On the Placement of Practice Questions During Study


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Abstract

Retrieval practice improves retention of information on later tests. A question remains: When should retrieval occur during learning—interspersed throughout study or at the end of each study period? In a lab experiment, an online experiment, and a classroom study, we aimed to determine the ideal placement (interspersed vs. at-the-end) of retrieval practice questions. In the lab experiment, 64 subjects viewed slides about APA style and answered short-answer practice questions about the content or restudied the slides (restudy condition). The practice questions either appeared 1 every 1–2 slides (interspersed condition), or all at the end of the presentation (at-the-end condition). One week later, subjects returned and answered the same questions on a final test. In the online experiment, 175 subjects completed the same procedure. In the classroom study, 62 undergraduate students took quizzes as part of class lectures. Short-answer practice questions appeared either throughout the lectures (interspersed condition) or at the end of the lectures (at-the-end condition). Nineteen days after the last quiz, students were given a surprise final test. Results from the 3 experiments converge in demonstrating an advantage for interspersing practice questions on the initial tests, but an absence of this advantage on the final test.

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