Memory & Cognition

, Volume 35, Issue 8, pp 1917–1927 | Cite as

Examining the efficiency of schedules of distributed retrieval practice



Given that students typically have a sizeable amount of course material to learn but a finite amount of study time, evaluating the efficiency of study schedules is important. We explored the efficiency of various schedules of distributed retrieval plus restudy. Across two experiments, 227 undergraduates were asked to learn Swahili—English vocabulary word pairs. Inconventional schedule groups, all items were presented for 3 practice trials after initial study (as in most previous research). Indropout schedule groups, the number of practice trials allocated to each item varied, in that practice with a given item was discontinued after criterion performance had been reached. A dropout schedule led to levels of performance similar to those for conventional schedules (but in fewer trials), and it was particularly effective for learning initially incorrect items. However, the efficiency of the various schedules depended critically on the interval between presentations of an item. Results suggest that dropout can be a more efficient learning schedule for students than can conventional schedules of practice.


  1. Bahrick, H. P. (1967). Relearning and the measurement of retention.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,6, 89–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bahrick, H. P., &Hall, L. K. (1991). Preventive and corrective maintenance of access to knowledge.Applied Cognitive Psychology,5, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bahrick, H. P., &Hall, L. K. (2005). The importance of retrieval failures to long-term retention: A metacognitive explanation of the spacing effect.Journal of Memory & Language,52, 566–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Balota, D. A., Duchek, J. M., Sergent-Marshall, S. D., &Roediger, H. L., III (2006). Does expanding retrieval produce benefits over equal-interval spacing? Explorations of spacing effects in healthy aging and early stage Alzheimer’s disease.Psychology & Aging,21, 19–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carpenter, S. K., &DeLosh, E. L. (2005). Application of the testing and spacing effects to name learning.Applied Cognitive Psychology,19, 619–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carpenter, S. K., Pashler, H., &Vul, E. (2006). What types of learning are enhanced by a cued recall test?Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,13, 826–830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carrier, M., &Pashler, H. (1992). The influence of retrieval on retention.Memory & Cognition,20, 633–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., &Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis.Psychological Bulletin,132, 354–380.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Cull, W. L. (2000). Untangling the benefits of multiple study opportunities and repeated testing for cued recall.Applied Cognitive Psychology,14, 215–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cull, W. L., Shaughnessy, J. J., &Zechmeister, E. B. (1996). Expanding understanding of the expanding-pattern-of-retrieval mnemonic: Toward confidence in applicability.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied,2, 365–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Driskell, J. E., Willis, R. P., &Copper, C. (1992). Effect of overlearning on retention.Journal of Applied Psychology,77, 615–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Karpicke, J. D., &Roediger, H. L., III (2007). Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention.Journal of Memory & Language,57, 151–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Krueger, W. F. C. (1929). The effect of overlearning on retention.Journal of Experimental Psychology,12, 71–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Landauer, T. K., &Bjork, R. A. (1978). Optimum rehearsal patterns and name learning. In M. M. Gruneberg, P. E. Morris, & R. N. Sykes (Eds.),Practical aspects of memory (pp. 625–632). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  15. Morris, P. E., Fritz, C. O., Jackson, L., Nichol, E., &Roberts, E. (2005). Strategies for learning proper names: Expanding retrieval practice, meaning and imagery.Applied Cognitive Psychology,19, 779–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Nelson, T. O., &Dunlosky, J. (1994). Norms of paired-associate recall during multitrial learning of Swahili-English translation equivalents.Memory,2, 325–335.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Nelson, T. O., Leonesio, R. J., Shimamura, A. P., Landwehr, R. F., &Narens, L. (1982). Overlearning and the feeling of knowing.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,8, 279–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pashler, H., Cepeda, N. J., Wixted, J. T., &Rohrer, D. (2005). When does feedback facilitate learning of words?Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,31, 3–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pashler, H., Zarow, G., &Triplett, B. (2003). Is temporal spacing of tests helpful even when it inflates error rates?Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory & Cognition,29, 1051–1057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Roediger, H. L., III, &Karpicke, J. D. (2006a). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention.Psychological Science,17, 249–255.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Roediger, H. L., III, &Karpicke, J. D. (2006b). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice.Perspectives on Psychological Science,1, 181–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rohrer, D., Taylor, K., Pashler, H., Wixted, J., &Cepeda, N. (2005). The effect of overlearning on long-term retention.Applied Cognitive Psychology,19, 361–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rubin, D. C., Hinton, S., &Wenzel, A. (1999). The precise time course of retention.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,25, 1161–1176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Spitzer, H. F. (1939). Studies in retention.Journal of Educational Psychology,30, 641–656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Thiede, K. W., &Dunlosky, J. (1999). Toward a general model of selfregulated study: An analysis of selection of items for study and selfpaced study time.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,25, 1024–1037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wheeler, M. A., Ewers, M., &Buonanno, J. F. (2003). Different rates of forgetting following study versus test trials.Memory,11, 571–580.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKent State UniversityKent

Personalised recommendations