We’ve reported on the learning power of tests and quizzes in previous issues. But the majority of that evidence was based on lab experiments, where conditions are tightly controlled.

So what about learning in the real world, where things are messier?

Researchers conducted an experiment in several eighth-grade science classrooms in Illinois. They divided students into two groups. Both groups received the same initial instruction. For reinforcement, one group had three review sessions while the other group took three quizzes.

On the final test, members of the quiz group scored 13 to 25% higher. During the study period, the average grade for the quiz group was A-; for the review group, it was C+. And on a follow-up exam eight months later, the testing group did better.

Trainer takeaway: Keep those quizzes coming. They’re a proven, powerful way to get learning to stick. For example, you might give follow-up quizzes the day after, a week after and month after the training is concluded. (For more on optimal reinforcement schedules, see Rapid Learning Insights vol. 1, no. 1).

Source: McDaniel, M. A., et al. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in a middle school science classroom: The effects of quiz frequency and placement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 399-414.

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