Spaced schedules of testing (like spaced schedules of studying) produce better long-term retention than a single test. When a single test is administered immediately after learning, students obtain high scores, but long-term retention is reduced with a single immediate test relative to spaced testing. When a test is given immediately after learning has occurred, learners still have the newly-learned information in a primary memory system and therefore obtain high test scores. Both teachers and learners often misjudge their high scores on a test given immediately after learning as evidence of good retention, when, in fact, long-term retention suffers with this practice.
- Teachers should give frequent tests so that the high scores on tests that are immediately given after learning can be maintained over time. If a single test is given soon after learning, both teachers and students fall prey to the “illusion of competence” or belief that the learners have information available in long-term memory, when in fact they do not.
- Bahrick, H.P., Bahrick, L.E., Bahrick, A.S., & Bahrick, P.E. (1993). Maintenance of foreign language vocabulary and the spacing effect. Psychological Science, 4, 316-321.
- Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T.& Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 354-380.
- Cull, W. L. (2000). Untangling the benefits of multiple study opportunities and repeated testing for cured recall. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14, 215-235.