Study: Memory Improves More with Testing

KENT, Ohio, Oct. 15 (UPI) — Regular testing and practicing for tests can improve memory by helping the brain become more efficient at storing and recalling facts, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Kent State University found that testing helps the brain come up with mental keywords called mediators that trigger memories, something that doesn’t happen with just study, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.

“Taking practice tests — particularly ones that involve attempting to recall something from memory — can drastically increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to remember that information again later,” Kent State psychologist Katherine Rawson says.

Testing is good for memory because it supports more effective encoding strategies, she says.

“Given that hundreds of experiments have been conducted to establish the effects of testing on learning, it’s surprising that we know very little about why testing improves memory,” she says.

In an experiment, subjects were tested on a foreign language vocabulary, like the Swahili-English word pair wingu/cloud.

“To learn this item, you could just repeat it over and over to yourself each time you studied it, but it turns out that’s not a particularly effective strategy for committing something to memory,” Rawson says.

“A more effective strategy is to develop a keyword that connects the foreign language word with the English word. ‘Wingu’ sounds like ‘wing’, birds have wings and fly in the ‘clouds’,” she says.

Testing is more conducive to keyword formation than study alone, she says.

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