passages as source materials when writing this essay.

Structuring Your Time
Within the allotted 30 minutes you must:

  1. read the statement/passages and consider the topic.
  2. write your main idea or thesis statement.
  3. outline your response (should include a topic sentence, as well as supporting details)
  4. write your essay (the bulk of your 30 minutes should be spent here)
  5. proof and edit

Each essay will be graded on a 1-6 scale, with 1 being poor and 6 being excellent. Two raters will grade each essay and use their judgment on the overall quality of your essay rather than performing a detailed analysis.  

Your essays should:

  • demonstrate strong academic writing skills.
  • support any opinions with meaningful details and a clear thesis statement.
  • demonstrate analytical abilities (in the source-based essay) by recognizing the distinct opinions of BOTH passages and summarizing the important information.
  • use good transitions and grammar.
  • avoid mistakes in style, spelling, and mechanics.
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