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Series and Parallel Circuits

Figure from experiment 23 from Physics with Vernier


Components in an electrical circuit are in series when they are connected one after the other, so that the same current flows through both of them. Components are in parallel when they are in alternate branches of a circuit. Series and parallel circuits function differently. You may have noticed the differences in electrical circuits you use. When using some types of older decorative holiday light circuits, if one lamp is removed, the whole string of lamps goes off. These lamps are in series. When a light bulb is removed in your home, the other lights stay on. Household wiring is normally in parallel.

You can monitor these circuits using a Current Probe and a Differential Voltage Probe and see how they operate. One goal of this experiment is to study circuits made up of two resistors in series or parallel. You can then use Ohm’s law to determine the equivalent resistance of the two resistors.


  • To study current flow in series and parallel circuits.
  • To study potential differences in series and parallel circuits.
  • Use Ohm’s law to calculate equivalent resistance of series and parallel circuits.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment requires each of the following Vernier sensors and equipment (unless otherwise noted):

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Download Experiment Preview

The student-version preview includes:

  • Step-by-step instructions for computer-based data collection
  • List of materials and equipment

Note: The experiment preview of the computer edition does not include essential teacher information, safety tips, or sample data. Instructions for Logger Pro and other software (such as LabQuest App or TI handheld software, where available) are on the CD that accompanies the book. We strongly recommend that you purchase the book before performing experiments.

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Standards Correlations

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Experiment 23 from Physics with Vernier Lab Book

<i>Physics with Vernier</i> book cover

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Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include a CD with word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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