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Testing effect

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Title: Testing effect  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Spaced repetition, Cognative Biases, Active recall, Piotr Woźniak (researcher), Leitner system
Collection: Educational Psychology, Memory Processes, Memory Tests
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Testing effect

The testing effect is the finding that long-term memory is increased when some of the learning period is devoted to retrieving the to-be-remembered information.[1] The effect is also sometimes referred to as retrieval practice, practice testing, or test-enhanced learning. [2] [3]
The first documented empirical study on the testing effect was published in 1917 by Gates.[4][5] An important step in proving the existence of the testing effect was presented in a 1992 study by Carrier and Pashler.[6] Carrier and Pashler showed that testing practice does not just provide an additional practice opportunity, but produces better results than other forms of studying. In their experiment, learners who tested their knowledge during practice later remembered more information than learners who spent the same amount of time studying the complete information. The abstract summarizes the results as follows:

In the pure study trial (pure ST condition) method, both items of a pair were presented simultaneously for study. In the test trial/study trial (TTST condition) method, subjects attempted to retrieve the response term during a period in which only the stimulus term was present (and the response term of the pair was presented after a 5-sec delay). Final retention of target items was tested with cued-recall tests. In Experiment 1, there was a reliable advantage in final testing for nonsense-syllable/number pairs in the TTST condition over pairs in the pure ST condition. In Experiment 2, the same result was obtained with Eskimo/English word pairs. This benefit of the TTST condition was not apparently different for final retrieval after 5 min or after 24 h. Experiments 3 and 4 ruled out two artifactual explanations of the TTST advantage observed in the first two experiments. Because performing a memory retrieval (TTST condition) led to better performance than pure study (pure ST condition), the results reject the hypothesis that a successful retrieval is beneficial only to the extent that it provides another study experience.

Carrier and Pashler study did not reveal a very large advantage of testing over studying, but paved the way for numerous further studies that have shown a more marked advantage.[7]


  • Preconditions to measuring the testing effect 1
    • Retrieval success 1.1
    • Time between retrieval practice and performance measure 1.2
    • Retrieval difficulty 1.3
  • Cognitive accounts of the testing effect 2
  • Applications 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Preconditions to measuring the testing effect

Retrieval success

In order for a testing effect to be demonstrated, the test trials must have a medium to high retrieval success. If the test trials are so difficult that no items are recalled, or if the correct answers to the non-recalled items are not given to the test subject, then minimal or no learning will occur.[8][9][10]

Time between retrieval practice and performance measure

Benefits of testing are often only visible after a delay and not immediately after practice, when outcomes may even be better for restudied materials than for tested materials.[11][12] Some authors suggest that this can be explained in part by limited retrieval success during practice.[9][10][13]

Retrieval difficulty

According to the retrieval effort hypothesis, "difficult but successful retrievals are better for memory than easier successful retrievals". For example, Pyc and Rawson showed that repeated testing is more beneficial for learning if the intervals between repeated testing are long and each test is therefore more difficult than when the intervals are short and tests are easy.[14] This finding is related to the theory that certain conditions that make learning more effortful through so-called desirable difficulties are beneficial.[8]

Cognitive accounts of the testing effect

Two views have arisen as to why testing seems to provide such a benefit over repeated study. The first view, provided by McDaniel,[15] states that testing allows people to formulate newer, more lasting connections between items than does repeated study. The second view, provided by Karpicke and Roediger[16] studied how the effect of testing on memory retention. They found that re-studying or re-reading memorized information has no effect, but trying to recall the information had an effect. New findings[17] show more support for the second view.


Before much experimental evidence had been collected, the utility of testing was already evident to some perceptive observers. In his 1932 book Psychology of Study, Prof. [18] In other words, the testing effect shows that when material is reviewed, the reviewer actively challenges their memory to recall than when re-reading or re-studying the materials. This is called active recall.[19]

Clearly the largest application for any human memory studies of learning effects is for education and finding better ways to relate information to students at every grade level. Extensive research has been done in this area in the last decade. With findings showing that the testing effect can have a greater impact after a delay[20] even though students themselves seemed more confident in studying (which turned out to be false in the data). Additional reviews[21] have sought to provide more reliable results of the testing effect to improve education, a trend that after nearly 100 years, seems to be catching on.

See also


  1. ^ E. Bruce Goldstein. Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience. Cengage Learning. p. 231.  
  2. ^ Roediger, H. L.; Butler, A. C. (2011). "The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention" (PDF). Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (1): 20–27.  
  3. ^ Dunlosky, J.; Rawson, K. A.; Marsh, E. J.; Nathan, M. J.; Willingham, D. T. (2013). "Improving students' learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology". Psychological Science in the Public Interest 14 (1): 4–58.  
  4. ^ Gates, A. I. (1917). "Recitation as a factor in memorizing". Archives of Psychology 6 (40). 
  5. ^ Soderstrom, N. C.; Bjork, R. A. (2015). "Learning Versus Performance: An Integrative Review". Perspectives on Psychological Science 10 (2): 186.  
  6. ^ Carrier, M.; Pashler, H. (1992). "The influence of retrieval on retention" (PDF). Memory & Cognition 20: 632–642. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Roediger, H. L.; Karpicke, J. D. (2006). "Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention" (PDF). Psychological Science 17 (3): 249–255.  
  8. ^ a b Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1992). A new theory of disuse and an old theory of stimulus fluctuation. In A. Healy, S. Kosslyn, & R. Shiffrin (Eds.), From learning processes to cognitive processes: Essays in honor of William K. Estes (Vol. 2, pp. 35-67). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Based upon research done by: IZAWA, C. Reinforcement-test sequences in paired associate learning. Psychological Reports, 1966, 18, 879-919.
  9. ^ a b Kornell, Nate; Bjork, Robert A.; Garcia, Michael A. (August 2011). "Why tests appear to prevent forgetting: A distribution-based bifurcation model" (PDF). Journal of Memory and Language 65 (2): 85–97.  
  10. ^ a b van den Broek, Gesa S. E.; Segers, Eliane; Takashima, Atsuko; Verhoeven, Ludo (2 September 2013). "Do testing effects change over time? Insights from immediate and delayed retrieval speed". Memory (ahead-of-print) 22 (7): 803–812.  
  11. ^ Roediger, H. L.; Karpicke, J. D. (2006). "Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention" (PDF). Psychological Science 17 (3): 249–255.  
  12. ^ Toppino, Thomas C.; Cohen, Michael S. (1 January 2009). "The Testing Effect and the Retention Interval". Experimental Psychology (formerly Zeitschrift für Experimentelle Psychologie) 56 (4): 252–257.  
  13. ^ Halamish, Vered; Bjork, Robert A. (2011). "When does testing enhance retention? A distribution-based interpretation of retrieval as a memory modifier.". Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 37 (4): 801–812.  
  14. ^ Pyc, Mary A.; Rawson, Katherine A. (May 2009). "Testing the retrieval effort hypothesis: Does greater difficulty correctly recalling information lead to higher levels of memory?" (PDF). Journal of Memory and Language 60 (4): 437–447.  
  15. ^ McDaniel,M.A., &Fisher, R.P. (1991). Tests and test feedback as learning sources. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 16, 192–201.
  16. ^ Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011)
  17. ^ Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborate studying with concept of mapping. Science, 331, 772-775
  18. ^ Mace, C. A. (1932). The Psychology of Study. New York: R.M. McBride & Co. p. 39. 
  19. ^ "The Testing Effect." Revunote. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014. "".
  20. ^ Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). The critical importance of retrieval for learning. Science, 319, 966-968.
  21. ^ McDaniel, M. A., Roediger, H. L., & McDermott, K. B. (2007). Generalizing test-enhanced learning from the laboratory to the classroom. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 200-206.
  • Roediger, H. L. & Karpicke, J. D. (2006b). "The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice". Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.
  • Eysenck, Michael W. Fundamentals of Cognition. Hove: Psychology, 2006. Print.

External links

  • Psychological Science article on current research
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