Pretesting with Multiple-choice Questions Facilitates Learning


Taking a pretest can improve subsequent learning of that pretested information. How the pretest affects subsequent learning of other information is less clear. In three experiments, we examined the consequences of taking a multiple-choice pretest on the later recall of both pretested and non-pretested related information, finding that pretesting improved recall of pretested information without impairing recall of non-pretested information. In addition, we compared a pretest condition to conditions in which subjects were told to memorize the questions and in which subjects studied facts prior to reading. Although taking a pretest was not significantly more effective than memorizing questions or studying facts for the pre-exposed information, it did not impair the learning of related information, whereas studying facts did. Thus, even when a multiple-choice pretest takes time away from study, that pretest appears to make subsequent study more effective than other types of activities that pre-expose students to to-be-tested information.

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