The NYSTCE-CSTs consist of approximately 90 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and a written assignment.The purpose of the Biology Content Specialty Test (CST) is to assess knowledge and skills in the following seven subareas.
Subarea I—Foundations Of Scientific Inquiry
(17% of the exam)
1. Understand the relationships and common themes that connect mathematics,
science, and technology.
• analyzing similarities among systems in mathematics, science, and technology (e.g., stability, equilibrium)
• applying concepts and theories from mathematics and other sciences to a biological system
• analyzing the use of biology and other sciences in the design of a technological solution to a given problem
• using the Internet, a variety of software (e.g., spreadsheets, graphing utilities, statistical packages, simulations), and technologies (e.g., graphing calculators, computers) to model and solve problems in mathematics, science, and technology.
2. Understand the historical and contemporary contexts of biological study and the
applications of biology and biotechnology to society.
• recognizing the significance of key events in the history of biological study (e.g., development of the microscope, understanding the structure of DNA, use of animals in research, genomic research)
• recognizing the contributions of diverse cultures and individuals to biological study
• evaluating the impact of social factors on biological study (e.g., restrictions on the development of human cloning techniques, demand for genetically modified agricultural crops, bioethics)
• interpreting the implications for society of recent developments in biology and biotechnology (e.g., medical technology, genetic engineering, waste water treatment, food safety)
3. Understand the process of scientific inquiry and the role of observation, experimentation, and communication in explaining natural phenomena.
• analyzing processes by which new scientific knowledge and hypotheses are
• analyzing ethical issues related to the process of scientific research and reporting
• evaluating the appropriateness of a specified experimental design to test a
• demonstrating an ability to design a hypothesis-testing inquiry experiment
4. Understand the processes of gathering, organizing, reporting, and interpreting
scientific data, and apply this understanding in the context of biological investigations.
• evaluating the appropriateness of a given method or procedure for collecting data
for a specified purpose
• selecting an appropriate and effective graphic representation (e.g., graph, table,
diagram) for organizing, reporting, and analyzing given experimental data
• demonstrating the ability to appropriately set up and label graphs with dependent
and independent variables
• applying procedures and criteria for reporting experimental protocols and data
(e.g., use of statistical tests)
• analyzing relationships between factors (e.g., linear, exponential) as indicated by
5. Understand and apply principles and procedures of measurement used in the
• demonstrating an ability to use the metric system
• evaluating the appropriateness and limitations of units of measurement,
measuring devices, or methods of measurement for given situations
• applying methods of measuring microscopic organisms and structures
• analyzing likely sources of error in measurement and the consequences of such
error on subsequent calculations and conclusions
6.Understand the use of equipment, materials, chemicals, and living organisms in
biological studies and the application of procedures for their proper, safe, and legal use.
• demonstrating knowledge of the appropriate use of given laboratory materials,
instruments, and equipment (e.g., indicators, microscopes, centrifuges,
spectrophotometers, chromatography equipment)
• applying proper methods for storing, identifying, dispensing, and disposing of
chemicals and biological materials
• identifying sources of and interpreting information (e.g., material safety data
sheets) regarding the proper, safe, and legal use of equipment, materials, and
• interpreting guidelines and regulations for the proper and humane procurement
and treatment of living organisms in biological studies
• recognizing possible alternatives to dissection
• applying proper procedures for promoting laboratory safety (e.g., the use of
safety goggles, universal health precautions) and responding to accidents and
injuries in the biology laboratory.
Subarea II— Cell Biology And Biochemisty
(17% of the exam)
7. Understand cell structure and function, the dynamic nature of cells, and the
uniqueness of different types of cells.
• comparing and contrasting the cellular structures and functions of archaea,
prokaryotes, and eukaryotes
• analyzing the primary functions, processes, products, and interactions of various
cellular structures (e.g., lysosomes, microtubules, cell membrane)
• analyzing the importance of active and passive transport processes in
maintaining homeostasis in cells and the relationships between these
processes and the cellular membranes
8. Understand chemistry and biochemistry to analyze the role of biologically important
elements and compounds in living organisms.
• comparing and contrasting hydrogen, ionic, and covalent bonds and the
conditions under which these bonds form and break apart
• relating the structure and function of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins (e.g., level of
structure), nucleic acids, and inorganic compounds to cellular activities
• analyzing the properties of water and the significance of these properties to living
• demonstrating an understanding of pH chemistry in biological systems
• analyzing the structure and function of enzymes and factors that affect the rate of
9. Understand the raw materials, products, and significance of photosynthesis and
cellular respiration and the relationships of these processes to cell structure and
• recognizing the significance of photosynthesis and respiration to living organisms
• identifying the overall chemical equations for the processes of respiration and
• demonstrating an understanding of ATP production through chemiosmosis in
both photosynthesis and respiration
• analyzing factors that affect photosynthesis and respiration
• comparing aerobic and anaerobic respiration
• evaluating the significance of chloroplast structure in photosynthesis and
mitochondrion structure in respiration
10. Understand the structure and function of DNA and RNA.
• demonstrating an understanding of the mechanism of DNA replication, potential
errors, and implications of these errors
• analyzing the roles of DNA and ribosomal, messenger, and transfer RNA in
• analyzing the implications of mutations in DNA molecules for protein structure
and function (e.g., sickle-cell anemia, cystic fibrosis)
• analyzing the control of gene expression in cells (e.g., lac operon in E. coli )
11. Understand the procedures involved in the isolation, manipulation, and expression of genetic material and the application of genetic engineering in basic and applied research.
• analyzing the role and applications of genetic engineering in the basic
discoveries of molecular genetics (e.g., in medicine, agriculture)
• demonstrating an understanding of genetic engineering techniques
(e.g., restriction enzymes, PCR, gel electrophoresis)
• analyzing the role of genetic engineering in the development of microbial cultures
capable of producing valuable products (e.g., human insulin, growth hormone)
• recognizing the role of gene cloning in deriving nucleotide and amino acid
sequences and the role of cloned genes as probes in determining the structure of
more complex DNA molecules
• recognizing how genetic engineers design new biological products unavailable
from natural sources and alter gene products by site-directed mutagenesis
(e.g., transgenic plants and animals)
• recognizing the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic engineering
12. Understand the cell cycle, the stages and end products of meiosis and mitosis, and the role of cell division in unicellular and multicellular organisms.
• describing general events in the cell cycle and analyzing the significance of these events
• interpreting the results of experiments relating to the eukaryotic cell cycle
(e.g., cloning, polyploidy, tissue cultures, pharming)
• comparing chromosomal changes during the stages of meiosis and mitosis
• analyzing the significance of meiosis and fertilization in relation to the genetic
diversity and evolution of multicellular organisms
• recognizing the relationship between an unrestricted cell cycle and cancer
• demonstrating an understanding of the process of cell differentiation, including
the role of stem cells
Subarea III—Genetics And Evolution
(15% of the exam)
13. Understand concepts, principles, and applications of classical and molecular
• demonstrating an understanding of basic principles of heredity (e.g., dominance, codominance, incomplete dominance, segregation, independent assortment)
• analyzing techniques used to determine the presence of human genetic diseases (e.g., PKU, cystic fibrosis)
• analyzing genetic inheritance problems involving genotypic and phenotypic frequencies
• interpreting pedigree charts
• recognizing the role of nonnuclear inheritance (e.g., mitochondrial DNA) in phenotypic expression
14. Understand the principles of population genetics and the interaction between heredity and the environment, and apply this knowledge to problems involving populations.
• evaluating conditions that affect allele frequency in a gene pool
• analyzing the relationship between an organism's phenotype for a particular trait and its selective advantage in a given environment (e.g., the human sickle-cell trait and malaria)
15. Understand hypotheses about the origins of life, evidence supporting evolution, and evolution as a unifying theme in biology.
• evaluating evidence supporting various hypotheses about the origins of life
• analyzing the progression from simpler to more complex life forms (e.g., unicellular to colonial to multicellular) by various processes (e.g., endosymbiosis)
• assessing the significance of geological and fossil records in determining evolutionary histories and relationships of given organisms
• evaluating observations made in various areas of biology (e.g., embryology, biochemistry, anatomy) in terms of evolution
16 Understand the mechanisms of evolution.
• recognizing sources of variation in a population
• analyzing relationships between changes in allele frequencies and evolution
• analyzing the implications of natural selection versus the inheritance of acquired traits in given situations
• comparing alternative mechanisms of evolution (e.g., gradualism, punctuated equilibrium)
• analyzing factors that lead to speciation (e.g., geographic and reproductive isolation, genetic drift)
17. Understand the principles of taxonomy and the relationship between taxonomy and the history of evolution.
• analyzing criteria used to classify organisms (e.g., morphology, biochemical comparisons)
• interpreting a given phylogenetic tree or cladogram of related species
• demonstrating the ability to design and use taxonomic keys (e.g., dichotomous keys)
• relating changes in the structure and organization of the classification system to developments in biological thought (e.g., evolution, modern genetics)
Subarea IV—Biological Unity And Diversity And Life Processes
(12% of the exam)
• analyzing characteristics of living organisms (e.g., differences between living organisms and nonliving things)
• recognizing levels of organization (e.g., cells, tissues, organs)
• comparing and analyzing the basic life functions carried out by living organisms (e.g., obtaining nutrients, excretion, reproduction)
• recognizing the role of physiological processes (e.g., active transport) that contribute to homeostasis and dynamic equilibrium
• recognizing the relationship of structure and function in all living things
19. Understand the general characteristics, functions, and adaptations of prions, viruses,
bacteria, protoctists (protists), and fungi.
• comparing the structure and processes of prions and viruses to cells
• comparing archaebacteria and eubacteria
• analyzing the processes of chromosome and plasmid replication and gene transfer in bacteria
• comparing the structure and function of protoctists (protists)
• recognizing the significance of prions, viruses, retroviruses, bacteria, protoctists (protists), and fungi in terms of their beneficial uses or deleterious effects
20. Understand the general characteristics, life functions, and adaptations of plants.
• comparing structures and their functions in nonvascular and vascular plants (e.g., mosses, ferns, conifers)
• analyzing reproduction and development in the different divisions of plants
• analyzing the structures and forces involved in transport in plants
• evaluating the evolutionary and adaptive significance of plant structures (e.g., modified leaves, colorful flowers)
21. Understand the general characteristics, life functions, and adaptations of animals.
• identifying general characteristics of the embryonic development of invertebrates and vertebrates
• comparing and contrasting the life cycles of invertebrates and vertebrates
• demonstrating an understanding of physiological processes (e.g., excretion, respiration, aging) of animals and their significance
• recognizing the relationship between structure and function in given animal species
• analyzing the adaptive and evolutionary significance of animal behaviors and structures
Subarea V—Human Biology
(17%of the exam)
22. Understand the structures and functions of the human skeletal, muscular, and
integumentary systems; common malfunctions of these systems; and their homeostatic relationships within the body.
• comparing the structures, locations, and functions of the three types of muscles
• demonstrating an understanding of the mechanism of skeletal muscle contraction
• demonstrating an understanding of the movements of body joints in terms of muscle and bone arrangement and action
• relating the structure of the skin to its functions
• demonstrating an understanding of possible causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of malfunctions of the skeletal, muscular, and integumentary systems (e.g., arthritis, skin cancer, scoliosis, osteoporosis)
23. Understand the structures and functions of the human respiratory and excretory systems, common malfunctions of these systems, and their homeostatic relationships within the body.
• demonstrating an understanding of the relationship between surface area and volume and the role of that relationship in the function of the respiratory and excretory systems
• analyzing the mechanism of breathing and the process of gas exchange between the lungs and blood and between blood and tissues
• analyzing the role of the kidneys in osmoregulation and waste removal from the blood and the factors that influence nephron function
• demonstrating an understanding of possible causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of malfunctions of the respiratory and excretory systems
(e.g., emphysema, nephritis)
24. Understand the structures and functions of the human circulatory and immune
systems, common malfunctions of these systems, and their homeostatic relationships within the body.
• demonstrating an understanding of the structure, function, and regulation of the heart and the factors that influence cardiac output
• analyzing changes in the circulatory system (e.g., vessel structure and function) and their influence on blood composition and blood flow (e.g., blood cell diversity)
• demonstrating an understanding of the possible causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of malfunctions of the circulatory system (e.g., hypertension)
• demonstrating an understanding of the structure, function, and regulation of the immune system (e.g., cell-mediated and humoral responses)
• demonstrating an understanding of the possible causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of malfunctions of the immune system (e.g., autoimmune diseases, transplant rejection)
25 Understand human nutrition and the structures and functions of the human digestive system and accessory organs, common malfunctions of the digestive system, and its homeostatic relationships within the body.
• demonstrating an understanding of the roles in the body of the basic nutrients found in foods (e.g., carbohydrates, vitamins, water)
• demonstrating an understanding of the processes of mechanical and chemical digestion in the digestive system, including contributions of accessory organs
• recognizing the process by which nutrients are transported from inside the small intestine to other parts of the body
• demonstrating an understanding of the possible causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of common malfunctions of the digestive system (e.g., ulcers, appendicitis, eating disorders)
26. Understand the structures and functions of the human nervous and endocrine systems, common malfunctions of these systems, and their homeostatic relationships within the body.
• demonstrating an understanding of the structures and functions of the central and peripheral nervous systems
• demonstrating an understanding of the location and function of the major endocrine glands and the function of their associated hormones
• demonstrating an understanding of the transmission of nerve impulses within and between neurons and the influence of drugs and other chemicals on that transmission
• evaluating the role of feedback mechanisms in homeostasis (e.g., role of hormones, neurotransmitters)
• demonstrating an understanding of the possible causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of malfunctions of the nervous and endocrine systems (e.g., diabetes, brain disorders).
27. Understand the structures and functions of the human reproductive systems, the processes of embryonic development, common malfunctions of the reproductive systems, and their homeostatic relationships within the body.
• recognizing the role of hormones in controlling the development and functions of the male and female reproductive systems
• demonstrating an understanding of gametogenesis, fertilization, and birth control
• demonstrating an understanding of embryonic and fetal development and the potential effects of drugs, alcohol, and nutrition on this process
• demonstrating an understanding of the possible causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of malfunctions of the reproductive systems (e.g., infertility, birth defects).
Ecology (12% of the exam)
28. Understand the characteristics of populations and communities and use this knowledge to interpret population growth and interactions of organisms within an ecosystem.
• demonstrating an understanding of factors that affect population size and growth rate (e.g., carrying capacity, limiting factors)
• determining and interpreting population growth curves
• analyzing relationships among organisms in a community (e.g., competition, predation, symbiosis)
• evaluating the effects of population density on the environment
29. Understand the development and structure of ecosystems and the characteristics of major biomes.
• demonstrating an understanding of the flow of energy through the trophic levels of an ecosystem
• comparing the strengths and limitations of various pyramid models (e.g., biomass, numbers, energy)
• recognizing the importance of the process of ecological succession and the role of biotic and abiotic factors in this process
• identifying the characteristics and geographic distribution of major biomes
• recognizing the effect of biome degradation and destruction on biosphere stability (e.g., climate changes, deforestation, reduction of species diversity)
30. Understand the connections within and among the biogeochemical cycles and
analyze their implications for living things.
• recognizing the importance of the processes involved in material cycles (e.g., water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus)
• demonstrating an understanding of the role of decomposers in nutrient cycling in ecosystems
• analyzing the role of respiration and photosynthesis in biogeochemical cycling
• evaluating the effects of limiting factors on ecosystem productivity (e.g., light intensity, gas concentrations, mineral availability)
31. Understand concepts of human ecology and the impact of human decisions and
activities on the physical and living environment.
• recognizing the importance and implications of various factors (e.g., nutrition, public health, geography, climate) for human population dynamics
• predicting the impact of the human use of natural resources (e.g., forests, rivers) on the stability of ecosystems
• analyzing types of resource misuse (e.g., deforestation, pollution, strip mining) and their long- and short-term effects
• recognizing the importance of maintaining biological diversity (e.g., pharmacological products, stability of ecosystems)
• evaluating methods and technologies that reduce or mitigate environmental degradation
• demonstrating an understanding of the concept of stewardship and ways in which it is applied to the environment
Subarea VII—Foundations Of Scientific Inquiry: Constructed-Response Assignment (10% of the exam)
The content to be addressed by the constructed-response assignment is described in
Subarea I, Objectives 01–06.