Quantum Mechanics Formalism and Postulates Survey (QMFPS)

Developed by Emily Marshman and Chandralekha Singh

Purpose Assess students’ conceptual understanding of the formalism and postulates of quantum mechanics rather than their mathematical skills.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice
Duration 50 min
Focus Modern / Quantum Content knowledge (quantum mechanics formalism, quantum mechanics postulates)
Level Graduate, Upper-level
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Sample questions from the QMFPS:

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E. Marshman and C. Singh, Validation and administration of a conceptual survey on the formalism and postulates of quantum mechanics, Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 15 (2), 020128 (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 multiple-choice questions on the QMFPS were developed based on expert feedback about relevant topics, review of course materials and a subsequent test blueprint. The multiple-choice answers were developed based on research on student ideas about relevant quantum mechanics topics and the responses to a free-response version of the assessment that was given to students. The questions were tested with student interviews and revised. The QMFPS was then given to over 350 undergraduate and graduate students from 6 institutions, and appropriate statistical analysis of reliability, difficulty and discrimination were performed. Reasonable results were found. The results from the QMFPS have been published in one dissertation. 

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Typical Results

According to Marshman 2015:

"The average score for graduate students is 52% and the average score for undergraduates is 37%. There is a significant difference between the graduate and undergraduate students’ scores (p-value on t-test<0.001)."

"The average score for the upper-level students who used concept tests and quantum interactive learning tutorials during the semester (n = 43) was 58% (S.D.=20%). The average score for other undergraduate students who did not use research-based learning tools (n = 175) was 32% (S.D.=16%). There is a significant difference between the scores of students who used research-based learning tools and those who did not (p-value on t-test<0.001). This difference in performance indicates that students benefit from the research-based instructional strategies used in the course."

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The latest version of the QMFPS, released in 2015, is version 28.