Multiple-choice testing can improve the retention of nontested related information


Taking an initial test leads to improved performance on later tests for those previously tested questions. Whether prior testing improves one’s ability to answer related questions, however, is less clear, with some results showing impairment for related information, an effect called retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF; e.g., Anderson, Bjork, & Bjork, 1994). Two experiments investigated the use of initial multiple-choice tests on the retention of previously studied prose passages, specifically on the retention of related, but initially nontested information. In both experiments, an incorrect alternative on the initial test served as the correct answer to a related question on the final test. Results demonstrated that the retention of related information can, indeed, be facilitated by initial multiple-choice tests (Experiment 1) and that this benefit is dependant upon using competitive incorrect alternatives (Experiment 2). We discuss how and why our results differ from previous work (e.g., RIF) and address possible educational applications.

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