Taking a test helps learning more than studying, report shows

Reasons why aren’t entirely understood


Taking a test actually helps people learn, more so than several studying techniques, according to new research in the journal Science and reported in the New York Times. Researchers found that students who read a passage and then took a test asking them to recall what they read retained about 50 per cent more information a week later than did students who used two other methods. One of them was to repeatedly study the material, and the other was to have students draw detailed diagrams of what they were learning. Both those other methods are very popular, and seem to give students the illusion they know the material better than they actually do. By remembering information, we organize it and create connections that our brains later recognize, it seems, although the exact reason retrieval testing works still isn’t known.

New York Times

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Taking a test helps learning more than studying, report shows

  1. One of the ways I helped my daughter study was to write up a practice test for her. It always worked well. Another great way to study is to teach someone else the material.

  2. Seems pretty simple to me. Our bodies and especially our brains are set up with the credo of "use it or lose it".

    So giving people some information and then requiring retrieval activates the neurons in both directions. A channel, in essence.

    Studying is essentially pushing the information repeatedly one way.

    Hell, just think of your junk drawer. The things you take out more often get shuffled to the front and top, while the other stuff gets shoved to the back. So say you have tea every saturday. You put the teaball in the junk drawer and wander off. Throughout the week, other stuff gets shoved in the drawer, and come saturday, rather than look, you just get a new teaball and shove it in. Keep doing this and even though the drawer has lots of teaballs in it, they're all shoved to the back and hard to get.

    On the other hand, if you dig in the drawer on saturday and actively pull that teaball out, you start to get a sense of where it can go, and it never goes as far back in the drawer anyway. It's becomes easier and easier to get it with each passing week.

    Do it long enough, and eventually you find you've developed a spot for the teaball to sit in the junk drawer,and everything else you shove in tends to go around it rather than it being pushed aside. Brain-wise, that's when you've become an expert with that particular type of information.

  3. "The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully" – Samuel Johnson

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