The Signals and Systems Concept Inventory

Kathleen E. Wage, John R. Buck, Cameron H. G. Wright, and Thad B. Welch

The signal processing community needs quantitative standardized tools to assess student learning in order to improve teaching methods and satisfy accreditation requirements. The Signals and Systems Concept Inventory (SSCI) is a 25-question multiple-choice exam designed to measure students' understanding of fundamental concepts taught in standard signals and systems curricula. When administered as a pre-- and post--course assessment, the SSCI measures the gain in conceptual understanding as a result of instruction. This paper summarizes the three-year development of this new assessment instrument and presents results obtained from testing with a pool of over 900 students from seven schools. Initial findings from the SSCI study show that students in traditional lecture courses master approximately 20% of the concepts they do not know prior to the start of the course. Other results highlight the most common student misconceptions and quantify the correlation between signals and systems and prerequisite courses.

© 2005 IEEE. The article (PDF) appeared in IEEE Transactions on Education, vol. 48(3), pp. 448-461, August 2005. This material is presented to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly and technical work. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. In most cases, these works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

This article is password-protected. Email John Buck (johnbuck [at] or Kathleen Wage (k.e.wage [at] to obtain the password.