Taking Tests Improves Memory

multiple choice test. (Image credit: stock.xchng)

Students, don't cringe, but new research suggests that the very act of taking a test is enough to enhance long-term memory. Furthermore, testing helps students remember not only what they studied for the test, but also related, non-tested concepts.

The results "imply that as long as students retrieved a concept, other related concepts should also receive a boost," the researchers write in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In one experiment, a group of 84 undergraduates were given two sets of facts about the biology and lifestyle of tropical toucan birds. The researchers divided the students into three groups, with one group taking a test immediately after studying the first set of facts, before receiving the second set to study for a final test.

Another group received both sets of toucan facts at once, before being dismissed. A third set of students served as a control group, and only studied the first set of toucan facts before being dismissed.

All the students came back one day later to take a final test containing questions culled from both the first and second set of toucan facts. Students tested twice significantly outperformed both the students who did not take a previous test and the control group.

Based on the results, the researchers, led by Jason Chan of Washington State University in St. Louis, recommend that "educators might consider increasing the frequency of testing to enhance long-term retention for both the tested and the related, non-tested material."