Mechanics Baseline Test (MBT)

Developed by David Hestenes and Malcom Wells

Purpose To assess more formal dimensions of basic Newtonian physics and to be used alongside the FCI to get a well-rounded picture of students’ understanding.
Format Multiple-choice
Duration 45 min
Focus Mechanics Content knowledge (kinematics, forces, momentum, energy)
Level Intro college, High school
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Sample question from the MBT:

MBT Implementation and Troubleshooting Guide

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D. Hestenes and M. Wells, A mechanics baseline test, Phys. Teach. 30 (3), 159 (1992).
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Bronze Validation
This is the third highest level of research validation, corresponding to at least 3 of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • Student thinking

Studied Using:

  • Student interviews
  • Expert review
  • Appropriate statistical analysis

Research Conducted:

  • At multiple institutions
  • By multiple research groups
  • Peer-reviewed publication

The multiple-choice answers to the MBT questions are based on research into student thinking. Some of the questions come from Advanced Placement (AP) exams. There is a strong correlation (0.68) between the FCI and the MBT for a group of university students. Item response theory was used to look at the difficulty of the questions and their ability to discriminate between students of different levels. There were five questions that were found not to be effective at discriminating between students of different abilities. The MBT has been administered to over 5000 students at the university and high school level and used to compare teaching methods. Results are published in three peer-reviewed articles.


PhysPort provides translations of assessments as a service to our users, but does not endorse the accuracy or validity of translations. Assessments validated for one language and culture may not be valid for other languages and cultures.

Language Translator(s)  
Finnish Ismo Koponen and Johanna Jauhiainen
French Bernard Blandin, Research Director, CESI (France)
German Joern Gerdes
Greek Konstantinos Tsigaridis
Italian Leonardo Colletti, Liceo Carducci
Japanese Yamato Hasegawa and Jun-ichiro Yasduda
Malay Jaafar Jantan, Ph.D.
Persian Masoumeh Ghasemi
Portuguese Inês Leitão and Luis Breda (Portugal)
Spanish Julio C. Benegas
Turkish Salih Ates

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Typical Results
Course (Hestenes and Wells, 1992) Post-test % correct Std. Dev. Number of students
Arizona High School Regular 32 11 600
Arizona High School Honors 37 15 116
Arizona High School AP 39 15 32
Arizona High School Regular (taught by Malcolm Wells) 42 16 18
Arizona High School Honors (taught by Malcolm Wells) 62 17 30
Arizona State University Regular 61 18 58
Harvard University Regular 66 14 183
Harvard University Honors 73 11 73

The latest version of the MBT, released in 1996, is version 97.