Saturday, March 11, 2006

"The more we test, the better you learn"

Financial Times reports: Scientists discover how to pass exams
"Psychologists have made an intriguing discovery that could have profound implications for our understanding of human learning mechanisms - and immediate significance for students revising for examinations.

The scientists, from Washington University inSt Louis, found that students understood and retained information more readily when subjected to frequent tests and quizzes while studying than students who simply read material over and over again.

"Our study indicates that testing can be used as a powerful means for improving learning, not just assessing it," said Prof Henry Roediger of the university's psychology department.

The results are published in the current issue of Psychological Science. According to Prof Roediger, students who relied on repeated study alone frequently developed a false sense of confidence about their mastery of the materials even while their grasp of important detail was sliding away. By comparison, students who were either tested repeatedly or tested themselves while revising scored dramatically higher marks. A group of students who read a piece of text 14 times, for example, recalled less than a self-testing group who had read the piece only three or four times. The cause of the phenomenon remains uncovered: one theory is that we learn more efficiently in difficult situations."

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