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“Test” Is Not A Curse Word

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As a recent graduate, I remember all too well the shivers we would get as students when professors muttered the word “test” or “quiz”. If you wanted to hear a symphony of groans, add in the word now and a sea of furrowed brows and hand slams would fill the room.

Tests get a bad rap in the academic world nowadays. With test anxiety being shed to light, academia has become aware of the negative effects it can have on students. Some students dislike testing because it makes them question their intelligence with every wrong answer. Others get stage fright, and can’t perform under the pressure, time constraint, etc.

Not everyone’s IQ is defined by a mere test by any means, and some professors have shied away from administering them. For some students, an examination apocalypse would be a dream, but what if I told you that testing could actually be a good thing?

It’s all about the execution.

According to the Scientific American article Researchers Find That Frequent Tests Can Boost Learning  through the psychological process of retrieval practice, the repetitious nature of test taking actually aids students in retaining knowledge longer term as opposed to traditional teaching methods (Paul). Retrieval practice, formally known as “the testing effect” argues against the “reading the material and being tested on it later” method, but rather encourages students  to learn through frequent state of testing. Now while consistent testing sounds intense, many do not realize the brain empowered blessings this poses. Studies have shown that when testing a student on material even before they have had their lecture can improve knowledge retention rates even beyond the final exam.

Learning Curve and iClicker are excellent examples of just that. Learning Curve allows students to answer multiple choice and short answer questions before the actual lecture, making students read the material and answer basic questions on what they read. To continue the testing repetition, using iClicker’s REEF Polling can continue the testing habit in a group setting. If more students get in the habit of answering questions based on the material, when it is time to take the official exam, they are more likely to excel and score higher.

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Paul, Annie Murphy. "Researchers Find That Frequent Tests Can Boost Learning." Scientific American. N.p., 08 July 2015. Web. 24 May 2017.


Nice post! Interestingly enough, you can think of the test as an incentive for the student to study and learn.  The instructor doesn't like administering or grading the test, but prefers that the students study and learn.  What if the instructor lies and says there will be test tomorrow, but never administers the test.  Then the students can learn and study without all of the negative connotations surrounding testing (and the instructor won't have additional work either:)).  An instructor could probably play this game a few times, but has to be careful not to turn into the boy who cried wolf and lose their credibility.  Different patterns of announcing a test and administering or not administering a test could turn into a really cool experiment.  

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It's funny you mention this, because I had a professor that did exactly that to my class. I was taking Music Theory at the time and since I never studied it in High School it was the one class I did not mess around in. He would announce a quiz date and when the day came he'd say "Eh, I didn't feel like photocopying. I'll just give you a bigger quiz later." Some of us would get upset, others would be relieved (me), and then you had the theory geniuses that didn't care either way. For someone like me who was worried about failing a quiz cause the material was very fresh for me, this experiment worked on me to solidify the knowledge (out of fear of failing). However, for the students annoyed at this they began to stop caring and wouldn't study at all until the final. It's a total unofficial, unrecorded experiment, but it was funny to see a class so divided on his lackadaisical-esque teaching style.

All that being said, he was a fabulous professor and made Music theory seem so easy.

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee

Excellent post! If only we had a highly produced video that spoke to this...Oh, wait! David Myers - Make Things Memorable - YouTube   Smiley Happy

I *think* Katherine Nurre and or Lindsay Johnson were behind the video.

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This video is perfect! I would have totally added this in if I had known it existed. Thanks for sharing, I love produced videos like this.