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The Testing Effect The Testing Effect The Testing Effect

The Testing Effect

The "testing effect" is a well-documented phenomenon that occurs during the course of testing, which has been shown to produce greater gains in meaningful learning than other methods of studying such as watching videos, listening to lectures, and re-reading notes. Multiple studies have demonstrated that students who practice testing outperform those who prepare in other ways. Here is a look at some of this work and the science behind them.

Practice Testing Protects Memory Against Stress

Amy M. Smith*, Victoria A. Floerke, Ayanna K. Thomas

It is widely accepted that stress has a negative impact on memory retrieval. But specific approaches to learning can counteract this effect. Smith et al. found that when memory was tested immediately after the onset of stress, stress effects were reduced. Furthermore, when subjects learned novel material by using a highly effective learning technique involving practice tests, their memory was also protected against the negative effects of stress.

The Science

Time spent retrieving information - the testing effect - has been shown to increase test performance better than restudying material for the same amount of time (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006). Retrieval is most simply defined as a process used to access stored memories. A recent study (Roediger & Butler, 2011) demonstrated that retrieval practice results in better long-term retention and a slower rate of forgetting than simply restudying the material. This effect is secondary to a differential activation of a number of areas (networks) in the brain that includes the parietal, frontal and insular cortical areas, as well as the thalamus (Keresztes et al, 2013). Memory retrieval appears to couple brain rhythms and oscillations that organize the recruitment of information from various neocortical sites (Kaplan et al, 2014).

Memory Retrieval

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