Few pupils can clearly distinguish the ideas of electric current and potential difference
Misconception
Many students see potential difference, or voltage, as a consequence of electric current, rather than a cause of it.
Diagnostic Resources
The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.
For more information, see the University of York EPSE website.
In this question a resistor and a switch are connected in series. The question asks about voltage between two points on either side of the switch. Pupils are likely to find this a difficult question, and answering it correctly requires a good understanding of the difference between voltage and current.
EPSE Voltage in Parallel and Series Q36Resources to Address This

Relationship between Current and Voltage and Resistance (1114)
Source  SPT/ El03PN02
This resource offers teacher some guidance on how to successfully disentangle the concepts of electric current, voltage and resistance for students.
View Resource 
Adding batteries produces a bigger current (1114)
Source  SPT/ El02TL03
Adding a battery .. results in the same charged particles (in battery, bulb and connecting wires) moving around the circuit more quickly. More charged particles pass each point per second. In other words, the current increases.
View Resource 
The water circuit: modelling current and potential difference (1116)
Source  Practical physics/ Electric circuits and fields/ Potential difference/ ...
Current can be modelled by the flow of water; potential difference corresponds to water pressure.
View Resource
References
The following studies have documented this misconception:
 Küçüközer, H. and Kocakülah, S. () Secondary School Students' Misconceptions about Simple Electric Circuits. Journal of Turkish Science Education.
 Küçüközer, H. and Kocakülah, S. () Effect of Simple Electric Circuits Teaching on Conceptual Change in Grade 9 Physics Course. Journal of Turkish Science Education.
 Millar, R. and Beh, K. L. () Students’ understanding of voltage in simple parallel electric circuits. International Journal of Science Education, 15 (4),
351361.
 Millar, R. and King, T. () Students’ understanding of voltage in simple series electric circuits. International Journal of Science Education, 15 (3),
339349.
 Dupin, J. J. and Johsua, S. () Conceptions of French pupils concerning electric circuits: Structure and evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24 (9),
791806.
 Engelhardt, P. V. and Beichner, R. J. () Students’ understanding of direct current resistive electrical circuits. American Journal of Physics, 72 (1),
98115.
 Benseghir, A. and Closset, J. L. () The electrostatics‐electrokinetics transition: historical and educational difficulties. International Journal of Science Education, 18 (2),
179191.
 Shaffer, P. S. and McDermott, L. C. () Research as a guide for curriculum development: An example from introductory electricity. Part II: Design of instructional strategies. American Journal of Physics, 60 (11),
10031013.
 Cohen, R.; Eylon, B. and Ganiel, U. () Potential difference and current in simple electric circuits: A study of students’ concepts. American Journal of Physics, 51 (5),
407412.
 Turgut, Ü.; Gürbüz, F. and Turgut, G. () An investigation 10th grade students’ misconceptions about electric current. ProcediaSocial and Behavioral Sciences 15,
19651971.