Address one of the most common misconceptions in electrolysis: identifying the cathode and anode

This resource accompanies the article Power to the pupils where you will find hints and tips for avoiding and addressing more common misconceptions in electrolysis for learners aged 14–16 years.

Learning objectives

  1. Name the positive and negative electrodes in an electrolytic cell.
  2. Identify the positive and negative electrodes from diagrams showing the practical set-up.
  3. Explain how to identify the positive and negative electrodes in a circuit diagram.


A common mistake when labelling electrolytic cell diagrams is memorising the position of the labels, rather than considering the terminals on the battery or powerpack.

In this activity learners will need to carefully consider diagrams to identify the positive and negative terminals and then the positive and negative electrodes. 

Student worksheet

The student worksheet contains a mixture of fill-in-the-gap, multiple choice and labelling activities to address misconceptions and ensure that learners observe and consider the practical set-up for electrolysis with both a battery and a powerpack. Learners must choose the best explanation for identifying the electrodes in a variety of diagrams, including a circuit diagram with cell symbol. 

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