NYSTCE Biology Study Guide

What is the NYSTCE Biology Exam?

Candidates wishing to teach biology in New York State schools must pass the NYSTCE Biology CST 160 to demonstrate mastery of the concepts of biology, problem solving, and strong mathematics and literacy skills. The NYSTCE Biology 160 tests seven basic competencies: structure and function of cells and molecules, structure and function of organisms, matter and energy, relationships in ecosystems, inheritance and variation of traits, evolution, and pedagogical content knowledge.

What is on the NYSTCE Biology Exam?

The table below shows the approximate number of questions on the NYSTCE Biology CST for each competency and the percentage of the overall score.

Competency Number of Test Items Percentage of Score
Structure and Function of Cells and Molecules 15 13 percent
Structure and Function of Organisms 15 14 percent
Matter and Energy 15 13 percent
Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems 15 13 percent
Inheritance and Variation of Traits 15 14 percent
Evolution and Diversity of Life 15 13 percent
Pedagogical Content Knowledge 1 20 percent

The questions on the first six competencies are selected-response forms of questions. The single pedagogy question is of the constructed response form.

Structure and Function of Cells and Molecules

This competency covers characteristics of living things, types of cells, cellular components and cell processing. Active and Passive transport and processes including mitosis, meiosis, fertilization, and cell differentiation are also tested. The candidate will need to understand major classes of biomolecules and will have to be able to analyze enzymes and factors affecting enzyme actions. The candidate will need to describe structures and functions of cells and biomolecules. The exam will verify that the candidate can safely conduct scientific investigations, interpret scientific information and evaluate phenomena relating to cells and molecules.

Structure and Function of Organisms

This area of the exam will cover unicellular organisms, fungi, plants, and animals. Organization, structure, functions and interactions of body systems, human reproduction, growth and development are included on the exam. The candidate will have to demonstrate knowledge of homeostatic mechanisms in organisms as well as the causes and characteristics of diseases and mechanisms that organisms use to fight disease. The teacher will need to be able to conduct safe scientific investigations relating to these topics, evaluate claims about scientific phenomena and show knowledge of the ethical use of organisms in school science investigations.

Matter and Energy

This competency on the exam covers the transfer of matter and energy in cells, organisms, and ecosystems. The processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration and their roles in transferring matter and energy are covered by the exam. Biochemical pathways in the metabolism of biomolecules, models and mathematical representations applied to the cycling of matter and energy in an ecosystem will be tested. The exam will test biogeochemical cycles and the ability to analyze and model molecule formation, energy transfer and cycling of matter and the flow of energy. The teacher will need to show the ability to safely conduct scientific investigations, interpret scientific information and evaluate claims on scientific phenomena in relation to matter and energy.

Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

This section of the exam tests the core ideas of ecosystems dynamics, functioning and interactions. It will cover knowledge of carrying capacity and the factors affecting the size and growth rate of populations. The candidate will need to know the interactions and functioning of organisms in an ecosystem. Natural and human factors that influence biodiversity, resilience, and stability in ecosystems are part of this exam. The candidate will be asked to evaluate proposed solutions for human impacts on the environment and biodiversity. In relation to this competency, the candidate will need to be able to safely carry out scientific investigations, to interpret scientific investigation, and evaluate claims about scientific phenomena.

Inheritance and Variation of Traits

The candidate will need to demonstrate knowledge of genetic order, structures of DNA and RNA, replication, transcription, translation, protein synthesis, and the effect of mutations. The exam will cover relationships between DNA, genes, alleles, chromosomes, and the control of gene expression. This competency also covers heritable genetic variation, the principles of heredity, and the use of probability and statistics to solve inheritance problems. The test examines knowledge of genetic engineering techniques and tools. For activities involving inheritance, the candidate will need to be able to safely conduct scientific investigations, interpret scientific information, and evaluate claims concerning scientific phenomena.

Evolution and the Unity and Diversity of Life

The candidate will need to demonstrate knowledge of evidence supporting biological evolution and evolutionary relationships between organisms. Concepts of natural selection and evolution and speciation are included on this section of the exam. Understanding of the principles of population genetics and shifts in allelic frequencies are covered. The candidate will be tested on the historical development of scientific understanding of how organisms change over time and on taxonomy and representations of evolutionarily related species. The exam will test knowledge of characteristics of organisms and organization into domains and kingdoms. The candidate will need to be able to safely conduct scientific investigations in the area of evolution and the diversity of life and to interpret scientific information and analyze claims about scientific phenomena.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

The constructed-response question of the pedagogical content part of the exam tests the candidate on the ability to effectively apply pedagogical principles to culturally relevant instruction and to guide students to achieving a specific learning goal. The candidate will need to be able to use a three-dimensional approach utilizing a disciplinary core idea, a crosscutting concept, and knowledge of science and engineering practices. The candidate will need to have knowledge of current research in the process of learning science and will have to be able to develop performance tasks leading to the learning goal, which will include diverse learners.

The candidate will need to demonstrate the ability to design assessments that will measure student knowledge and understanding while identifying individual student's strengths and weaknesses.

Practice tests give you a better idea of the topics you have mastered and those you should keep studying.

Format of the NYSTCE Biology Exam

The NYSTCE Biology CST is a computer-based test (CBT) consisting of 90 selected-response items and one constructed-response question. Total testing time is three hours and 30 minutes, which includes 15 minutes allocated for a CBT tutorial and administrative tasks. Prior to June 21, 2020, no calculators were permitted. Since then, standard four-function calculators have been provided on-screen for use during the test.

How Is the NYSTCE Biology Exam Scored?

The NYSTCE Biology CST is assigned a score from 400 to 600 with a passing score of 520. The total score consists of the total number of correct responses to the selected-response questions with no penalty for incorrect answers. This total is combined with a score assigned for the single constructed-response item.

Constructed-response items are scored by at least two qualified New York state educators who have received extensive training on scoring procedures. A four-point scale is used to score the three performance categories, which measures the extent to which the answer addresses the posed question, accurately and effectively applies relevant knowledge and skills, and is supported by appropriate examples and sound-reasoning.

Scores will be available in two to ten weeks following the exam. Specific dates for score reporting are made available on the NYSTCE website.

How To Register for the NYSTCE Biology Exam

Registration for the NYSTCE Biology CST is accomplished on the NYSTCE website. Payment of the $122 fee must be made at the time of registration using a VISA or MasterCard credit, debit or check card. Arrangements can be made to pay by check. Registration and payment remain valid for one year.

The candidate can choose a date and location for the exam which is given at a Pearson VUE test center. No personal items are allowed in the room during testing. Examinees will be required to present one current, government-issued identification in English which shows the candidate's name exactly as entered at registration. The identification must include a photograph and signature.

Unsuccessful candidates can retake the exam as often as needed. Late arrivals may not be allowed to test if they come more than 15 minutes late. Absentees will need to register again and will not be eligible for a refund.

NYSTCE CST Biology Practice Tests

Practice tests are an important tool in preparing for the NYSTCE Biology CST. Full-length practice tests are available that give the candidate the opportunity to become familiar with the format of the questions and to review the content of the exam. Practice tests allow candidates to identify their own strengths and weaknesses in order to focus study efforts. In addition, successful scores on practice exams can increase the candidate's confidence-level as the test date approaches.

The study guide available on the NYSTCE website includes sample selected-response questions complete with identification of the correct answer and explanations of why that choice is correct and why the alternate choices are incorrect. There are also sample constructed response questions along with examples of strong responses and weak responses. The guide includes an analysis of why the stronger response would receive a high score and identifies the weaknesses in the weaker response.

Other study and review materials including practice tests, guided review, and flash cards can be found from many online sources.


Take a NYSTCE Biology Practice Test Online

Exam Instructions:

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  1. Which of the following is considered the zombie of the pathogen world?
    • Correct Answer
  2. Which of the following is NOT a segment of DNA?
    • Correct Answer
  3. Cladograms show how organisms are related from a common _____.
    • Correct Answer
  4. If I witness chemiosmosis involving the transport of hydrogen ions through an organelle with double membranes, what process am I seeing?
    • Correct Answer
  5. Place the following steps in the cell cycle into the order in which they occur.

    I. G1

    II. G2

    III. S phase

    IV. M phase

    • Correct Answer
  6. If diet plays a key role in the development of a disorder with a genetic component, then this is most likely a:
    • Correct Answer
  7. Ligase could be expected to do which of the following?
    • Correct Answer
  8. When trying to depict a three-dimensional molecule on paper, a hashed chemical bond indicates that _____.
    • Correct Answer
  9. What is the major difference between competitive exclusion and local extinction?
    • Correct Answer
  10. How many eggs are found in each ovarian follicle?
    • Correct Answer
  11. Which of the following is NOT true about lab safety equipment?
    • Correct Answer
  12. Which of the following describes an increase in gene expression?
    • Correct Answer
  13. Conservation of matter means that:
    • Correct Answer
  14. Why do kangaroo rats not drink water?
    • Correct Answer
  15. A newborn yawns and stretches. This action is referred to as _____.
    • Correct Answer