Symmetry and Gauss's Law Conceptual Evaluation (SGCE)

Developed by Chandralekha Singh

Purpose To assess students’ ability to identify situations where Gauss’s Law is applicable and use it to calculate electric field strength.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice
Duration 50 min
Focus Electricity / Magnetism Content knowledge (symmetry, electric field, electric flux)
Level Graduate, Upper-level, Intermediate, Intro college
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Sample questions from the SGCE:

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C. Singh, Student understanding of symmetry and Gauss's law of electricity, Am. J. Phys. 74 (10), 923 (2006).
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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 questions on the SGCE were developed by creating a test plan including the content and complexity to be tested and by getting feedback from experts. Questions were then written and student responses to open-ended versions of the questions were collected. These student responses and findings from student interviews were used to create the multiple-choice options, which then underwent further expert review. The multiple-choice questions were given to introductory students in a calculus-based course and appropriate statistical analyses of reliability, difficulty and discrimination found the SGCE to have acceptable values. Additional student interviews were conducted to ensure students interpreted questions as intended. The SGCE has been given to over 500 students in calculus-based introductory courses. There are two peer-reviewed publications presenting SGCE data.


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Typical Results

Typical results from Singh 2006:

Course Average Score
Calc-based 2nd semester intro course 49% (n=541)
Graduate students (primarily first year) approx. 75% (n=33)
Sophomore/junior level E&M course


44% (n=33)


49% (n=28)


The latest version of the SGCE, released in 2003, is version 1.