APA: Tests Help Recall

In teacher’s training, I often had the impression that testing was bad. My personal philosophy is that students are going to be tested at every level, and I had better give them experience in taking tests and help them develop testing strategies. I typically use traditional testing methods as well as alternate assessments, performance assessments, etc. to determine whether or not my students are learning.

The APA and Washington University at St. Louis did a study on testing and found that it helps students recall information — even information that’s not on the test. Here is an excerpt from the press release.

WASHINGTON, DC—Remember those kids who wanted to study only what was on the test? They may have cheated themselves. New research reveals that the simple act of taking a test helps you remember everything you learned, even if it isn’t tested. In three experiments, psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis determined that testing enhanced long-term recall for material that was not tested initially. Untested students recalled significantly less of what they’d studied – even after having extra time to go over the material.

This confirmation of how mid-term or final-exam type tests foster learning is reported in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Tests are more than efficient scoring tools. The authors call them a “powerful memory enhancer.” Although psychologists knew that testing strengthened the subsequent recall of the tested learned material, it hadn’t been clear whether typical classroom tests (as distinguished from high-stakes standardized tests) also strengthened recall of the material not put on the test.
You can view the press release from the APA here and the full study here.

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