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      The Power of Testing Memory: Basic Research and Implications for Educational Practice

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      Perspectives on Psychological Science

      Wiley

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          Abstract

          A powerful way of improving one's memory for material is to be tested on that material. Tests enhance later retention more than additional study of the material, even when tests are given without feedback. This surprising phenomenon is called the testing effect, and although it has been studied by cognitive psychologists sporadically over the years, today there is a renewed effort to learn why testing is effective and to apply testing in educational settings. In this article, we selectively review laboratory studies that reveal the power of testing in improving retention and then turn to studies that demonstrate the basic effects in educational settings. We also consider the related concepts of dynamic testing and formative assessment as other means of using tests to improve learning. Finally, we consider some negative consequences of testing that may occur in certain circumstances, though these negative effects are often small and do not cancel out the large positive effects of testing. Frequent testing in the classroom may boost educational achievement at all levels of education.

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          Most cited references 119

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          Encoding specificity and retrieval processes in episodic memory.

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            Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory.

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              Test-enhanced learning: taking memory tests improves long-term retention.

              Taking a memory test not only assesses what one knows, but also enhances later retention, a phenomenon known as the testing effect. We studied this effect with educationally relevant materials and investigated whether testing facilitates learning only because tests offer an opportunity to restudy material. In two experiments, students studied prose passages and took one or three immediate free-recall tests, without feedback, or restudied the material the same number of times as the students who received tests. Students then took a final retention test 5 min, 2 days, or 1 week later. When the final test was given after 5 min, repeated studying improved recall relative to repeated testing. However, on the delayed tests, prior testing produced substantially greater retention than studying, even though repeated studying increased students' confidence in their ability to remember the material. Testing is a powerful means of improving learning, not just assessing it.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Perspectives on Psychological Science
                Perspect Psychol Sci
                Wiley
                1745-6916
                1745-6924
                June 24 2016
                September 2006
                June 24 2016
                September 2006
                : 1
                : 3
                : 181-210
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Washington University in St. Louis
                Article
                10.1111/j.1745-6916.2006.00012.x
                26151629
                © 2006

                http://journals.sagepub.com/page/policies/text-and-data-mining-license

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