Recall efforts (e.g., fill-in-the-blank quizzes) remain more effective than recognition (multiple choice or truefalse). Researchers reinforced that finding when teaching Swahili to 25 adults.

The students studied a list of 100 words and definitions until they knew them all. Then one week later, a control group was given the list of words again to restudy. A second group was given a translation task, which required them to recall the words and their definitions.

A final translation exam was given one week later.

Those who had to recall the words – that is, those who performed the translations – were able to translate the words about a second faster than those who had simply restudied the list. And they got 10% more correct answers than the restudiers.

Bottom line: Our brains build better pathways to memories when we actively retrieve information instead of only recognizing it.

Source: van den Broek, G.S.E., et al. (2013). “Neural correlates of testing effects in vocabulary learning. NeuroImage, September, 94-102.

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