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DSST Introduction to Geology Study Guide

Updated: Aug 18

You're just a few weeks away from taking your DSST Introduction to Geology Exam and starting to feel nervous.

You know studying for this exam is essential, but you need help figuring out where to start.

This study guide is the perfect way to begin preparing for your test.

Our lessons are jam-packed with information, so you can save time looking for resources.

Table of Contents

  1. Core Knowledge

  2. Surface Processes

  3. Tectonic Earth Processes

  4. Applications

  5. Conclusion

  6. Student Resources

  7. References

1. Core Knowledge

DSST Introduction to Geology Exam Outline. Core Knowledge – 30%.
Core Knowledge – 30%

Earth Materials: Minerals and Rocks

Minerals are inorganic, naturally occurring substances with definite chemical compositions and crystal structures.

Rocks are composed of one or more minerals.

There are three types of rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

Igneous Rocks: Intrusive, Extrusive

Intrusive igneous rocks form when magma cools and crystallizes below the Earth's surface.

Extrusive igneous rocks form when magma cools and crystallizes above the Earth's surface.

Sedimentary Rocks: Characteristics, Interpretation

Sedimentary rocks are formed from eroded fragments of other rocks deposited in layers.

The three main sedimentary rock types are clastic, chemical, and organic.

Metamorphic Rocks

Metamorphic rocks are formed when existing rocks are changed by heat, pressure, or other agents.

There are two main types of metamorphic rocks: foliated and non-foliated.

Rock Cycle

The rock cycle is how rocks are created, destroyed, and reformed.

Plate Tectonics: Geomagnetic, Plate Boundaries, Plate Movements

Plate tectonics is the scientific study of the movement and behavior of Earth's lithospheric plates.

The Earth's lithosphere is divided into several large tectonic plates that move around on the planet's surface.

Earthquakes happen when plates collide or grind against each other.

DSST Introduction to Geology Trivia Question #119

2. Surface Processes

DSST Introduction to Geology Exam Outline. Surface Processes – 30%.
Surface Processes – 30%

Weathering and Soil

Weathering is breaking down rocks into smaller pieces by physical, chemical, or biological means.

Soil is a mixture of minerals, organic matter, water, and air.

Mass Wasting

Mass wasting is the movement of rock and soil down a slope due to gravity.

There are three main types of mass wasting: landslide, mudflow, and avalanche.

Streams and Floods

A stream is a body of water that flows in a channel.

Floods happen when the water in a stream overflows its banks and inundates the surrounding land.

Groundwater and Karst

Groundwater is water that saturates the spaces between rocks and soil.

Karst is a type of landscape formed by the dissolution of limestone.

Glaciers and Glaciation

A glacier is a large body of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley.

Glaciation is the process of erosion and deposition caused by glaciers.

Oceanic and Coastal Systems

The ocean is a large body of water that covers 71% of the Earth's surface.

Coastal systems are found along the margins of the continents where they meet the ocean.

Deserts and Wind

Deserts are dry, barren landscapes where little rainfall occurs.

The wind is the movement of air from one place to another.

Hydrologic Cycle

The hydrologic cycle is the process by which water moves through the environment.

DSST Introduction to Geology Trivia Question #145

3. Tectonic Earth Processes

DSST Introduction to Geology Exam Outline. Tectonic Earth Processes – 30%.
Tectonic Earth Processes – 30%

Geologic Time

Planetary Geology, Relative Time, Absolute Time, Field Relations:

Geologic time is the timescale used by geologists to measure the history of Earth.

Relative time is the ordering of events in terms of their sequence.

Absolute time is the measurement of time in terms of a specific calendar or clock.

Field relations are the relationships between rocks and features in a given area.

Structural Geology

Folding, Faulting, Mountain Building:

Structural geology is the study of the shape and orientation of rocks.

Folding is the process by which rocks are bent or deformed.

Faulting is the process by which rocks are broken.

Mountain building is the process by which mountains are formed.

Volcanoes and Volcanic Hazards

A volcano is an opening in the Earth's surface through which lava, ash, and gas can escape.

Volcanic hazards are the dangers posed by volcanoes.


Earthquakes and seismology, the interior of the Earth, gravity, and isostasy:

Geophysics is the study of the physical properties of the Earth.

Earthquakes are sudden movements of the Earth's surface.

Seismology is the study of earthquakes.

The interior of the Earth is divided into the crust, mantle, and core.

Gravity is the force that attracts objects toward the center of the Earth.

Isostasy is the principle that explains why the Earth's surface is curved.

4. Applications

DSST Introduction to Geology Exam Outline. Applications – 10%.
Applications – 10%

Mineral and energy resources

Minerals are naturally occurring substances that are used in a variety of ways.

Energy resources are materials that can be used to produce energy.

Environmental Geology

Environmental geology is the study of how geological processes affect the environment.

Climate change

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the average weather conditions of a place.

DSST Introduction to Geology Trivia Question #193

5. Conclusion: DSST Introduction to Geology

Our DSST Introduction to Geology study guide is designed to introduce you to the fundamental concepts of geology.

Take your learning to the next level and try a free practice exam.

6. Student Resources

7. References

DSST Introduction to Geology Fact Sheet

DSST Introduction to Geology Fact Sheet
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