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Tackling exams: what works and what doesn’t?

PTI
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Studying over time and self-quizzing before exams may help you secure better grades than conventional methods of re-reading and highlighting, researchers have found.

Surprisingly, common methods, such as rereading and highlighting, get low marks when it comes to effectiveness, researchers said.

“Schools and parents spend a great deal of money on technology and programmes to improve student achievement, even though evidence often isn’t available to firmly establish that they work,” said John Dunlosky from the Kent State University.

“We wanted to take a comprehensive look at promising strategies now, in order to direct teachers, students and parents to the strategies that are effective, yet underused,” Dunlosky said.

Based on the available evidence, the researchers provide recommendations about the applicability and usefulness of each technique.

Useful strategies

While the ten learning techniques vary widely in effectiveness, two strategies — practise testing and distributed practise — made the grade, receiving the highest overall utility rating.

Dunlosky and colleagues report that spreading out your studying over time and quizzing yourself on material before the big test are highly effective learning strategies.

Both techniques have been shown to boost students’ performance across many different kinds of tests, and their effectiveness has been repeatedly demonstrated for students of all ages.

Surprising observations

In contrast, five of the techniques received a low utility rating from the researchers, according to the study.

Notably, these techniques are some of the most common learning strategies used by students, including summarisation, highlighting and underlining, and rereading.

“I was shocked that some strategies that students use a lot — such as rereading and highlighting — seem to provide minimal benefits to their learning and performance. By just replacing rereading with delayed retrieval practise, students would benefit,” said Dunlosky. “These strategies are largely overlooked in the educational psychology textbooks that beginning teachers read, so they don’t get a good introduction to them or how to use them while teaching,” Dunlosky said.PTI


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