Studying, for the most part, is never fun, but what if there’s a way to make the learning experience easier for yourself? If you want to remember information in a more effective manner than just repeated reading, then you need to start doing some self-testing. If you’re curious to learn more about this process, keep reading! We’ll explain what self-testing is, why it’s effective, and offer different methods you can try out.
What Is Self-Testing?
Self-testing isn’t a new concept—it has been around for quite a long time now, probably for as long as exams have been around, too. If you didn’t know, self-testing is actually considered to be a learning strategy wherein you study the learning material as much as you can and then try to remember the information by answering specific questions without checking the material for the correct answers.
One way you can do self-testing is by using flashcards to test your knowledge. Studies have found that self-testing is actually an effective learning strategy. For example, there was a study wherein researchers compared the test scores of students separated into four different study conditions. The study began with the learning phase, which ensured that each group studied the learning materials using different methods.
For Group 1, the students only read the material once. Group 2 read the material repeatedly for four times. Group 3 also read the material once, but they were tasked to create a concept map of what they’ve learned afterward. Lastly, the Group 4 students had to do some self-testing after reading the information once.
A week after the learning phase, all the students took a test covering the material they studied. Unsurprisingly, Group 4 did an outstanding job on questions related to drawing inferences and verbatim factual information.
Why Is It So Effective?
Some students may believe that reading the material over and over again will help them memorize the information quickly, but repeated rereading just isn’t enough. As illustrated and proven above, self-testing is much more effective than just reading.
Why is this?
Well, there are actually two reasons for that:
- When recalling the information you’ve been studying, you create new associations and connections in your head that will allow you to easily remember said information in the future. You see, it has been proven that the process of retrieving information induces learning as a result. So, when you try to recall information from memory, you end up creating new associations to that material, allowing you to ultimately remember information easily.
- When you’re unable to recall the information at all, this is a clear indication that you lack knowledge about it. Therefore, you need to go back and review the material again. Self-testing allows you to determine what you know and don’t know, which is vital if you want to study thoroughly. After receiving a bad score on a test, many students usually say in disappointment that they thought they knew the answer. However, the only reliable way to know if you really do know something is to test yourself on it. If you’re able to remember the correct answer to the question, then you can say for sure that you know the information well.
That being said, why is repeated rereading not as effective? Studies reveal that you can actually improve your learning by rereading the material one time. But rereading it several more times is no longer effective. You see, when repeatedly rereading the material, it only gives you a sense of familiarity and this can lead to complacency as you believe that you already know the material. This is known as the “illusion of knowing.”
However, just because the material is familiar to you doesn’t mean you know it. By simply rereading, there’s a tendency that you’ll exert less mental effort to remember the information because you think you’ve already internalized the information. Of course, this isn’t to say that rereading is completely useless. It can still provide a productive learning experience when you’re trying to work out new meanings to a text or if you’re trying to understand the text better.
Different Ways to Do Self-Testing
Now that you understand why self-testing is effective, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned here today. Below, we’ve provided different ways you can do self-testing. Look and see which one works the best for you and your learning preferences.
Answer Practice Questions in Your Textbook
Most textbooks have review questions at the end of every lesson or chapter, and you should use them to your advantage. Try to make the effort of answering the questions and try not to peek at the answers. It’s normal and totally okay if you don’t answer all of them correctly, the important thing is that you’re trying to remember and improve your memory of the material.
From there, you can go ahead and review the chapter, focusing on the gaps in your answers or the ones where you didn’t answer correctly.
Answer Study Guide Questions
There are countless study guides you can check online, and many of them include practice questions you can try and answer. It would be ideal if your professor gave the students a study guide before the exam, but you can also create your own. Here’s the best approach when it comes to study guides:
- Look at the study guide questions first and review them.
- Read the material you have to study.
- Go back to the study guide questions and answer them without checking the material for the correct answers. Also, make sure that you’re not answering the questions already when you encounter them in the material.
- Check all your answers and make the necessary revisions. Then, go ahead and compare your answers to what’s found on the material, making revisions as you go along.
- Go through the material again, and this time, you can review your answers too. Make sure that you focus your attention on the gaps in your knowledge.
Create Your Own Questions
Another effective way to do self-testing is to create questions or quizzes for you to answer. After reviewing the material, write a few questions for yourself while the information is still fresh in your mind. The process of testing yourself particular questions when studying is called “cued recall.”
This is because the question makes you think of all the topics you need to remember. This is why it’s so important to ask yourself questions every time you study. This process makes studying and remembering information that much faster and easier.
You shouldn’t just study hard, but you have to study smart too. With self-testing, you can learn and remember a considerable amount of information in a much effective way than just reading the text repeatedly. Try it out the next time you have an upcoming exam—you’ll see how much better your scores will be.