Because of the nature of memory, we often tell students that
the best way to study for a test is to take practice tests. Research indicates
that rereading study material, the method preferred by most people, is less
effective than taking practice tests for two reasons: First, our brains have
difficulty distinguishing between material with which we are familiar and
material which we truly understand. Students may stop studying too early
because they recall seeing information before, only to realize during the test
that they didn’t actually understand it. Second, answering practice questions
gives the brain practice at retrieving information from long-term memory, the
process a student undergoes during actual testing. Students who have the
opportunity to rehearse “finding” answers are more prepared to do this quickly
and easily on test day.
An article in The Wall
Street Journal from earlier this week covers this principle and offers
other testing tips derived from a number of studies on learning. For example,
nearly everybody knows that eating a nutritious breakfast on test day is
important, but a recent experiment demonstrated that consumption of a nutritious
diet should start a week before the test date for optimum results. The article
also discusses how to balance sleeping and studying, and offers tips to help
combat test anxiety.
Students gearing up for the first round of
mid-terms can access the full article here.
Photo used under Creative Commons by Steven S.
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