During this decade, piezoelectric elements are explored and applied successfully in SHM, which has positioned them as an enabling technology for damage assessment. When permanently bonded to the structure, they provide the bi-directional energy conversion, which is used in impedance-based SHM. In this method, the variations of the structure’s impedance are monitored by piezoelectric elements. However, before experiments are performed, it is important to position correctly the piezoelectric elements on the structure. Therefore, the capability of piezoelectric actuators is explored under the aspect of sensor position. This work presents the investigation of sensing ability of surface-bonded piezoelectric element using numerical simulation and experiment. The results of numerical and experimental investigation are shown in this paper, which illuminates the model in the aluminium plate could be used to predict the state of it. In the experimental investigation, it also shows the factors which influence strongly the capability of sensor detection. Dealing with high frequency excitation, calculation requires a very dense finite element mesh, hence, the spectral element method (SEM) is chosen as model-based method, which is much more efficient than classical FEM. The structure, self-sensing elements as well as damage are modelled, from which the spectra of E/M impedance is computed. It gives the theoretical basis for the experiment design. The numerical results are verified and validated by experimental investigation. With such a numerical tool, the efficiency of the E/M impedance method can be clearly improved with respect to the determination of suitable piezoelectric element locations.