Physics Lab Inventory of Critical Thinking (PLIC)

Developed by N.G. Holmes, C.E. Wieman, K.N. Quinn, C.J. Walsh, & the Cornell Physics Education Research Lab

Purpose To assess how students critically evaluate experimental methods, data, and models.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice, Multiple-response, Agree/disagree
Duration 20-30 min
Focus Lab skills (comparing measurements with uncertainty, evaluating data fitted to a model, generating and evaluating conclusions based on data, designing and evaluating experimental methods)
Level Upper-level, Intermediate, Intro college, High school

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PLIC Example

PLIC Implementation and Troubleshooting Guide

Everything you need to know about implementing the PLIC in your class.

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C. Walsh, K. Quinn, C. Wieman, and N. Holmes, Quantifying critical thinking: Development and validation of the physics lab inventory of critical thinking, Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 15 (1), 010135 (2019).
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Silver Validation
This is the second highest level of research validation, corresponding to at least 5 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 questions on the PLIC came from an experiment conducted in an introductory physics lab, initially based on the series of questions an expert posed to themselves when conducting the experiment. These were then refined several times through think-aloud interviews with introductory and upper-division physics students (majors and non-majors), as well as through open-response question responses. The PLIC is still under development. 


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)  
Chinese Jin Wang and Suyu Wang
Finnish Pekka Pirinen and Antti Lehtinen
German Burkhard Priemer and Christoph Maut
Spanish Javier Carro

If you know of a translation that we don't have yet, or if you would like to translate this assessment, please contact us!

Typical Results

There are currently no published results for the PLIC, as it is under development. When you give the PLIC to your students using the developers online system, you will receive a report back with overall and question by question comparison data from other classes similar to yours.

The latest version of the PLIC, released in 2020, is version 2. Version 1 was released in 2017. Instructors can choose to use version 1 or version 2 when they complete the Course Information survey