Test-enhanced learning refers to the fact that taking an initial test on studied material enhances its later retention relative to simply studying the material and then taking a final test. Most research on the testing effect has been done with materials such as word lists, and the general finding has been that the benefits of testing are greater when the initial test is a recall (production) test rather than a recognition test. We briefly summarize three experiments that extend these results to educationally relevant materials, namely brief articles, lectures, and materials in a college course. All three experiments demonstrated a robust testing effect and also revealed that an initial short-answer test produced greater gains on a final test than did an initial multiple-choice test. Furthermore, one experiment revealed a positive effect of immediate feedback given with the initial test. The educational implications are that production tests (short answer or essay) and feedback soon after learning increase learning and retention. In addition, frequent testing probably has the indirect positive effects of keeping students motivated and leading them to space out periods of study.
Amlund, J. T., Kardash, C. A., &Kulhavy, R. W. (1986). Repetitive reading and recall of expository text.Reading Research Quarterly,21, 49–58.
Bjork, R. A. (1975). Retrieval as a memory modifier: An interpretation of negative recency and related phenomena. In R. L. Solso (Ed.),Information processing and cognition: The Loyola Symposium (pp. 123–144). New York: Wiley.
Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L., III (in press). Testing improves long term retention in a simulated classroom setting.European Journal of Cognitive Psychology.
Carpenter, S. K., &DeLosh, E. L. (2006). Impoverished cue support enhances subsequent retention: Support for the elaborative retrieval explanation of the testing effect.Memory & Cognition,34, 268–276.
Carrier, M., &Pashler, H. (1992). The influence of retrieval on retention.Memory & Cognition,20, 633–642.
Cooper, A. J. R., &Monk, A. (1976). Learning for recall and learning for recognition. In J. Brown (Ed.),Recall and recognition (pp. 131–156). New York: Wiley.
Darley, C. F., &Murdock, B. B. (1971). Effects of prior free recall testing on final recall and recognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology,91, 66–73.
Gates, A. I. (1917). Recitation as a factor in memorizing.Archives of Psychology, Whole No. 40, 1–104.
Glover, J. A. (1989). The “testing” phenomenon: Not gone but nearly forgotten.Journal of Educational Psychology,81, 392–399.
Hogan, R. M., &Kintsch, W. (1971). Differential effects of study and test trials on long-term recognition and recall.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,10, 562–567.
Jones, H. E. (1923/1924). The effects of examination on the performance of learning.Archives of Psychology, Whole No. 10, 1–70.
Kang, S. H. K., McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L., III (in press). Test format and corrective feedback modify the effect of testing on long-term retention.European Journal of Cognitive Psychology.
Mandler, G., &Rabinowitz, J. C. (1981). Appearance and reality: Does a recognition test really improve subsequent recall and recognition?Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory, 7, 79–90.
McDaniel, M. A., Anderson, J. L., Derbish, M. H., & Morrisette, N. (in press). Testing the testing effect in the classroom.European Journal of Cognitive Psychology.
McDaniel, M. A., &Fisher, R. P. (1991). Tests and test feedback as learning sources.Contemporary Educational Psychology,16, 192–201.
McDaniel, M. A., &Masson, M. E. J. (1985). Altering memory representations through retrieval.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,11, 371–385.
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.
Roediger, H. L., III, &Karpicke, J. D. (2006a). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice.Perspectives on Psychological Science,1, 181–210.
Roediger, H. L., III, &Karpicke, J. D. (2006b). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention.Psychological Science,17, 249–255.
Sikorski, J. F., Rich, K., Saville, B. K., Buskist, W., Drogan, O., &Davis, S. F. (2002). Student use of introductory texts: Comparative survey findings from two universities.Teaching of Psychology,29, 312–313.
Spitzer, H. F. (1939). Studies in retention.Journal of Educational Psychology,30, 641–656.
Thomas, A. K., &McDaniel, M. A. (2007). Metacomprehension for educationally relevant materials: Dramatic effects of encoding-retrieval interactions.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,14, 212–218.
Wenger, S. K., Thompson, C. P., &Bartling, C. A. (1980). Recall facilitates subsequent recognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory,6, 135–144.
This research was sponsored by Institute of Education Sciences Grant R305H030339 and a Collaborative Activity Grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation.
About this article
Cite this article
Mcdaniel, M.A., Roediger, H.L. & Mcdermott, K.B. Generalizing test-enhanced learning from the laboratory to the classroom. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 14, 200–206 (2007). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03194052
- Retention Interval
- Initial Test
- Final Test
- Testing Effect
- Short Answer