If you’re the type of person who breaks out in a cold sweat on exam day, you may not like what I’m about to share, but the research is pretty compelling and can boost your test scores, so stick with me.
You may be able to test your way to a better test score. No, this isn’t an example of education inception. Extensive research shows that testing as a study technique may improve your exam outcomes in several ways.
Cramming Works – Temporarily
Cramming works. Or rather, cramming works if your goal is to score well on a test and then immediately forget everything. However, for most education settings, in which new material builds on previous material, this is insufficient. Instead, most students (and educators) desire long-term retention, for which cramming is not effective.
Testing Results in Long-Term Recall
Enter the test effect. Testing during the learning process can enhance long-term retention of material, according to dozens of studies, including The Effect of Testing on the Retention of Coherent and Incoherent Text Material. Testing during learning is linked to long-term retention of material, whereas repeated study is only linked to short-term item retrieval. Even after a long period of time has elapsed, testing generally results in better fact-based recall than other strategies.
Why Does It Work?
Let’s face it: humans aren’t always the best at evaluating what we know. The process of accessing our own knowledge is called metacognitive monitoring, and it can have a dark side. If you believe that you know the content better than you actually do, you may not study as hard, as long, or as in-depth as needed.
Through repeated study of material, it’s easy to confuse familiarity with the material for mastery. This can be misleading and lead to an overestimation of readiness for an exam. By identifying your gaps in knowledge, you can better know where to focus your study efforts. Testing reveals a true Point A, so that you can move appropriately toward Point B (acing the test!).
By taking pre-tests or engaging in some of the testing methods we mention below, you can get a true gauge of you current knowledge, according to the study Ten Benefits of Testing and Their Applications to Educational Practice.
How Can You Apply This?
There are many ways you can apply this concept to improve your mastery of information.
Self-testing – Create flashcards and quiz yourself. Or pick a buddy and quiz each other.
Teach Someone Else – What better way to test (and display) your mastery of information than to teach it to someone else without reference materials?
Create a Partner Test – Partner with someone who shares your course. Each one of you should create a test covering the information to be learned. Then trade tests and see how much you can recall. If you do this in a group, you will have the opportunity to take several tests throughout the study period. Just be sure you can trust the accuracy of your classmates’ test information.
Picmonic Can Help.
Picmonic’s Quiz Feature (Beta) – Test your mastery with Picmonic’s rapid assessment Quiz, enabling you to quickly test yourself on topics within a specific category or playlist of your choosing. Our quiz helps you pinpoint areas of weakness, recommends targeted learning objectives with Picmonics, and ensures you have every fact memorized and you’re ready to start acing tests. This is one of the most demanded features from students and helps round out the Picmonic Learning System with both core learning and assessment. Our quiz feature is still a work in progress, though! Incorrect answer choices (distractors) are built by our “semi-intelligent” quizzing algorithm, which isn’t perfected yet, so there might be a few inaccuracies throughout, and we’re extremely grateful for our incredible beta testers who are helping us perfect it.
Nursing Students, Sign up for Picmonic’s NCLEX® Question of the Day – Our daily questions written in NCLEX® style will help you test your knowledge for nursing school and the NCLEX®. When you answer the question, we provide the extensive rationale for the answer and the opportunity to learn the topic with unforgettable images and stories in our Visual Learning System.
Testing during learning is linked to long-term retention of material, and can help you identify the gaps in knowledge and know where to focus your efforts.
You can leverage the resources recommended above or get a head-start with Picmonic. Our Visual Learning System includes a library of audiovisual picture mnemonics (or Picmonics) and built-in tests so you can test your levels of mastery and rock your next exam.
Sign up for a free trial today.
Ron Robertson, Co-founder & CEO, Picmonic Inc.
Ron Robertson founded Picmonic as a 3rd-year medical student at the University of Arizona. He’s at the helm of Picmonic’s mission to lead and inspire a new era of learning through innovative and effective educational solutions. Ron holds a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of San Diego with a focus on memory science, is the product visionary behind Picmonic, and is involved in every aspect of the company.
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Remember more, boost your test scores and maximize your potential with Picmonic, the world’s best visual study tool for medical school, nursing school, and more! More than just pharm flashcards and study guides, the Picmonic Learning System will help you dominate your classes and review for the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, NCLEX®, PANCE, MCAT, and more with our research-proven mnemonic learning system.