Key Idea: Genetic information is encoded in DNA molecules.

Students are expected to know that:

  1. Genetic (hereditary) information is the set of instructions that specifies the physical and behavioral characteristics of organisms.
  2. Genetic information is found in all living organisms.
  3. The instructions that specify the physical and behavioral characteristics of organisms are coded in DNA molecules (not in protein, carbohydrate, or fat molecules).
  4. DNA molecules are made up of four different types of subunits called nucleotides that are linked together in long chains.
  5. The sequence of subunits in a DNA molecule is what encodes the genetic information.
  6. DNA is packaged as chromosomes in the cells of organisms.
  7. Each chromosome is made of a single DNA molecule.
  8. A gene is one or more segments of a DNA molecule that contributes to one or more particular physical and behavioral characteristics.
  9. Each chromosome is made of many different genes.

Boundaries:

  1. Students are not expected to know the names of the nucleotide subunits.
  2. Students are not expected to know that DNA is bound to histones and other proteins in chromosomes.
Percent of students answering correctly (click on the item ID number to view the item and additional data)
Item ID
Number
Knowledge Being Assessed Grades
6–8
Grades
9–12
Select This Item for My Item Bank

RH001001

DNA is the molecule that contains genetic information that is passed from parents to offspring.

94%

96%

RH045001

DNA molecules are found in humans, dogs, and trees.

86%

83%

RH026004

Both chromosomes and DNA molecules contain genetic information.

58%

72%

RH026001

Both genes and DNA molecules contain hereditary information.

59%

66%

RH014001

The genetic code is the sequence of subunits in a DNA molecule.

53%

70%

RH026003

Both chromosomes and DNA molecules contain hereditary information.

51%

63%

RH026002

Both genes and chromosomes contain hereditary information.

48%

62%

RH046001

DNA molecules are found in humans, butterflies, and trees.

46%

59%

RH024002

Both an organism's physical characteristics and the function of the organism's cells could be affected by the information in the organism's DNA molecules (no specific organism identified).

45%

52%

RH024005

Both a bird's physical characteristics and its behaviors could be affected by the information in the bird's DNA molecules.

45%

50%

RH024003

Both a human's physical characteristics and its behaviors could be affected by the information in the DNA molecules in the human.

42%

50%

RH002003

Four different types of nucleotides are used to make DNA molecules, not one, two, or twenty.

40%

52%

RH002002

Four different types of nucleotides are used to make DNA molecules, not one, two, or twenty.

38%

61%

RH024006

Both an insect's physical characteristics and its behaviors could be affected by the information in the DNA molecules in the insect.

42%

49%

RH024004

Both a plant's physical characteristics and its behaviors could be affected by the information in the DNA molecules in the plant.

41%

48%

RH024001

Both an organism's physical characteristics and its behaviors could be affected by the information in the organism's DNA molecules (no specific organism identified).

42%

45%

RH040001

Nucleotides (not amino acids, proteins, or fatty acids) are the subunits that make up DNA molecules.

34%

44%

RH002001

Four different types of nucleotides are used to make DNA molecules, not one, two, or three.

28%

41%

RH041001

Each chromosome is made of a single DNA molecule.

26%

23%

RH027001

Genes are chemical sequences of nucleotides, not the actual expression of characteristics or traits.

15%

19%

Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
6–8

Grades
9–12

RHM045

Genes are traits (Marbach-Ad, 2001).

64%

57%

RHM008

A gene and the expression of the gene as a characteristic or trait are the same thing (Lewis & Kattman, 2004).

64%

57%

RHM105

There are some types of organisms that do not have DNA (See Lewis & Wood-Robinson, 2000; Banet & Ayuso, 2000).

56%

44%

RHM093

The information in the DNA molecules of a plant does not affect the behaviors of the plant (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

46%

42%

RHM092

The information in the DNA molecules of an insect does not affect the behaviors of the insect (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

44%

40%

RHM091

The information in the DNA molecules of a bird does not affect the behaviors of the bird (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

41%

39%

RHM085

The information in the DNA molecules of an organism does not affect the the organism's behaviors (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

40%

41%

RHM090

The information in the DNA molecules of a human does not affect the behaviors of the human (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

41%

39%

RHM097

Amino acids are the subunits that make up DNA (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

38%

34%

RHM048

Only animals have DNA; plants and mushrooms do not have DNA (Banet & Ayuso, 2000).

40%

30%

RHM083

The information in the DNA molecules of an organism does not affect the functions of an organism's cells (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

36%

34%

RHM095

Two types of nucleotides make up DNA molecules (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

35%

30%

RHM047

Each DNA molecule is made of more than one chromosome (Marbach-Ad, 2001).

31%

34%

RHM046

Each chromosome is made of more than one DNA molecule (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

31%

33%

RHM102

Chromosomes do not contain genetic/hereditary information (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

34%

24%

RHM084

The information in the DNA molecules of an organism does not affect the physical characteristics of the organism (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

28%

23%

RHM088

The information in the DNA molecules of an insect does not affect the physical characteristics of the insect (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

28%

20%

RHM086

The information in the DNA molecules of a human does not affect the physical characteristics of the human (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

28%

17%

RHM089

The information in the DNA molecules of a plant does not affect the physical characteristics of the plant (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

26%

19%

RHM103

DNA molecules do not contain genetic/hereditary information (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

25%

20%

RHM096

Three types of nucleotides make up DNA molecules (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

25%

18%

RHM087

The information in the DNA molecules of a bird does not affect the physical characteristics of the bird (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

23%

18%

RHM094

The genetic code is the number of subunits in DNA molecules -- not the sequence (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

26%

14%

RHM104

Genes do not contain genetic/hereditary information (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

22%

16%

RHM098

Twenty types of nucleotides make up DNA molecules (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

16%

9%

RHM099

Genes are sequences of amino acids (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

12%

15%

RHM049

Only 'higher' animals have DNA; many invertebrates do not have DNA (Banet & Ayuso, 2000).

15%

10%

RHM007

Genes are proteins (Marbach-Ad, 2001).

9%

9%

Frequency of selecting a misconception was calculated by dividing the total number of times a misconception was chosen by the number of times it could have been chosen, averaged over the number of students answering the questions within this particular idea.