To succeed within scientific disciplines, using representations, including those based on words, graphs, equations, and diagrams, is important. Research indicates that the use of discipline specific representations (sometimes referred to as expert generated representations), as well as multi-representational use, is critical for problem solving and developing understanding. This paper consolidates these ideas using the Representational Fluency Survey (RFS) over two years with 334 students at The University of Sydney. Analysis shows that there was a significant difference between the representational fluency of the 1st year Fundamental and Regular students (low level 1st year physics courses) compared to the 1st year Advanced, 2nd year, 3rd year and Postgraduate level students. The existence of this distinct gap is further supported by evidence from qualitative coding that students with a high level of representational fluency use a greater number of representations and more visual and symbolic representations to explain their answers. There is no mention of such an overall trend of variation of representational use in extant literature, largely because there have been no studies that compare representational fluency across closely spaced levels of physics, or science, learning.
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