Taking tests can help children to learn

Sitting a test can help schoolchildren to learn, in addition to serving as an assessment tool. New research published in the journals of the Association for Psychological Science discovered exams enable people to retain information over the long term.

A number of different studies have shown this to be the case, with tests also playing a part in helping individuals apply what they have learned across different contexts.

Jeri Little and colleagues at Washington University in St Louis demonstrated that test-induced learning can be fostered by appropriate multiple-choice assessments, while Shana Carpenter of Iowa State University showed how testing might enhance the transfer of learning.

Jeffrey Karpicke from Purdue University found that meaningful learning could be promoted by active retrieval and Peter Verkoeijen from Erasmus University Rotterdam discovered short-term memory for cross-language information can be boosted through exams.

For this last investigation, it was found that memory may be strengthened in different ways through restudying and testing.

Paul Mawer, a Chartered Psychologist, adds:

"This article looks at the importance of how questions are asked and suggests that exam questions can be structured in a way to help students retrieve information. From their research it would suggest that such structuring would be better to help students demonstrate their true  level of knowledge. However, this applied to multiple-choice answers and not exams using open-ended questions.

"This does raise the issue as to whether open ended questions are always the best way of testing students' knowledge and also if some exams should be structured differently."