Long-term Retention of Prose Following Testing

Testing enhances later recall by highschool students of a history text
psychology
by: P. Duchastel, R. Nungester 2012-01-292013-08-24 finished certainty: log importance: 0


This tran­script was sourced from Ammons Sci­en­tific.

  • P. Duchas­tel and R. Nungester (1981); “Long-term Reten­tion of Prose Fol­low­ing Test­ing”. : Vol­ume 49, Issue 2, pg470. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1981.49.2.470

Long-term Retention of Prose Following Testing

P. Duchas­tel and R. Nungester

The Amer­i­can Col­lege, Bryn Mawr

Tak­ing a test on con­tent which has just been stud­ied is known to enhance later reten­tion of the mate­r­ial stud­ied1. This test­ing effect is gen­er­ally exam­ined through a reten­tion test admin­is­tered a few (typ­i­cally two) weeks after ini­tial learn­ing and test­ing. The present study exam­ined this phe­nom­e­non with respect to long-term ben­e­fits which might result from test­ing. This was accom­plished through the admin­is­tra­tion of a reten­tion test 5 months fol­low­ing a typ­i­cal study of effects of test­ing.

In the ini­tial study2, high­-school stu­dents stud­ied a brief his­tory text, then took a test on the pas­sage, spent equiv­a­lent time review­ing the pas­sage, or went on to an unre­lated filler task. A reten­tion test given 2 weeks later indi­cated that the test con­di­tion resulted in sig­nifi­cantly bet­ter reten­tion than either the review or the con­trol con­di­tions.

Five months lat­er, these same 83 stu­dents were admin­is­tered a 12-item mul­ti­ple-choice test (five options per item) sim­i­lar to the reten­tion test they had com­pleted ear­li­er. Reten­tion after 5 months was less over-all, but the data closely par­al­lel the data obtained on the 2-week reten­tion test. The respec­tive means and stan­dard devi­a­tions are as fol­lows: Test group: M = 6.0, σ = 2.3; Review group: M = 5.1, σ = 1.7; Con­trol group: M = 4.8, σ = 2.1 The analy­sis of vari­ance of these data gave an F2.80 of 2.4 which was, how­ev­er, only sig­nifi­cant at p < .10.

While the analy­sis did not repli­cate the strong sig­nifi­cant differ­ences found after 2 weeks, it is nev­er­the­less of inter­est that the order of the group means after 5 months exactly fol­lows pre­dic­tion and closely par­al­lels the order of the group means after 2 weeks. A study with more power (for instance, with more sub­jects) would prob­a­bly estab­lish clearly sig­nifi­cant group differ­ences. In con­clu­sion, the data indi­cate the pos­si­bil­ity that tak­ing a test imme­di­ately after learn­ing may lead to an advan­tage in reten­tion (although a small one) even at a much later time. Test­ing may thus be a pow­er­ful way of enhanc­ing long-term reten­tion.


  1. Duchastel, P. “Reten­tion of prose mate­ri­als: the effect of test­ing”. Jour­nal of Edu­ca­tional Research, 1979, 72, 399-300.↩︎

  2. Nungester, R. & Duchastel, P. “Test­ing ver­sus review: effects on reten­tion”. Jour­nal of Edu­ca­tional Psy­chol­ogy, in press.↩︎