Many students think that a battery supplies the same current, regardless of the circuit in which it is used

Electricity and Magnetism


Those students who do not use this idea in very simple situations often revert to it in slightly more complex ones.

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

  • What Fixes How Big or Small the Electric Current Is? (11-14)

    This resource offers teachers some tips on how to avoid the misconception that the same battery will always produce the same current in different situations.

    View Resource
  • The resistance sets the current for the whole circuit (5-11)

    This resource explores the idea that changing the resistance in a circuit changes the current.

    View Resource
  • Investigating the current around a circuit (11-19)

    Investigating how the current changes as the circuit is changed.

    View Resource


  • Küçüközer, H. and Kocakülah, S. () Secondary School Students' Misconceptions about Simple Electric Circuits. Journal of Turkish Science Education.

    Bulbs are often used in the teaching of series and parallel circuits, but using these does not always help students understand the concept of conservation of current and the relationship between voltage, current and energy transfer. This paper discusses some of the students’ misconceptions that need to be addressed and suggests using meters more often to analyse circuit behaviour.

    Paper digest

  • Küçüközer, H. and Kocakülah, S. () Effect of Simple Electric Circuits Teaching on Conceptual Change in Grade 9 Physics Course. Journal of Turkish Science Education.

    When studying electricity, the most difficult concept for secondary students to understand is that of potential difference or voltage. Students cannot clearly separate it from current or energy and the simple circuits used do not always help. This paper shows that teachers need to describe and model currents and voltages more clearly, using meters to measure instead of relying on concepts such as ‘brightness’.

    Paper digest

  • Dupin, J. and Johsua, S. () Conceptions of French pupils concerning electric circuits: Structure and evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24 (9), 791-806.

    Overcoming student misconceptions about currents and voltages can be difficult, and students can retain inaccurate ideas in the links between these are not discussed fully. This paper shows how some of the misconceptions can be tackled successfully while outlining those that are more difficult to resolve.

    Paper digest

  • Lee, Y. and Law, N. () Explorations in promoting conceptual change in electrical concepts via ontological category shift. International Journal of Science Education, 23 (2), 111-149.

    These four connected studies involving observations of practical work reveal that students are unclear in their pictures of current, voltages and the behaviour of batteries in circuits. It shows that precise language and allowing students to predict and experiment can encourage them to make more accurate qualitative explanations about what is happening in simple circuits.

    Paper digest

  • Van den Berg, E. and Grosheide, W. () Electricity at Home: Remediating alternative conceptions through redefining goals and concept sequences and using auxiliary concepts and analogies in 9th grade electricity education. The Proceedings of the Third International Seminar on Misconceptions and Educational Strategies in Science and Mathematics: Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

  • Turgut, Ü., Gürbüz, F. and Turgut, G. () An investigation 10th grade students’ misconceptions about electric current. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15, 1965-1971.

  • 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), 407-412.

  • Paatz, R.; Ryder, J.; Schwedes, H. and Scott, P. () A case study analysing the process of analogy‐based learning in a teaching unit about simple electric circuits. International Journal of Science Education, 26 (9), 1065-1081.

  • Engelhardt, P. V. and Beichner, R. J. () Students’ understanding of direct current resistive electrical circuits. American Journal of Physics, 72 (1), 98-115.

  • McDermott, L. C. and Shaffer, P. S. () Research as a guide for curriculum development: An example from introductory electricity. Part I: Investigation of student understanding. American Journal of Physics, 60 (11), 994-1003.

  • Bryan, J. A. and Stuessy, C. () The "Brightness Rules" alternative conception for light bulb circuits Physics Education, 41 (6), 522.

  • Koumaras, P., Kariotoglou, P. and Psillos, D. () Causal structures and counter‐intuitive experiments in electricity. International Journal of Science Education, 19 (6), 617-630.

  • Peşman, H. and Eryılmaz, A. () Development of a Three-Tier Test to Assess Misconceptions About Simple Electric Circuits The Journal of Educational Research, 103 (3), 208-222.

  • Heller, P. M. and Finley, F. N. () Variable Uses of Alternative Conceptions: A Case Study in Current Electricity. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29 (3), 259-275.

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