Ten benefits of quizzes and tests in educational practice

Posted by John Kleeman

I’d like to share ten benefits proposed by psychology experts Henry L. Roediger III, Adam L. Putnam and Megan A. Smith in a recent paper, “Ten Benefits of Testing and Their Applications to Educational Practice”.

Here is my summary and understanding:

1. Retrieval aids later retention. There is clear evidence from psychological experiments that practicing retrieval of something after learning it, for instance by taking a quiz or test, makes you more likely to retain it for the long term.

2. Testing identifies gaps in knowledge.

3. Testing causes students to learn more from the next study episode. Essentially it reduces forgetting which makes the next related study area more productive.

4. Testing produces better organization of knowledge by helping the brain organize material in clusters to allow better retrieval.

5. Testing improves transfer of knowledge to new contexts. There are several experiments referenced in the paper where tests and quizzes help transfer and application of knowledge.

6. Testing can facilitate retrieval of material that was not tested. Surprisingly there are circumstances where quizzes or tests, particularly if delayed, can help people retrieve/retain information that was related to that asked but not actually asked in the questions.

7. Testing improves metacognitive monitoring – by giving students scores or self-assessments, they can better predict their knowledge and be more confident about what they know and what they need to know.

8. Testing prevents interference from prior material when learning new material. If you have a test after learning one set of material before learning another set of material, it can make it less likely that the second session will

9. Testing provides feedback to instructors and lets them know what is learned or what is not.

10. Frequent testing encourages students to study. Having frequent quizzes and tests motivates study and reduces procrastination.

You can see their paper “Ten Benefits of Testing and Their Applications to Educational Practice” in Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol 55. It’s also available for download on Professor Roediger’s publications page, in the list of papers from 2011, at http://psych.wustl.edu/memory/publications/.

5 Responses to “Ten benefits of quizzes and tests in educational practice”

  1. Tests are important. Students hated it in school and I know trainees do too but without it I doubt if anyone would exert more effort to remember what has been taught to them. But of course, I have also seen people still perform very well despite having done badly in tests. Knowledge plus practise is the right formula.

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