Pretesting effect

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The pretesting effect is a phenomenon where even failing to produce the correct answer or testing before learning a material improves test scores relative to regular studying (what is regular studying?).

What could be some mechanisms of this effect?

  • Attention direction: The learner might just be cued to pay attention to specific things later on as they go through the learning material. (called mathemagenic behaviors or "learning-generating" behaviors) "For example, Rothkopf and Bisbicos (1967) found that asking participants questions in which the answers were numbers led to better retention of all numerical information in the text, possibly because participants were able to direct their attention to the type of information that was important to learn given the test they would take." (p. 244)[1]
  • Effects of testing itself: ???
    • Effects on learners' "intentional learning practices" (what, specifically?) (p. 248)[1]
    • "Two explanations for those results could include that (a) test questions may provide an organizational framework that indirectly affects retention by guiding future learning, and (b) allowing participants to read test questions may induce deep processing more effectively than does merely reading the passage." (p. 250)[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lindsey E. Richland; Nate Kornell; Liche Sean Kao. "The Pretesting Effect: Do Unsuccessful Retrieval Attempts Enhance Learning?" Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. 2009, Vol. 15, No. 3, 243–257.