Concept Inventories/Conceptual Assessments in Biology (CABs): Compiled1 by Kathy S. Williams (San Diego State University) and Erilynn T. Heinrichsen (University of Califronia, San Diego)


Flowering Plant Growth and Development (13 two-tiered MC items) ITEMS PROVIDED

Lin SW. 2004. Development and application of a two-tier diagnostic test for high school students’ understanding of flowering plant growth and development. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 2: 175–199. [abstract; HTML] from



Threshold concepts in Biochemistry: Loertscher, J. (2011). Biochemistry and molecular biology education, 39(1), 56-57.



Breathing and Respiration (12 two-tiered MC items) ITEMS PROVIDED

Mann M, Treagust DF. 1998. A pencil and paper instrument to diagnose students’ conceptions of breathing, gas exchange and respiration. Australian Science Teachers Journal 44: 55–59.


(total of 16 Diagnostic Question Clusters of 6-8 items each; some items appear in more than one DQC)

Diagnostic Question Clusters on Energy and Matter (DQCs) ITEMS PROVIDED

Wilson CD, Anderson CW, Heidemann M, Merrill JE, Merritt BW, Richmond G, Silbey DF, Parker JM. 2006. Assessing students’ ability to trace matter in dynamic systems in cell biology. CBE Life Sciences Education 5: 323–331.


Hartley LM, Wilke BJ, Schramm JW, D’Avanzo C, Anderson CW. 2011. College students’ understanding of the carbon cycle: contrasting principle-based and informal reasoning. BioScience 61: 65-75. [PDF available] from bioscience


Thinking like a biologist: Using diagnostic questions to help students to reason with biological principles (16 DQC sets of ~7 items each, MC, TF, open-ended) ITEMS PROVIDED

D'Avanzo C, Anderson CW, Griffith A, Merrill J. 2011. Thinking like a biologist. Using diagnostic questions to help students reason with biological principles. [The site at has Diagnostic Question Clusters (DQC's) organized by three ecological topics (Carbon Cycling, Energy Flow in Ecosystems, Climate Change), and by three biological processes; (Photosynthesis, Biosynthesis, Cellular Respiration) - with two DQCs each; plus one each DQC under topics Gasoline, Biofuels, Carbon in Nature, and Carbon Balance. Some items appear in more than one DQC.



EvoDevoCI (MC and open ended items for 3 Exploratory Surveys and 6 Interview Question sets) ITEMS PROVIDED

Hiatt A, Davis GK, Trujillo C, Terry M, French DP, Price RM, Perez KE. 2013. Getting to Evo-Devo: Concepts and challenges for students learning evolutionary developmental biology. CBE Life Sciences Education 12: 494-508. doi:10.1187/cbe.12-11- 0203.


EvoDevoCI (11 MC items, 4 scenarios) ITEMS PROVIDED

Perez KE, Hiatt A, Davis GK, Trujillo C, French DP, Terry M, and Price RM. 2013. The EvoDevoCI: A Concept inventory for gauging students’ understanding of evolutionary developmental biology. CBE Life Sciences Education 12: 665-675. doi:10.1187/cbe.13-04-0079.



Basic Tree Thinking Assessment (two tests, 10 MC items each, diagrams) ITEMS PROVIDED

Baum DA, Smith SD, Donovan SSS. 2005. The tree-thinking challenge. Science 310: 979-980. [download PDF] from



Dasgupta, A. P., Anderson, T. R., & Pelaez, N. J. (2016). Development of the neuron assessment for measuring biology students’ use of experimental design concepts and representations. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(2), ar10.


Deane, T., Nomme, K., Jeffery, E., Pollock, C., & Birol, G. (2014). Development of the biological experimental design concept inventory (BEDCI). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 13(3), 540-551.



Genetics Literacy Assessment Instrument (GLAI) (31 MC items) FOUR ITEMS PROVIDED in Bowling et al. Genetics 2008;

Bowling BV, Acra EE, Wang L, Myers MF, Dean GE, Markle GC, Moskalik CL, Huether CA. 2008. Development and evaluation of a genetics literacy assessment instrument for undergraduates. Genetics 178: 15-22. [download PDF] from


Genetics Concept Assessment (GCA) (25 MC items, diagrams) ITEMS NOT PROVIDED

Smith MK, Wood WB, Knight JK. 2008. The genetics concept assessment: A new concept inventory for gauging student understanding of genetics CBE Life Science Education 7: 422-430. [additional future tests to be posted online at]


Genetics Diagnostic (13 two-tiered MC items, diagrams) ITEMS PROVIDED

Tsui CY, Treagust D. 2009. Evaluating secondary students’ scientific reasoning in genetics using a two-tier diagnostic instrument. International Journal of Science Education 32: 1073-1098. [download PDF] from


Genetic Drift Inventory (GeDI) (22 agree–disagree items) ITEMS PROVIDED

Price RM, Andrews TC, McElhinny TL, Mead LS, Abraham JK, Thanukos A, Perez KE. 2014. The Genetic Drift Inventory: A tool for measuring what advanced undergraduates have mastered about genetic drift. CBE Life Science Education 13: 65-75. doi:



Dominance Concept Inventory: Abraham, J. K., Perez, K. E., & Price, R. M. (2014). The Dominance Concept Inventory: a tool for assessing undergraduate student alternative conceptions about dominance in Mendelian and population genetics. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 13(2), 349-358.



McFarland, J. L., Price, R. M., Wenderoth, M. P., Martinková, P., Cliff, W., Michael, J., ... & Wright, A. (2017). Development and validation of the homeostasis concept inventory. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 16(2), ar35.



Host-Pathogen Interactions (HPI) (17 [18 noted in Marbach-Ad et al. 2009] two-tiered MC items) ITEMS NOT PROVIDED

Marbach-Ad G, Briken V, El-Sayed NM, Frauwirth K, Fredericksen B, Hutcheson S, Gao L-Y, Joseph SW, Lee V, McIver KS, Mosser D, Quimby BB, Shields P, Song W, Stein DC, Yuan RT, Smith AC. 2009. Assessing student understanding of host pathogen interactions using a concept inventory. Journal of Microbiology Education 10: 43-50. [HTML] from

Marbach-Ad G, McAdams KC, Benson S, Briken V, Cathcart L, Chase M, El-Sayed NM, Frauwirth K, Fredericksen B, Joseph SW, Lee V, McIver KS, Mosser D, Quimby BB, Shields P, Song W, Stein DC, Stewart R, Thompson KV, Smith AC. 2010. A model for using a concept inventory as a tool for students' assessment and faculty professional development. CBE Life Science Education 9: 408-416.


Biology Concept Inventory (BCI) (30 MC items) ITEMS PROVIDED ON-LINE at

Klymkowsky MW, Garvin-Doxas K, Zeilik M. 2003. Bioliteracy and teaching efficacy: What biologists can learn from physicists. Cell Biology Education 2: 155-161. doi: 10.1187/cbe.03-03-0014.


Garvin-Doxas K, Doxas I, Klymkowsky MW. 2008. Ed's Tools: A web-based software toolset for accelerated concept inventory construction. pp 130-140. In: Deeds, D & B Callen, editors; Proceedings of the National STEM Assessment Conference.



Measure of Understanding of Macroevolution (MUM) (28 items: 27 MC items, plus one open-ended item, diagrams) PROVIDED

Nadelson LS, Southerland SA. 2010. Development and preliminary evaluation of the Measure of Understanding of Macroevolution: Introducing the MUM. The Journal of Experimental Education 78: 151–190. [download PDF] from



Central Dogma: Newman, D. L., Snyder, C. W., Fisk, J. N., & Wright, L. K. (2016). Development of the central dogma concept inventory (CDCI) assessment tool. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(2), ar9.


Lac Operon: Stefanski, K. M., Gardner, G. E., & Seipelt-Thiemann, R. L. (2016). Development of a Lac Operon Concept Inventory (LOCI). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(2), ar24. Introductory Molecular and Cell Biology Assessment (IMCA) (24 MC items, diagrams) ITEMS PROVIDED

Shi J, Wood WB, Martin JM, Guild NA, Vicens Q, Knight JK. 2010. A diagnostic assessment for introductory molecular and cell biology. CBE Life Sciences Education 9: 453-461. doi: 10.1187/cbe.10-04-0055.


Molecular Biology Capstone Assessment: Couch, B. A., Wood, W. B., & Knight, J. K. (2015). The Molecular Biology Capstone Assessment: a concept assessment for upper-division molecular biology students. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 14(1), ar10.


Molecular Life Sciences Concept Inventory (MLS) (26 MC items in trial reported in Wright and Hamilton 2008; 96 MC items addressing 10 “big ideas” in 6 modules on-line at, diagrams, scenarios) ITEMS AVAILABLE WITH REGISTRATION ON-LINE at



Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (CINS) (20 MC items, scenarios) ITEMS PROVIDED

Anderson DL, Fisher KM, Norman JG. 2002. Development and validation of the conceptual inventory of natural selection. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 39: 952-978.


Kalinowski, S. T., Leonard, M. J., & Taper, M. L. (2016). Development and validation of the conceptual assessment of natural selection (CANS). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(4), ar64.



Diffusion and Osmosis Diagnostic Test (DODT) (12 two-tiered MC items, diagrams) ITEMS PROVIDED

Odom AL, Barrow LH. 1995. The development and application of a two-tiered diagnostic test measuring college biology students' understanding of diffusion and osmosis following a course of instruction. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 32: 45-61. [HTML] from


Odom AL. 1995. Secondary and college biology students' misconceptions about diffusion and osmosis. American Biology Teacher 57: 409–415. [download PDF] from


Osmosis and diffusion conceptual assessment (ODCA) (8 two-tiered MC items, diagrams) ITEMS PROVIDED

Fisher KM, Williams KS, Lineback J. 2011. Osmosis and diffusion conceptual assessment. CBE Life Sciences Education 10:418-29.



Photosynthesis and Respiration (13 two-tiered MC items, plus open ended) ITEMS NOT PROVIDED

Haslam F, Treagust DF. 1987. Diagnosing secondary students’ misconceptions of photosynthesis and respiration in plants using a two-tier multiple choice instrument. Journal of Biological Education 21: 203–211. [HTML] from Taylor and Francis online


Covalent Bonding and Photosynthesis test development ITEMS NOT PROVIDED

Treagust D. 1986. Evaluating students’ misconceptions by means of diagnostic multiple choice items. Journal of Research inbScience Education 16: 199-207. [download PDF] from



Developmental Biology Content Survey (15 MC items) ITEMS PROVIDED

Knight JK, Wood WB. 2005. Teaching more by lecturing less. Cell Biology Education 4: 298-310. doi:10.1187/05-06-0082.



Stanhope, L., Ziegler, L., Haque, T., Le, L., Vinces, M., Davis, G. K., ... & Umbanhowar, C. (2017). Development of a Biological Science Quantitative Reasoning Exam (BioSQuaRE). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 16(4), ar66.


Deane, T., Nomme, K., Jeffery, E., Pollock, C., & Birol, G. (2016). Development of the Statistical Reasoning in Biology Concept Inventory (SRBCI). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(1), ar5.



Gormally, C., Brickman, P., & Lutz, M. (2012). Developing a test of scientific literacy skills (TOSLS): Measuring undergraduates’ evaluation of scientific information and arguments. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 11(4), 364-377.



Internal Transport in Plants and the Human Circulatory Systems (28 two-tiered MC items) ITEMS NOT PROVIDED

Wang JR. 2004. Development and validation of a two-tier instrument to examine understanding of internal transport in plants and the human circulatory system. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 2: 131–157. [abstract; HTML] from





Inventories for Assessing Students’ Perceptions About Biology (College-level)



Wiggins, B. L., Eddy, S. L., Wener-Fligner, L., Freisem, K., Grunspan, D. Z., Theobald, E. J., ... & Crowe, A. J. (2017). ASPECT: A survey to assess student perspective of engagement in an active-learning classroom. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 16(2), ar32.


Student Course Engagement Questionnaire

(Handelsman et al. 2005)

23 Likert items assessing perceived skills engagement, participation/interaction engagement, emotional engagement, and performance engagement



Classroom Activities and Outcomes Survey (Terenzini et al. 2001)

24 Likert items rating progress in learning skills related to engineering or general scientific inquiry.


Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) et al. 2000)

Multiple Likert items within 10 major categories rating gains in learning, skills, and attitudes due to components of a class


Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) (Lopatto 2004) 20 Likert items assessing perceived learning gains as a result of participation in undergraduate research.


Undergrad Research Student Self-Assessment (Hunter et al. 2007)

Multiple Likert items assessing perceived gains in skills related to participation in research, yes/no questions categorizing specific experiences, and open response items.



Achievement Goal Questionnaire

(Elliot and Church 1997, Finney et al. 2004)

18 Likert items rating performance approach and avoidance goals, and mastery goals.


Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) (Pintrich Paul R. 1991, Pintrich P. R. et al. 1993)

31 Likert items assessing students' goals and value beliefs. 31 assessing use of learning strategies and 19 items concerning student management of learning resources.


Science Motivation Questionnaire (SMQ)

(Glynn et al. 2011)

30 Likert items comprising 6 components of motivation: intrinsic, extrinsic, relevance, responsibility, confidence, and anxiety.



College Biology Self Efficacy

(Baldwin et al. 1999)

23 Likert items indicating confidence in performing tasks related to biology courses and at home.




Biology Attitude Scale (Russell and Hollander 1975)

22 items: 14 Likert-type and 8 semantic differential measuring students’ perceptions of liking or disliking biology


Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS)- Biology

(Semsar et al. 2011) 31 Likert-type items for measuring novice-to-expert-like perceptions including enjoyment of the discipline, connections to the real world and underlying knowledge and problem-solving strategies.


Environmental Values Short Form(Zimmermann 1996)

31 Likert items assessing level of agreement with statements describing concern for different environmental issues


Survey of Teaching Beliefs and Practices for Undergraduates  (STEP-U)

Marbach-Ad, G., Rietschel, C., & Thompson, K. V. (2016). Validation and Application of the Survey of Teaching Beliefs and Practices for Undergraduates (STEP-U): Identifying Factors Associated with Valuing Important Workplace Skills among Biology Students. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15(4), ar59.


Views About Sciences Survey (VASS) (Halloun and Hestenes 1996)

50 items: Students choose a value describing their position with regards to two alternate conclusions to a statement probing their views about knowing and learning science in three scientific and three cognitive dimensions.


Views on Science and Education (VOSE)

(Chen 2006)

15 items for which several statements or claims are listed. Respondents choose their level of agreement to these series of predetermined statements/claims to provide reasoning behind their opinion.


Views on Science-Technology-Society (VOSTS) (Aikenhead and Ryan 1992)

114 Multiple-choice items that describe students’ view of the social nature of science and how science is conducted.