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Physical Geology DSST
A Free Study Guide!

Free Physical Geology DSST Study Guide

Name of Exam: Physical Geology DSST

Number of Questions: Around 100 (varies)

Time Limit: 120 Minutes

ACE Recommended Passing Score: 46

Practice Test Available?: Yes - See Below in "Free Resources"

Cost: $80 + Sitting Fee (Usually no more than $20) at your testing site. Military can take DSSTs for free with Tuition Assistance. Check with your Educational Officer!

Difficulty 1-5 : 3
(One being the easiest, and five being the hardest)

Exam Description:

The Physical Geology DSST covers what a student would learn during a single semester of a college Geology class.

A few of the specific topics you'll see see are: Seditentary Rocks, Plate Tectonics, Oceanic Systems, and Planetary Geology.

Personal Thoughts:

When I first put together the DSST Difficulty List, I had the Physical Geology DSST rated as "Level 2" in difficulty. A friend here on base took the exam and assured me it wasn't that hard. Yeah... Upon doing some reading and seeing some of the subject matter, I'm going to respectfully disagree with his assessment.

If you have no geology knowlege/experience at this point, you'll need to study for this. The upside is that I've found plenty of people online who were in the same boat and with a few weeks of study pulled off a pass.

I maintain the opinion that there are easier science exams available. The Natural Sciences CLEP as well as the Biology CLEP are both broader, but less deep than the Physical Geology DSST. However, if you've already taken those two and still need some science credits to fill a pre-requisite, then keep on reading.

Exam breakdown:

Make sure you check out the Official DSST Fact Sheet for this exam.

Pay attention to the bottom of the fact sheet. It contains some sample questions that closely mimic the type of scenario-based questions you'll see on the actual exam.

The Physical Geology DSST is broken down as follows:

35% Core Knowledge
30% Surface Processes
30% Internal Earth Processes
05% Applications

Areas of Study

I'm going to list some specific topics that you'll need to study.

Though there are different versions of the Physical Geology DSST, you'll most likely see some of the following on your exam:

  • Faulting
  • Deserts
  • Glaciers
  • Types of Soil
  • Island Formation
  • Moon Formation
  • Plate Movements
  • Gravity and isostasy
  • Hydrologic Cycle
  • Groundwater
  • Sea Floor
  • Law of Superposition

This is not a comprehensive list of topics! I highly recommend (as always) signing up for InstantCert and seeing the Specific Feedback section for this exam. They've had years to accumulate their information, and it shows.

Recommended Free Study Resources

  • Grants Pass High School Geology Notes - I'm including this one first not because it's the most inclusive (that would be the next one down) but because it's meant for high school students and therefore the language is a bit easier on the brain. These are just notes, so you need to read between the lines, but the information is there.
  • Notes on Planet Earth - A great resource that someone at DegreeIno posted. Print off the DSST Fact Sheet and then read each chapter that applies. This also has practice exams for each chapter which I highly recommend taking.
  • Dr. Heaton's Practice Exams - Another great practice test resource that a visitor sent in. This one was written by an outstanding teacher over at the University of South Dakota. He's even written up explanations for why the answers are correct.
  • SparkCharts - Geology and Earth Sciences - I'd read the entire thing personally. If you're crunched for time, use the Fact Sheet and read every topic that's mentioned on there.
  • GeoTours - Geology for the Lay Person.
  • GeoMan's Glossary of Earth Science Terms - This guy has such a great website. A pretty extensive list of geology terms, many of which you'll see on the Physical Geology DSST.
  • The Hydrosphere - Yet another link from the Grants Pass High School site.
  • Introduction to Geology Lecture Notes - Another great site with a lot of information. Use the DSST Fact Sheet to identify what you'll need to study.
  • Physical Geology - An online companion to a course at the University of Houston. If you click on the list under the "Topic" category, you'll get taken to the actual notes. There are also a few study guides scattered throughout.
  • Physical Geology Free Forum Links - From our own Feedback area. Find some other forum posts that we don't have? Let us know via the "Contact Us" form or post them yourself in the User Submission Area.

Recommended bargain-priced study resources

Always check your library first! You may be able to find some of these for free. You don't have to buy the officially recommended resources all the time. If you're the type of person that prefers to study from a textbook source however, then please see below.

Physical Geology - One of the DSST recommended books. This particular one is over 20 years old so you can pick it up for a dollar. Hard to beat that cost.

Earth's Dynamic Systems (9th Edition) - One of the suggested textbook for the Physical Geology DSST. Pretty cheap if you pick it up used (7 bucks at the time of this writing).

Standard Deviants: Geology, Vol. 1 - Standard Deviants' Geology videos. Keep in mind there are two videos. Most libraries carry these, so make sure you check a local library first.

Earth Science Demystified - An alternative to the Standard Deviant series. This one's gotten good reviews from the testing crowd for Physical Geology DSST prep.

InstantCert Academy Physical Geology Specific Exam Feedback - Only one page of exam feedback, but it does have some pretty good feedback from past test takers. If you're already a subscriber, check it out. If you're not, I would save your money for one of the above resources if this is the only DSST you'll be taking.

If you don't know what InstantCert is, then click here for the scoop as well as a discount code: **InstantCert Academy**

You'll find an InstantCert link for every exam here if that gives you an idea of the amount of information they have available. It's an outstanding resource.

Closing Thoughts

I'm interested in the subject material for this exam, so I may go and take it myself just to get a better idea of what the exam is like. Until that time, use the above resources and forum links to see what other testers have said.

From everything I've read, the Official DSST Fact Sheet covers the actual exam closely. Make sure you understand everything on the Fact Sheet and you'll be much closer to passing the Physical Geology DSST.

If you do end up taking this exam, please leave some feedback in the User Submissions area. Let your experience help some of the other test takers out there.

Best of luck!

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