DSST Environmental Science Study Guide

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DSST Environmental Science Study Guide

The exam for DSST Environmental Science is designed to meet the subject-matter criteria requirement for individuals seeking college-level credits in place of enrolling in science coursework. Reaching the DSST test pass rates replaces the institutional prerequisite for college course credits in a lower-level baccalaureate program. Test takers utilize the knowledge acquired through various experiences and settings, including job training, military skills, and other independent sources. Topics on the DSST test cover a broad scope of environmental features, themes, and practices of ecology, environmental concerns and management, and societal and environmental relationships.

The exam is administered by computer at multiple national (and international) testing facilities and educational institutions or round-the-clock for all candidates by proctor testing. New options for DANTES test locations are available only for first-time military service members. Candidates will have two hours to answer one hundred single-answer multiple-choice questions from four individual content areas. This DSST Environmental Science study guide provides a table representing breakdowns of the exam content area, testing percentages, and the number of questions for each content area.

Content Area % of Questions
Ecological Concepts 30% (≈30 questions)
Environmental Impacts 25% (≈25 questions)
Environmental Management and Conservation 25% (≈25 questions)
Social Processes and the Environment 20% (≈20 questions)
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Ecological Concepts

The first content area of the exam will ask candidates to demonstrate knowledge of key concepts of environmental science studies, including those covering ecological features and processes. For this section of the exam, applicants should be able to define an ecosystem and its dynamic characteristics, including the different relationships and interactions between living and nonliving organisms and the various types of ecosystems in different environments. Examinees should also examine the complexity and types of living organisms within different ecosystems or on Earth as a whole. Test-takers must be able to identify the different hierarchal positions within ecosystems and individual functions within each position that is representative of a food chain of energy production and energy consumption. Additionally, candidates will be asked to define the processes and understand the terminology of energy flow and cycling of matter in ecosystems, including photosynthesis, cellular respiration, tropic levels, and energy conservation concepts.

Applicants must also be familiar with additional ecological concepts, as represented in this DSST Environmental Science study guide:

  • Biome types, features, systems, classifications, communities, global regions
  • Population ecology (e.g., organisms, environments, patterns, inhabitants, and influences)
  • Evolutionary environmental and physical traits, characteristics, theories, and processes
  • Ecological changes in biological communities (e.g., types, habitats, composition, and interactions)
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Environmental Impacts

This content area of the exam will require candidates to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of various factors that influence and affect natural environmental processes. Examinees must analyze the relationship between population growth and the environment and understand how population expansion or decline impacts the natural environment, including recognizing contributing factors that influence positive and negative environmental changes. Additionally, applicants will be asked to examine different influences and human activities affecting Earth's climate systems as well as understand the lasting effects of climate shifts on populations and the environment.

Candidates will be asked to analyze the various types of pollutants, areas of environmental impact, and short and long-term effects of harmful materials and substances on the natural environment. Examinees should demonstrate knowledge of how natural resources and ecosystem environments are impacted by modern agricultural and industrial changes and developments. Test-takers will be asked to examine the various negative consequences of agricultural and environmental changes to natural habitats and environmental stability, including declining habitat populations, nutrient availability, land loss processes, and soil quality issues.

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Environmental Management and Conservation

This content area of the exam will address a candidate's knowledge of topics covering different systems for managing and protecting Earth's natural resources and environments. Questions in this section will cover a broad range of sustainability issues, including:

  • Natural resources (e.g., categories, types, uses, benefits, disadvantages, and availability)
  • Cultivation practices (e.g., (land/soil management, transplanting, and harvesting techniques)
  • Man-made contaminants and containment (e.g., types, environmental interactions and hazards)
  • Land development practices (e.g., soil preservation, planning processes, environmental considerations)
  • Air pollutant management (e.g., physical conditions, chemicals, human causes, exposure dangers)

Examinees will also be asked to examine the importance of water resources, standards, and availability to all living things. Candidates should be familiar with different natural and synthetic water supply systems and practices for ensuring safe water requirements are met for human consumption and other purposes, and the measures that ensure continuous water availability. Additionally, applicants must identify the different types of wastewater and analyze the importance of ensuring used water contains no impurities before being released into the environment. Candidates must also be able to identify various forms of waste materials, as well as determine environmental issues with disposal methods and recycling practices. Additionally, test-takers will need to understand the concepts, procedures, and terminology used in assessing unsafe health exposures and conditions to humans, animals, plants, and the environment.

Social Processes and the Environment

The last content area of the exam covers topics on protection measures for society and society's role and responsibility in creating actionable measures for protecting the environment and all its resources. For this section, examinees must be familiar with the following details, as represented in this DSST Environmental Science study guide:

  • Environmental hazards protection measures (e.g., non-discriminatory factors, grassroots movements)
  • Natural resource protection practices (e.g., behavior changes, policies, public communication)
  • Worldwide environmental oversight (e.g., organizations, international agreements, challenges)
  • Cultural/societal/environmental principles (e.g., societal attitudes, behavioral norms, lifestyles)
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