Attitudes and Approaches to Problem Solving Survey (AAPS)

Developed by Andrew Mason and Chandralekha Singh

Purpose To measure students’ attitudes and approaches to problem-solving at the introductory and graduate level.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice, Agree/disagree
Duration 15 min
Focus Beliefs / Attitudes (problem-solving)
Level Graduate, Upper-level, Intermediate, Intro college

Sample questions from the AAPS:

I usually draw pictures and/or diagrams even if there is no partial credit for drawing them.
  A) Strongly Agree
  B) Agree Somewhat
  C) Neutral or Don't Know
  D) Disagree Somewhat
  E) Strongly Disagree

Suppose you are given two problems. One problem is about a block sliding down an inclined plane with no friction present. The other problem is about a person swinging on a rope. Air resistance is negligible. You are told that both problems can be solved using the concept of conservation of mechanical energy of the system. Which one of the following statements do you MOST agree with? (Choose only one answer.)
  A) The two problems can be solved using very similar methods.
  B) The two problems can be solved using somewhat similar methods.
  C) The two problems must be solved using somewhat different methods.
  D) The two problems must be solved using very different methods.
  E) There is not enough information given to know how the problems will be solved.


AAPS Implementation Guide

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

A. Mason and C. Singh, Surveying graduate students' attitudes and approaches to problem solving, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 6 (2), 020124 (2010).
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

Sixteen of the agree/disagree 5-point Likert scale AAPS questions were taken from the APSS, while the other 17 questions were created by the test developers, tested in student interviews and reviewed by experts. The AAPS questions were then tested with 16 graduate students, who also gave verbal feedback on the questions. The AAPS was modified and tested with 24 additional graduate students, of whom some gave verbal and written feedback. The APSS was subsequently tested with over 200 first-semester algebra-based physics students, over 150 second-semester algebra-based physics students, over 100 first semester calculus-based physics students and over 40 second-semester calculus-based course physics students. In addition, the AAPS was given to over 30 students in an introductory astronomy course. Finally, the survey was given to 12 physics faculty who had taught introductory physics recently. Overall, the AAPS has been given to over 600 students and the results published in two peer-reviewed papers.


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)  
French Olivier Alibart and Frédéric Blanc
Turkish Nuri Balta and Muharrem Duran

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Download the AAPS answer key.

Typical Results

Table 1 from Mason and Singh 2010. To calculate the average score for a question, a +1 is assigned to each favorable response, a −1 is assigned to each unfavorable response, and a 0 is assigned to neutral responses. One then averages these values for everybody in a particular group (e.g., faculty-Intro) to obtain an average score for that group. “Intro” and “Self” with Graduate students implies problem solving in “introductory physics” and “graduate-level physics courses” respectively.

Group Average APSS Score
Faculty-intro 0.88
Faculty-grad 0.92
Graduate students-intro 0.73
Graduate students-self 0.62
Astronomy students 0.49
All introductory students 0.33

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The latest version of the AAPS, released in 2009, is Version 1.