Quiz and recall

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This article is about a learning technique.
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Quiz and recall is a "depth one" form of active recall. The term has been popularized by Cal Newport in his book How To Be A Straight A Student. The idea is to prepare a list of question prompts and answers in advance, and then, at review time, to go through the question prompts, attempt to actively recall the answers (speaking them out loud or writing them down as necessary) and then check against the answers that were noted down earlier.


Preparation stage

In the preparation step (typically carried out in the initial review stage), question prompts and answers are prepared. The question prompts are prepared in a manner where it is easy to read only the question prompts without seeing the answers. For instance, the question prompt may be written on the front of a flash card and the answer on the back.

Recall stage

When using quiz and recall, the learner looks at the question prompts, attempts to answer them, and checks the answers against the recorded answers.

Parameters relevant to quiz and recall

Preparation stage parameter: Granularity of questions

If the questions are at a broad level: "Describe everything you know about the invasion of Normandy" then recalling everything -- and checking the recalled material against the noted answer, is an instance of active recall. If, on the other hand, the question prompts are more specific and narrow, then the part of the recall that involves remembering what items to remember is done passively, and only the actual value of the item is being actively recalled. For more, see summary table of methods of recall.

Recall stage parameter: format of recording attempts

The following are some choices that can be made regarding how to execute the recall stage:

Parameter Description Advantages Disadvantages
using another person as quizzer The other person reads the question prompts and evaluates answer attempts. can be faster
allows for the use of hints in case the learner is stuck or in case the learner gets the answer almost correct
requires another person to cooperate, and therefore more labor-intensive and expensive
written recording of answers The learner records his/her answers in writing before checking them against the answer attempts. clearer recording leads to less ambiguity about what the learner intended to record
more compatible with batch-processing of prompts
More time-intensive
batch processing of prompts The learner attempts many question prompts and then checks the answers. allows for more opportunities to check and fix answers, or recall something not quite at the forefront of the mind requires writing down answers because it is difficult to store a large batch of attempted answers in memory
doesn't test for fingertip knowledge (i.e., knowledge for immediate recall) which may be what is needed in some cases