Taking practice tests is more beneficial than drawing diagrams and late-night cram sessions, according to a new study.
The Purdue University study revealed taking tests helps people learn better than using other forms of studying.
The experiment, which involved 200 college students, was done in two parts; the second part consisted of a group creating concept diagrams and a group taking retrieval practice tests. Although the students who drew diagrams included more detail about the text than the students who wrote short essays, the latter did much better when evaluated a week later.
The study concluded that retrieval practice, such as taking a test, enhances learning.
Ira Fischler, a retired psychology professor at UF and expert in human memory, agreed.
“When you take a test, you are forcing yourself to do things you are going to need to do later in order to retrieve and recall the material,” Fischler said. “This is the particular advantage of taking a test.”
UF sophomore Alexandra Gonzalez said practice tests aided in her understanding and helped her get an A in microeconomics.
“I mostly took hours of practice tests,” she said. “By the last test, I was very comfortable with the concepts and the kinds of questions asked.”
UF senior Chris Peralta said he considers taking a practice test only if he doesn’t understand the material.
“I’m skeptical of practice tests,” he said. “In my opinion, they only prepare you for a test and don’t help you to actually learn the material.”
TutoringZone agreed with the research’s conclusion that tests help students learn.
“We provide students with practice tests because that is one of the most effective ways of preparing them for the material they’re going to see both on their current exams and in the future,” said Alek Hartzog, the building manager and operations director at the Gainesville TZ.
According to Hartzog, TZ students can’t get enough of the practice tests.
“Our feedback is always, ‘more, more, more,’” he said.