“Exercise in repeatedly recalling a thing strengthens the memory.”
Do you despise testing? Perhaps you’d feel more open to the tremendous value of testing if you knew that one of humanity’s great philosophers and scientists fully endorsed the practice. Aristole saw the connection between repeatedly recalling a thing (testing) and remembering a thing (learning).
The testing effect, as it is called, powers academic performance in a way that mere reading never can. All those students who adopt reading and rereading texts as their primary study strategy miss out on the educational impact of active recall of targeted information.
Psychologists Henry L. Roediger III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke contributed much to our understanding of the testing effect in their review of a century of research into learning. They also conducted their own insightful research into the subject. Considering that the title of their findings was Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention, you can imagine what they observed:
Both experiments showed the same pattern: Immediate testing after reading a prose passage promoted better long-term retention than repeatedly studying the passage. This outcome occurred even though the tests included no feedback.
How effective was rereading instead of testing?
Relative to testing, repeated studying inflated students’ confidence in their ability to remember the passages in the future, even though repeated-study subjects actually showed much poorer retention on delayed tests.
Testing is learning. Athletes and artists understand this truth deeply. Academics are not so different. Solidify your knowledge by challenging it, and reap the rewards of improved retention and performance.