Testing Better than Studying

Research shows that repeated testing of material encourages long-term memory of material (see full article here). Students who were repeated tested on a set of paired English-Swahili word not only performed well immediately but were able to remember 80% of the word pairs a week later. Students who studied but weren’t repeatedly tested only remembered about 1/3 of the word pairs. The results of the study are the opposite of what we would expect: repeated studying brought no benefit to students instead repeated testing was of paramount importance–even in the case of information that could already be successfully recalled.

So the question becomes how do you want to do on your exams–80% or 33%, a strong B or an F? For most students that’s not a difficult question. And the technique suggested by this study is repeated testing. We do this in my face-to-face classes with things like the Kingsfield procedure of simple questions at the beginning of each class. You can do it on your own by instituting a process of self-testing through out the semester. Every one of my classes has a study guide of possible test questions. You can use that guide to construct your own mini-tests on the material. Test yourself at the beginning and end of each study session. When you “grade” your self-tests you’ll see what you’ve learned and what you need to review again.

If you give yourself lots of mini-tests along the way, when it comes time to take the class test–for a grade–it’ll be a breeze and you’ll be the scholar you want to be.

Are you willing to try it? Let me know in the comments how it works for you.


Leave a comment

Filed under Best Practices, Study Tips

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s