Colorado Assessment of Problem Solving (CAPS)

Developed by Wendy Adams

Purpose To assess students’ strengths and weaknesses on 44 different components of the problem-solving process, using a general problem solving situation that is not tied to any specific discipline.
Format Rubric
Duration 60-120 min
Focus Problem solving
Level Graduate, Upper-level, Intermediate, Intro college, High school, Middle school

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Problem solving sub-skills assessed on the CAPS from Adams and Wieman 2015.

CAPS Implementation and Troubleshooting Guide

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W. Adams and C. Wieman, Analyzing the many skills involved in solving complex physics problems, Am. J. Phys. 83 (5), (2015).
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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:

  • Relevant theory and/or data

Studied Using:

  • Iterative use of rubric
  • Inter-rater reliability
  • Expert review

Research Conducted:

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

The problem-solving sub-skills assessed on the CAPS emerged from several sources. First, the developers conducted interviews with experts in several fields, where the experts described how they tackled difficult problems in their fields. Next, an initial list of sub-skills from the expert interviews was shown to instructors, to get their feedback on how the list aligned with the problem-solving sub-skills they felt were important. The developers conducted interviews with students where they observed students solving a specific problem, and recorded the sub-skills that the students used. They also analyzed another group of students’ written responses to the same problem, and compared the sub-skills they observed in their written responses to those that their teacher or employers observed. The problem-solving sub-skills list was also compared to problem-solving skills that one set of students used to solve a mechanics problem, and another set of students used to solve quantum mechanics problems. The developer found that in general, students' problem-solving strengths and weaknesses were similar in different problem contexts.


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Typical Results

There are no typical scores for the CAPS. 

The latest version of the CAPS, released in 2007, is Version 1.