Image Credit: A flickr photo by lauren brown


BioSQuaRE is an instrument, created via an HHMI grant, to assess the quantitative readiness of students planning on majoring in biology or the life sciences.


In 2012, several PIs who had received grants from HHMI to implement institution-level curriculum projects wrote a proposal to write an assessment that could be commonly used to evaluate their curricular efforts. These PIs were from the following institutions:

  • Macalester
  • Bryn Mawr
  • Oberlin
  • St. Olaf
  • Lewis and Clark, and
  • The Claremont Colleges

I joined this project shortly thereafter as an expert in assessment development. I also brought with me two graduate students, Laura Le and Laura Ziegler, who joined the project as research assistants. (Both Lauras continued to work on the project even after they graduated and matriculated into academic jobs.)

Q6 Phote

Q6 group at Keck Science Center (Claremont, CA) Feb. 2016.
Front row: Marion Preest, Paul Overvoorde, Laura Ziegler, Liz Stanhope, Jason Belitsky, Tabassum Haque
Back row: Charles Umbanhowar, Peter Brodfuehrer, Greg Davis, Laura Le, Marcelo Vinces, Andrew Zieffler

It took several years to develop what is now BioSQuaRE (v.5). AFter the initial work to develop items, there were many iterations of piloting, data analysis, and assessment-revision. The current iteration of the assessment includes 29 items that cover content related to: (1) Algebra, functions, and modeling; (2) Statistics and probability; and (3) Visualization.

Ultimately we hope that results from BioSQuaRE can be used to address and evaluate curricular change in biology and life science courses. For more technical detail about the development of BioSQuaRE, see:

Stanhope, E., Ziegler, L., Haque, T., Le, L., Vinces, M., Davis, G. K., Zieffler, A., Brodfuehrer, P., Preest, M., Belisky, J., Umbanhowar, Jr., C., & Overvoorde, P. J. (2017). Development of a Biological Science Quantitative Reasoning Exam (BioSQuaRE). CBE–Life Sciences Education, 16(4), ar66. doi: 10.1187/cbe.16-10-0301

For Instructors

If you are an instructor interested in considering the use of BioSQuARE with your students, please complete this brief online survey, which gathers some basic contact information (e.g., institutional type, departmental listing, class size, range of students, etc.). One of the BioSQuARE team will then follow-up with additional information and instruction.

We will provide faculty liaisons with a report that summarizes the responses of their students. Please note, these summaries will be aggregated to the course or institution level and will only be provided if the number of students completing BioSQuaRE is large enough to protect individual students’ anonymity. We also show comparisons of your average course performance to the averages of all students who have completed the instrument.