Brief Electricity and Magnetism Assessment (BEMA)

Developed by Ruth Chabay and Bruce Sherwood

Purpose To assess students’ qualitative understanding of basic concepts in electricity and magnetism.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice
Duration 45 min
Focus Electricity / Magnetism Content knowledge (circuits, electrostatics, magnetic fields and forces)
Level Upper-level, Intro college
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Sample questions from the BEMA:
BEMA Sample Question

BEMA Implementation and Troubleshooting Guide

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L. Ding, R. Chabay, B. Sherwood, and R. Beichner, Evaluating an electricity and magnetism assessment tool: Brief electricity and magnetism assessment, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 2 (1), 7 (2006).
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Gold Star Validation
This is the highest level of research validation, corresponding to all seven 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 BEMA were developed using student responses to open-ended versions of the questions and expert review. Appropriate statistical analyses were conducted and the difficulty of the items was found to be in the optimal range, most individual items on the BEMA are able to satisfactorily distinguish students who know the material well from those who don’t and almost all were found to be consistent with the rest of the test. The total scores on the BEMA were found to be broadly distributed over the possible range, meaning that the BEMA as a whole has can discriminate well between students. The BEMA has been used to compare the effectiveness of different teaching methods and the results published in peer-reviewed publications. It has been administered at many different institutions.


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 Mi Su
Japanese Sachiko Tosa
Portuguese Ronai Lisboa and José Brás Barreto de Oliveira
Spanish Genaro Zavala, Julio Benegas, Olivier Espinosa, and Hugo Alarcon
Swedish David Nordman

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Score the BEMA on the PhysPort Data Explorer

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Typical Results

Typical results from study by Eaton et al., 2019 who analyzed BEMA and CSEM data obtained from PhysPort's Data Explorer.

  Source  n Mean Score Std.Dev.
BEMA-Pre Eaton 2022, private communication  2264  26.2% 11.5%


Eaton et al., 2019 5368 46.7% 18.4%

The latest version of the BEMA, released in 1997, is version 1.