Component 1 of National Board Certification

Breakdown of National Exam Score by percent

This is Part 2 of a 5-part series on National Board Certification in Chemistry. This post will focus on Component 1 - The Test.*

As a teacher, I am used to administering tests, not taking them. So, as I waited to take my National Board Assessment, I was nervous. Thoughts were running through my head, "Did I study enough? Will they ask me something I don't know? Wait - Is this what my students feel like?"

Component 1 of National Board Certification is a computer-based assessment testing content and pedagogical knowledge related to an area of expertise. It includes three essays weighted at 6.67% each and a multiple-choice section weighted at 20% of the overall National Board score. Component 1 (highlighted in yellow in Figure 1) is the largest percentage of the total National Board score at 40% as it is one of two performance-based tasks. An area of expertise in Chemistry, Biology, Physics, or Earth and Space Science will be the focus of your assessment. While questions will be answered from all areas of science, more in-depth questions will be asked in the area of expertise.

Despite my nerves, I earned some of my highest National Board scores in Component 1. While I cannot discuss questions on the assessment, I can share how I prepared for the assessment and what I would do differently.

Figure 1: Breakdown of National Board Score

Multiple Choice Section

There are 45 multiple choice questions to answer in 60 minutes. These questions test your knowledge of Science Practices (20%), Content Knowledge of Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Earth and Space Science (45% in expertise area and 15% from other areas), and Curriculum and Instruction (20%). The National Board Component 1 Instructions contains some sample questions to use as practice. The area of expertise I selected was Chemistry. I currently teach AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, and Chemistry. I have taught Physical Science and Biology in the past. While I could walk into any Chemistry or Biology class and “chalk talk” any topic on the fly, I was not as strong with Physics or Earth and Space Science content. I had short conversations with my Earth Science and Physics colleagues after school about common misconceptions. I did borrow an AP Physics textbook to study, but returned it the next day joking, “I think I will just plan on getting these questions wrong if they ask me.” I took a few old National Chemistry Olympiad tests to help me study for the Chemistry content questions and I utilized AAAS assessments online to practice questions focusing on common student misconceptions in all areas of science. I wouldn’t do anything differently next time. It was actually kind of fun taking this part of the test - crazy, right?!

Essay Section

There are three essay questions to complete in 90 minutes (30 minutes each). The first essay is called Data Analysis and essentially asks you to analyze a student lab report. The second essay is called Contexts of Science and asks you to connect a historical moment in science to various scientific disciplines and society. The last essay is called Development of Scientific Concepts and asks you to describe how to best teach a concept. There are sample questions of each type of essay in the National Board Component 1 Instructions and online through the Component 1 Tutorial. The tutorial is especially helpful in minimizing technology stress on the day of the test. I spent more time preparing for the essay questions compared to the multiple-choice section. At first glance, I thought the essay questions were pretty straight-forward until I tried typing out my answers in 30 minutes. When my 30-minute timer went off the first time, I was only halfway through my response. I had to re-adjust my strategy for answering essay questions. I needed to find ways to shorten my answers. I asked myself, “Am I clearly answering what is asked in the question? Am I justifying when they question is not asking me to justify? Am I repeating thoughts? Is there a shorter way of saying this?” I also analyzed the essay rubrics in the National Board Component 1 Instructions to make sure I was addressing the necessary Science Standards in my answers when appropriate. If I had to do it again, I would have spent even more time practicing typing-out key phrases to the essay questions. I would have reached out to an English teacher to help me make my sentences more succinct. It was a challenge getting all my thoughts typed into one 30-minute essay.

The Day of the Test

Finally, I want to discuss the level of security for this assessment. When I signed up to take Component 1, I thought I would be able to take the test online at a local college (across the street from me). I was surprised to learn Component 1 was taken at an official Pearson Testing Center. My closest center was 45 minutes away. The waiting room was filled with university students taking various board exams. Testing slots are only available on certain days and times. When you receive your email from National Board to sign up for your testing day, sign up right away to reserve the best date, time and location. I found many of the testing times fell during the school day and would require me to take a personal day to take the test. By signing up early, I was able to select a day two weeks after school ended, so I could have time to prepare. The National Board’s Assessment Center Policy and Guidelines will help you learn more about the logistics of Component 1.

Component 1 of National Board Certification is a chance to “show off” all the wonderful content and pedagogical knowledge you have acquired and mastered over your teaching career. While I found parts of the preparation nerve-racking, I also found it rewarding when my scores validated my mastery of chemistry content. Good luck in your studies! 



National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Board Component 1 Instructions,, Pearson, 2018 (accessed 4/29/19)

ACS National Chemistry Exams, (accessed 4/29/19)

American Association for the Advancement of Science, Project 2061, Science Assessments (accessed 4/29/19)

Component 1 Online Tutorial, Pearson VUE, (accessed 4/29/19)

National Board Science Standards,,  (accessed 4/29/19)

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Assessment Center Policy and Guidelines (accessed 4/29/19)