Self-Quizzing: The Key to Learning Better

Have you ever wondered if there's a more effective way to cram for a test than highlighting and rereading every chapter in your textbooks? A recent study says there is.

Get ready to be brilliant. Really. You are about to discover a secret that will help you learn more effectively.

In a study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, John Dunlosky and his colleagues examined the effectiveness of various learning techniques. They included a variety of methods (see below) everyone has used at one time or another. What they found will be surprising to most people, but will make sense once you think about it.

The two most effective techniques were practice testing (asking yourself questions about what you studied) and distributed practice (studying in relatively small segments over a period of time). The other techniques varied in effectiveness from moderate to low. Curiously, recent surveys cited by the authors indicate that students seem to favor rereading and highlighting, two strategies that have relatively low utility.

The effectiveness of distributed practice has been known for quite some time. William James, a pioneer in modern psychology, made the case for it in 1901. And in the hierarchy of demonstrating learning, recall (the ability to remember information) is superior to recognition (knowing the correct answer when you see it) or relearning (how quickly you can learn something you once knew but kind of forgot).

If you have something to learn or remember, distributed practice and self-quizzing will be helpful. Any method that helps us learn better is worthwhile.

Here are the 10 techniques examined in the study:

  1. Elaborative interrogation (generating an explanation for why an explicitly stated fact or concept is true).
  2. Self-explanation (explaining how new information is related to known information, or explaining steps taken during problem solving).
  3. Summarization (writing summaries [of various lengths] of to-be-learned texts).
  4. Highlighting/underlining (marking potentially important portions of to-be-learned materials while reading).
  5. Keyword mnemonic (using keywords and mental imagery to associate verbal materials).
  6. Imagery for text (attempting to form mental images of text materials while reading or listening).
  7. Rereading (restudying text material again after an initial reading).
  8. Practice testing (self-testing or taking practice tests over to-be-learned material)
  9. Distributed practice (implementing a schedule of practice that spreads out study activities over time).
  10. Interleaved practice (implementing a schedule of practice that mixes different kinds of problems, or a schedule of study that mixes different kinds of material, within a single study session).

Have you ever tried practice testing or distributed practice? Have any of the other above techniques worked best for you?

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
practice tests study tips test prep

About Michael Milone, PhD

Michael Milone, PhD

Dr. Michael Milone is a nationally recognized research psychologist and award-winning educational writer. He earned a PhD in 1978 from The Ohio State University and has served in an adjunct capacity at Ohio State, the University of Arizona, Gallaudet University, and New Mexico State University. He has taught in regular and special education programs at all levels, holds a Master of Arts degree from Gallaudet University, and is fluent in American Sign Language. He served on the board of directors of the Association of Educational Publishers, was a member of the Literacy Assessment Committee of the International Reading Association, and is a past chair of the Technology and Literacy Committee of the International Reading Association. He's contributed to both readingonline.org and Technology & Learning magazine. He currently serves on the Research Advisory Board of Renaissance Learning the Education Advisory Team of Bluenose Edutainment, and the Albert J. Harris Award Committee of the International Reading Association. His publications include two novels, several standardized tests, hundreds of articles, and a puzzle called Diminish with both print and app versions. He has completed 33 marathons, two Ironman triathlons, and hundreds of other races, including the Mt. Taylor Winter Quadrathlon.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Maya Ingraham

Maya Ingraham

October 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has given me more confidence in my college process. With easy-to-access resources and guidance such as the CX Weekly Roundup, I have been able to find the best colleges for me. Most importantly, there’s a surplus of scholarship opportunities for every student to support their education.

Alexandria

Alexandria

High School Class of 2021

For a long time, I've been searching everywhere to find the perfect website I can get scholarships and information from. Needless to say, I could never find the right one. That was, until I found CollegeXpress. Through my journey of finding the right scholarships for me, I was able to find articles about different things. They've all been helpful, especially in times like this! I was even able to connect with some of my favorite colleges! I love CollegeXpress. Thank you!

Alexandra Adriano

Alexandra Adriano

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2016

I've used CollegeXpress quite a bit as a senior, particularly for colleges and scholarships, so it's been a very big asset in that respect! I would recommend it to anyone looking to pursue a college education, especially seniors! This scholarship will help me achieve my goals in ways I couldn't have before, and I know that there are opportunities like that for everyone on the website and in the magazines!

Josiah Kegg

Josiah Kegg

High School Class of 2021

I want to sincerely thank you all for this amazing website that's legitimately helped me find so many different scholarship opportunities. I've been stressing out for the longest time about paying for college since I would rather stay out of debt and have been working days trying to find any scholarship opportunity. When I found CollegeXpress, I discovered many easy scholarships that have given me hope for the future. Thank you and God bless!

Kamal

Kamal

University of People Student

I registered with CollegeXpress, filled all my necessary and relevant information and the course I wished to study. Few days later an email was sent to me with the list of schools offering the course, amongst them was the University of People, the school I got admitted to.

College Matches