Pedagogy in Action > Library > Interactive Lectures > ConcepTests


ConcepTests are conceptual multiple-choice questions that were originally designed by Eric Mazur at Harvard University for students in large physics classes (Mazur, 1997 ; NSF, 1996 ). They:

  • Focus on a single concept
  • Can't be solved using equations
  • Have good multiple-choice answers
  • Are clearly worded
  • Are of intermediate difficulty

Watch a 2-minute video clip of Eric Mazur using and discussing ConcepTests.

Assessment with ConcepTests

ConcepTests are generally short, and as they are multiple-choice, they are useful for immediate quantitative assessment of student understanding. It may be useful to the instructor to know how many correct responses there are to a question both before and after peer instruction to better gauge student understanding. Read about different methods of collecting this feedback.

Enhancing ConcepTests with Peer Instruction

ConcepTests can also be the basis of a group-reflective activity (especially if the students have trouble answering the initial ConcepTest).

Mazur, 1997 follows up every ConcepTest question with a think-pair-share activity (he refers to it as peer instruction) in which students then try and explain to a neighbor why they think that the answer they just gave is the correct one.

Adjusting ConcepTests for Levels of Comprehension

Introductory science students may attempt to deal with the material by trying to simply memorize it. McConnell et al. (2003) suggest that ConcepTests should be additionally restricted to the level of comprehension or application in Bloom's taxonomy.

Example ConcepTest question

At which location in the diagram below would the waves break closer to the beach?
Waves Breaking
a. A
b. B
c. C

Other Resources

McConnell et al. (2006) . Using ConcepTests to Assess and Improve Student Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Geoscience Courses. Journal of Geoscience Education, 54(1), 61-68.

McConnell et al. (2003) . Assessment and Active Learning Strategies for Introductory Geology Courses. Journal of Geoscience Education, 51(2), 205.

Journal of Chemical Education has information on Conceptual Questions (more info) including:

  • Discussion of what they are
  • Several libraries of conceptual questions
  • Suggestions on writing conceptual questions
Journal of Chemical Education's library of ConcepTests (more info) contains:
  • Questions divided by course type
  • Advice on using and writing ConcepTests
  • Links to more ConcepTest resources
  • A video clip of an instructor using ConcepTests