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Principles of Physical Science DSST
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Free Principles of Physical Science DSST Study Guide

Name of Exam: Principles of Physical Science DSST

Number of Questions: Around 98 (varies)

Time Limit: 120 Minutes

ACE Recommended Passing Score: 47

Practice Test Available?: No

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 : 4
(One being the easiest, and five being the hardest)

Exam Description:

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

Specific topics covered include Law of Universal Gravitation, Magnetism, the Periodic Law, Kinetic Energy, Kinetic Theory, and Periodicity of the Elements.

Personal Thoughts:

Talk about a DSST that gets no love. I've been scouring the Internet, looking for anything specific about the Principles of Physical Science DSST. So far I haven't been able to come up with much. Physical Sciences usually cover both Chemistry and Physics, so unless you just absolutely love science and need the credits, I'd look to one of the easier exams.

If that's not an option (or if you really love this kind of stuff), then the good news is that we've already got quite a bit of study material from the Chemistry CLEP Study Guide. For the physics section, there are plenty of online resources available, so I'll list those below.

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 Principles of Physical Science DSST is broken down as follows:

60% Physics
40% Chemistry

There is a lot of information in those two little words.

Areas of Study

I'm going to break down the percentages above with the topics that fall under each category. This should allow you to decide what you need help with, and only study those areas in which you feel a little weak. Less wading through masses of resources, and more targeted studying.

I'd also recommend the The Khan Academy as a video resource on these subjects. He covers both Physics and Chemistry with his excellent video lectures.

(60% of the Principles of Physical Science DSST)

Newton's Laws of Motion

  • Newton's Laws of Motion - Hehe, with pictures! This is the simplified explanations and just my speed. If you need the grown-up version, check the link below.
  • Forces and Newton's Laws - A more math-heavy version of the above. Know each of the main points on this page (Force, Friction, Mass and Weight) in addition to the Laws of Motion. From all accounts, you'll need to understand the formulas and be able to do the work yourself for the Principles of Physical Science DSST. I'll try to include a link whenever there's a formula involved.
  • Wikipedia - Inertia
  • Force and Acceleration - In keeping with the above example, first a simple explanation. More in depth answer below.
  • Acceleration
  • Law of Circular Motion - It's a bit deep, but then again you're probably much better at this than I am anyway. ;)
  • Law of Universal Gravitation - I'd read the entire page, but the Law itself is further down.

Energy and Momentum

  • Work - The best explanation I've found that contains easy to understand examples as well as the formulas.
  • Power - One of the more simplistic answers I came across. For another take on the subject, see this site. An interesting discussion and a prime example of why these study guides take me so long. There's a lot of - "Whoa, this is interesting! Let me read it for the next two hours"....
  • Potential and Kinetic Energy - A great explanation of these two forms of energy.
  • Potential and Kinetic Energy with formulas - A more in-depth explanation with the formulas behind it.
  • Momentum


Waves and Optics

  • Reflection
  • Refraction - There's a very cool interactive diagram at the bottom on this page.
  • Lenses and Mirrors - Just when I despaired of finding a good resource, Sparknotes came to the rescue. It's a long page, but full of good information.
  • Waves - The Fact Sheet for the Principles of Physical Science DSST lists "Waves and Optics" as the title, but I'm not sure if they mean waves as in "Optic Waves" or just waves in general. Including this here just in case they mean the behavior of waves in general, and THEN how it applies to light.
  • Wave Optics - Here's the "Wave Optics" topic, as well as the Interference/Diffraction descriptions.

Electricity and Magnetism

  • Coulomb's Law - Explanations don't come much clearer than this. Well, physics explanations anyway. ;)
  • Current (Easy Description) - Pretty simple explanation of how current works.
  • Current Part 2 - A more detailed explanation with the formula backup.
  • Current Potential and Potential Difference - To understand Difference, you need to understand Potential. This is the best page that I've found that has both in one place. The downside is that it really doesn't do the Difference part justice. You may want to look that up on Wikipedia or check out this site.
  • Ohm's Law - A great explanation.
  • Magnetism - This is a really good resource for the entire topic of Magnetism. I'd read the entire chapter (Just keep hitting "Continue to the next section" at the bottom).
  • Electromagnetic Induction - I'm starting to fall a little in love with Sparknotes. Read the entire chapter again. Great knowledge for the Principles of Physical Science DSST.
  • Circuits - It's official, Sparknotes and me are going steady. Once again, a great explanation. I'd also read the Capacitor section just to understand how they're used.

(40% of the Principles of Physical Science DSST)

In the interest of keeping this study guide a reasonably length, I'm going to cheat here.

For the Chemistry portion, please see the Chemistry CLEP Study Guide. Use the fact sheet for the Principles of Physical Science DSST to identify what you'll need to know for the Chemistry portion, and then find the corresponding resource on the Chemistry page.

My apologies for making you go to a whole other study guide, but this thing would be a mile long otherwise.

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.

Introduction to Physical Science - One of the DSST recommended textbooks for the Principles of Physical Science DSST. Considering the book is almost 30 years old, you can pick it up for less than ten dollars at the time of this writing.

Physics For Dummies - The more complicated the subject, the more I like these books. Gets good reviews from test takers, but I haven't read it myself.

Cracking the AP Physics B and C Exams, 2006-2007 Edition (College Test Preparation) - You can pick up a copy for two bucks at the time of this writing which is a heck of a deal. As with all AP guides, this will probably go into more detail than you really need for the Principles of Physical Science DSST, but I always like to be safe. As a side note, the only actual reviewer complaints with this book is that it's a bit too easy for the AP exam which sounds just about right for our purposes.

Chemistry: Concepts and Problems: A Self-Teaching Guide (Wiley Self-Teaching Guides) - Stolen from the Chemistry CLEP study guide - If Chemistry isn't your thing and you're looking to learn fast, then this is probably your best bet. My recommendation for the intermediate Chemistry CLEP taker. I'd still consider getting the AP book once you've read through this one. This will lay the groundwork, but the AP book will prepare you for the exam. Provides a good overview in an easy to read format.

Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam, 2009 Edition (College Test Preparation) - As noted above - My first recommendation for those who already have a firm grasp of Chemistry and just want to brush up. The Chemistry AP prep book covers the Chemistry CLEP better than most other resources, including those written specifically for the CLEP. It's a bit more difficult, but this is an exam where "too much" is better than "not enough". It doesn't hurt that it's only $12 too. ;)

InstantCert Academy Principles of Physical Science Specific Exam Feedback - There's only one page of feedback for this exam which is in keeping with the general lack of knowledge on the entire Internet. I wouldn't subscribe just to get access to this feedback, but if you're already a subscriber than by all means check it out. Good info in there from the two posters.

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

Considering the absolute lack of information on the Principles of Physical Science DSST, I suspect it's not that popular of an exam. On the bright side, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. I hereby declare this study guide to be the best on the Internet for this particular exam until proven otherwise.

Seriously speaking, I'd love for someone to let me know if they do find a decent resource targeted at this exam. I'm a pretty savvy web searcher and I'm coming up blank.

Don't forget to check out the The Khan Academy if you have a decent internet connection and can stream video. The guy is amazing and covers both Physics and Chemistry. Know the formulas! He'll walk you through them, but you'll need to know how to do it on your own.

Best of luck!

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