Not Just Rocks: The Geology Quiz

Estimated Completion Time
4 min
Not Just Rocks: The Geology Quiz
Image: © Fan Peishen/Corbis

About This Quiz

Geologists study the processes and substances that form Earth. Most of those processes happen over millions of years, but this quiz only takes a few minutes! Find out how rock solid your knowledge of geology is.
The part of Earth that lies just beneath the crust is the …
tectonic plate
mantle
The mantle "flows" over an extremely long time, but it primarily consists of solid rock.
ionosphere

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Areas known as karst are characterized by extensive cave systems and are commonly associated with what type of rock?
limestone
Limestone is highly soluble in water compared to other forms of rock. Water erodes passages through limestone and creates the caves and other features common to karst topography.
sandstone
marble

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How old is Earth?
4.54 billion years
Earth formed approximately 4.54 billion years ago when a disk of debris gathered into a rocky sphere, a process known as accretion.
430 million years
80 trillion years

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Moraines are geologic features that can form ridges, rolling hills or wedge-shaped areas. What process causes them to form?
the collision of two tectonic plates
the compression of sedimentary layers
glaciers depositing debris as they advance, melt and retreat
Glaciers scoop rocky debris from the ground and slowly carry it forward, eventually depositing the debris when the glacial ice melts.

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What U.S. state was formed by a hotspot of magma that was fed to the crust from the mantle?
Alaska
California
Hawaii
The magma was cooled by ocean water, forming the Hawaiian islands.

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What sedimentary rock is formed when plant matter is buried and compressed over millions of years?
coal
Coal has been used as a fuel for thousands of years.
sandstone
turbidite

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What is the Ring of Fire?
a circular area of intense heat that forms around the cones of volcanoes
an area around the perimeter of the Pacific Ocean characterized by frequent, intense seismic activity
The series of active tectonic plate boundaries surrounding the Pacific Ocean accounts for the majority of the world's earthquakes and volcanoes.
a region in Siberia where surface coal deposits are constantly burning

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How do geologists think Earth's moon formed?
It formed as the result of a massive impact on Earth.
While it's not the only theory, geologists think a planet the size of Mars may have impacted Earth and created the moon not long after Earth formed.
It formed from several asteroids millions of years after Earth formed.
It was one of Saturn's moons, but a collision knocked it out of orbit, and it was later captured by Earth's gravity.

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What effect has erosion had on Niagara Falls?
It has caused the waterfall to retreat more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in the last 10,000 years.
Niagara Falls has "moved" several kilometers over thousands of years.
It has forced the river into a narrower passage by carving into the bedrock.
It has increased the velocity of the water by carving a deeper slope.

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How does beach sand form?
petrification of topsoil
compression of volcanic rocks
ocean waves grind rocks into tiny grains over an extremely long time
Over millions of years, ocean waves grind rocks down to grains of sand. The color of a beach depends on the mineral composition of the nearby rocks that formed it.

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What causes geysers?
an underground river causes pressure to back up in a constrained chamber
groundwater heated by magma becomes superheated and flashes into steam
Geysers require specific "plumbing" (usually a lower chamber with a constrained opening at the surface) for the water to become superheated.
a shifting fault pressurizes an underground chamber of water

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How deep is the deepest man-made borehole on Earth?
12,262 meters (40,230 feet)
Russia's Kola Superdeep Borehole reached a depth of 12,262 meters in 1989 and has never been surpassed.
34,650 meters
7,892 meters

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Earth's continents were once joined as a single massive supercontinent. What do geologists call it?
Greater Eurasia
Pangaea
The Greek name Pangaea can be roughly translated to English as "whole Earth."
C-1

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As you go deeper into Earth, the temperature …
gets hotter
Earth gets hotter the deeper you go. The temperature of the mantle ranges from 1832 F (1000 C) to 6692 F (3700 C).
gets cooler
varies from one layer to the next

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The subduction of the Pacific Plate beneath the Mariana Plate caused the formation of what unique geologic feature?
Japan
the Mariana Trench
The deepest part of the Mariana Trench is nearly seven miles below the surface of the ocean.
the Grand Canyon

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How have seismologists mapped Earth's interior?
They infer the contents of the interior based on computer analysis of satellite images.
They use extremely strong radar waves.
They can see different types of waves from earthquakes propagate through areas of different density within the interior.
Earthquakes waves move differently through different materials, which is how seismologists know the outer core is liquid and the mantle slowly shifts via convection.

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What type of rock is formed by extreme pressure and heat over a long time?
igneous
metamorphic
Examples of metamorphic rock include gneiss and marble.
sedimentary

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One type of rock can only be formed from the sudden shock and heat of a meteorite impact. What is it called?
impactite
Impactites are considered metamorphic even though they don't form over the millions of years required for most metamorphic rocks.
schist
dolomite

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Which of these is NOT a mineral?
Pyrex
Asbestos and lead are both naturally occurring minerals. Pyrex is a brand name for heat-resistant glass.
asbestos
lead

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Which of these is a type of lava flow?
pahoehoe
Pahoehoe is pronounced "pah-hoey-hoey" and is a term of Hawaiian origin.
phyllite
shale

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Uncemented sediments can form islands along ocean shorelines. What are these islands called?
atolls
barrier islands
Barrier islands are often made of sand dunes and other loose material, and they can shift, change or disappear during storms. They help protect shorelines from erosion and storm surges.
sea mounts

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Soil that does not match the age or composition of the underlying bedrock it sits upon is called …
residual soil
transported soil
Transported soil is moved by erosion and gravity. Its origin can often be found uphill, but wind can carry transported soil hundreds or thousands of miles, even across oceans.
compound soil

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Which mineral precipitates from oceans and forms rock salt?
halite
Halite forms when salty bodies of water dry up, leaving salt deposits that can be hundreds of meters thick.
quartz
olivine

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What shape is Earth?
an oblate spheroid
An oblate spheroid is a squashed sphere — Earth is slightly flatter at the poles and bulges at the Equator.
a perfect sphere
pear-shaped

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What is post-glacial rebound?
when the crust gradually lifts back up after being depressed by the incredible weight of glacial ice
During the last glacial period, glacial ice in Europe and North America was up to 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) thick. The incredible weight pushed down on the crust, and in some areas the crust is still springing back into shape.
when a glacier melts but quickly reforms
when the movement of a glacier is redirected by a pre-existing rock feature.

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What causes Earth's magnetic field?
radiation from the sun
the alignment of magnetic metals in the crust
the movement of liquid iron in the outer core
The process that creates the magnetic field is complex, but it is caused by molten iron in the outer core moving due to heat convection from the hotter, solid inner core.

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A widely accepted theory suggests that mass extinctions have been caused by asteroid impacts. What evidence is there to support this theory?
remnants of massive impact craters on the surface
The remnants of enormous impact craters, some of them 100 miles (161 kilometers) or more in diameter, can be found worldwide, with some of the largest in South Africa, Canada and Mexico.
mountains which are actually intact asteroids sitting on the surface
cave paintings depicting massive spheres of fire falling from the sky

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What is notable about the mineral called cinnabar?
It tastes like cinnamon.
It's the deadliest mineral on Earth.
Cinnabar is mercury sulfide, an incredibly toxic chemical. You should never handle cinnabar, much less taste it.
It burns so slowly that a small chunk would sustain a flame for 15 years.

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What is happening to the crust at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge?
It's colliding and forming a new chain of mountains.
It's spreading at a rate of approximately 2.5 centimeters each year as tectonic plates move away from each other.
The crust is spreading out at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge because it's a divergent boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates as well as the South American and African plates.
It's relatively static.

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What happened to Lake Missoula 15,000 years ago?
It was cut off from its source, and it dried up.
Fissures in the lake bed caused it to slowly drain into the groundwater.
The collapse of an ice dam caused it to catastrophically flood the surrounding area.
It's believed that ice dam formation and collapse caused several massive floods during the last ice age, unleashing incredible energy and reshaping the surrounding area.

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© Fan Peishen/Corbis
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