Sally Singer Horwatt, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist 

1800 Town Center Drive

Suite 216

Reston VA 20190-3238

Frequent Tests Help Learning

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

This article is one of a series of radio spots prepared by Sally Singer Horwatt, Ph.D. for 
WAGE 1200 AM RADIO

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An Ohio State University Professor has reached a conclusion that many University of Arizona students might not like -- more tests and quizzes lead to better performance in the classroom. And the University of Arizona Professors agree.

Research done by OSU education professor Bruce Tuckman found that students who are regularly quizzed on class material outperform others by up to 24 percent on midterm and final exam scores. Tuckman's research began four years ago when he was a professor at Florida State University.
There, he experimented with three educational psychology classes taught by the same instructor,
using the same class materials.

One class was given weekly quizzes, a second class was assigned weeekly homework, and the third class received neither. Students in the first class scored seven percentage points higher on the midterm and final exam than the second class, and 24 percent higher than the third class. Those
differences can amount to a whole letter grade!

The reason they have low grade point averages isn't because they're not smart, it's because they don't study. The way to get them to study is to test them frequently. Numerous tests help students retain class material more than homework assignments because they must be able to recall information, rather than find an answer in a textbook. 

"People don't necessarily learn from home assignments," Tuckman said. "When you study for a test the only way you're going to know it is to get it into your head."

While some students agreed that more tests over the semester would be beneficial. One student thought it would help by dividing class material into smaller portions. "More tests would be less information to learn at once," he said. He might not have known it, but he was advocating a method
of learning which educational psychologists call Distributive Practice….learning a little bit at a time over a longer period of time. This has widely been demonstrated to be a more effective method of learning than "massed practice" or "cramming" as it was known when I was a student.

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