Testing Effect

I know we all care about our students. We want to make sure that they are equipped with effective study techniques for success. One often overlooked but incredibly powerful technique is the Testing Effect. In this blog post, we’ll explore the Testing Effect and how it can benefit both teachers and students. You’ll receive tips drawn from recent research (Murphy et al., 2023) and foundational work by Roediger and Karpicke in 2006.

The Testing Effect, also known as retrieval practice, is a study technique that involves actively testing your knowledge through quizzes, practice tests, or other assessment methods. This approach goes beyond passive reading and note-taking, encouraging students to engage with the material actively. But how exactly does it work?

Enhancing Memory Recall through Testing

Instead of simply reviewing notes or textbooks passively, students are encouraged to test themselves. This can be done using flashcards, self-quizzes, or even explaining concepts to peers. When students actively retrieve information from their memory during a test, it strengthens the neural pathways associated with that information. This reinforcement makes it easier to recall the information in the future (Murphy et al., 2023).

Testing vs. Extra Study Time

Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(3), 181-210.

Earlier research by Roediger and Karpicke in 2006 provides compelling evidence that taking tests can be a more efficient and effective way to learn compared to spending extra time re-reading or re-studying the material. Testing forces students to actively recall information, leading to better understanding and memory retention compared to passive methods like reading or highlighting.

In their experiment from, they found that while immediate recall (after 5 minutes) was somewhat similar for both methods, the “Study, Test” approach appeared to be more effective for longer-term retention (2 days and 1 week) compared to the “Study, Study” method. This graph highlights the significance of testing oneself as a part of the learning process, especially for retaining information over extended periods.

Why Does the Testing Effect Work?

The Testing Effect is rooted in the concept of retrieval practice. When students recall information from memory, they are essentially practicing the act of remembering. This practice strengthens the memory trace associated with the information, making it easier to retrieve later. Additionally, testing helps identify knowledge gaps, highlighting areas that require further review and reinforcement. It also promotes active learning, where students are actively engaged in the learning process.

Practical Tips for You

Now that we understand the power of the Testing Effect, let’s explore some practical tips to incorporate this technique effectively, based on the latest research from 2023 (Murphy et al.) and earlier work by Roediger and Karpicke in 2006:

  • Design Frequent, Low-Stakes Tests

    Instead of relying on a few major exams, consider implementing frequent low-stakes quizzes and tests. This approach strengthens memory and learning.

  • Diverse Testing Formats

    Utilize well-designed multiple-choice and true/false questions that require deep retrieval. Encourage students to distinguish between plausible alternatives, as this prompts more retrieval and engagement.

  • Pretesting

    Present questions before a lesson, even if students can’t answer correctly. The 2023 research by Murphy et al. suggests that this can enhance encoding and focus during the lesson.

  • Embrace Self-Testing

    Encourage students to engage in self-testing, such as summarizing lectures or textbook chapters. Retrieval practice during self-testing strengthens knowledge.

  • Leverage Technology

    Overcome obstacles related to workload by using test banks, quiz generators, and other technology to facilitate effective testing practices.

Teaching Students

I have created a google slide and a student study sheet to really help them understand how practicing retrieval will help them learn.

In conclusion, the Testing Effect remains a valuable tool for both teachers and students. By incorporating testing and retrieval practice into your teaching routine, you can enhance memory recall, deepen understanding, and ultimately improve learning outcomes.