Many students cannot identify reliably when two different circuit diagrams are/are not showing the same circuit

Electricity and Magnetism


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.

Resources to Address This

  • Describing Parallel Circuits (11-14)

    Source - SPT/ El02TL15

    This resource discusses how best to describe the behaviour of parallel circuits in the classroom, and talks about ways of exploring different (but physically equivalent) circuit layouts with students.

    View Resource
  • Circuits from circuit diagrams (11-19)

    Source - Practical physics/ Electric circuits and fields/ Simple electric circuits/ 

    Students of all ages sometimes struggle to relate 2D circuit diagrams with 'real' circuits. Examples and scafolding the skill will help.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Millar, R. and King, T. () Students’ understanding of voltage in simple series electric circuits. International Journal of Science Education, 15 ( (3),


    Review sheet

2023 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Awards

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more