Making (Low-Stakes) Practice Tests More Effective
Practice tests not only help surface gaps in knowledge—they also strengthen memory.
Frequent, low-stakes quizzes help boost memory. In a 2014 study, students who simply reread material for an upcoming exam scored 50 percent, on average. But students who took practice tests did much better—scoring 66 percent on the exam.
Research shows that when students rely exclusively on reviewing or rereading the material, they can develop a false impression that they understand the topic. Practice tests help close the gap between what students know and what they think they know.
To get the most out of practice tests, make them low-stakes, which can help decrease test anxiety. Timing also matters: It’s helpful to give a practice test right after a lesson and continue to give them throughout the school year. Since students may not realize what questions they got wrong—or why—be sure to give feedback. Finally, simple prep strategies (such as flash cards) can dramatically improve a student’s performance.