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Potential Dividers


A potential divider, or voltage divider, is a a circuit made from two resistors in series. The resistor may be fixed or variable. The potential difference across one of the resistors is measured as the "output" voltage. Potential dividers circuits are used extensively in all manner of circuits. It is very important to understand how they work and what happens to the output voltage when the value of each components changes.

Learning Objectives

Lesson Content

Reading: Read through the first four sections that introduce the concept of potential dividers and then explain how to calculate the output voltage in two different ways.

Video (8 min): Watch the interactive whiteboard presentation that derives the potential divider equation. This is good revision of the basic current and voltage laws and of the resistor equation. Make notes about potential dividers and the potential divider equation.

Reading: Study the examples that illustrate how to calculate the output voltage of a potential divider.

Video (10 mins): Follow the examples on the video and add to your notes.

Reading: Most importantly, study and make notes about the effect of changing R1 or R2, especially when R1 or R2 are variable resistors.

Video (6 mins): The video looks at how the output voltage depends on R1 and R2 by demonstration and without calculation. Develop an intuitive understanding of how the output voltage depends on R1 and R2.

Exercises: Complete the problems (with answers) to test your understanding.

Lesson Review

Review your learning by working through the presentations or notes which summarise the website content.

Presentation: Powerpoint download. The basics of potential dividers with worked examples and questions.

Notes: PDF download. The website content formatted in to a PDF document.

Self Assessment

Complete either the questions (pdf download) OR the on-line quiz. They are the same questions.

Questions: PDF download. Questions about potential dividers requiring calculations.

Quiz: An on-line quiz about potential dividers with answers requiring some calculations.

Self Evaluation

I can: