The Effect of Announced Quizzes on Exam Performance: II

Article excerpt

I administered announced, multiple-choice quizzes to 1 of 2 sections of a Psychology of Learning class in each of 2 consecutive fall semesters. The quizzes were administered between the first and second exams which were also multiple-choice. Quizzes were discontinued after the second exam. After the second exam, students completed a questionnaire about the quizzes, their study habits and their preparation for the second exam. I found that quizzes increased attendance and that students had a positive impression of the quizzes and their impact on studying and exam preparation. Quizzes also significantly improved exam performance in both semesters. This finding is compared to an earlier report by the author in which quizzes bad no effect on exam performance.

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Quizzes, either announced or unannounced (i.e., "pop" quizzes) may serve several pedagogical objectives. It has been reported that both announced and unannounced quizzes increase attendance (Azorlosa & Renner, 2006; Hovell, Williams & Semb, 1979; Wilder, Flood & Stromsnes, 2001), increase student reading of assigned material (Marchant, 2002; Ruscio, 2001; Wilder et al., 2001) and increase studying in between exams as opposed to "cramming" (Azorlosa & Renner, 2006; Wilder et al., 2001). This latter effect may be especially important because of the tendency of many students to postpone studying until an exam is imminent (Mawhinney, 1971). This pattern of studying is characteristic of behavior on a fixed-interval (FI) schedule of reinforcement in which the behavior occurs at a low level at the start of the interval and gradually increases as the interval draws to a close. This FI scalloping occurs if a student does little or no studying for most of the interval between exams but "crams" a day or two before the test. Once the test is taken, studying ceases and the pattern repeats itself. This is not the best study method because it is well-established that distributed practice is more effective than massed practice (Dempster, 1996)

However, perhaps the most important intended effect of quizzes is improved exam performance. Surprisingly, this topic has received relatively little attention and the evidence is mixed. A few studies have found that quizzes improve exam performance (Geiger & Bostow, 1976; Graham, 1999; Narloch, Garbin & Turnage, 2006; Noll, 1939; Padilla-Walker, 2006) but others have found no effect (Beaulieu & Utecht, 1987; Lumsden, 1976). Recently, we also found that quizzes did not improve exam performance (Azorlosa & Renner, 2006) although students nonetheless found them to be beneficial. We speculated that the failure to find that quizzes improved exam scores may have been because of difference in format; exams were essay but quizzes were multiple-choice. For several reasons, subsequent to that study, I changed the test format in that course (The Psychology of Learning) to multiple choice. I then decided to reexamine the effects of quizzes on exam performance when both were multiple choice. This was the purpose of the present study.

Method

Participants

Participants were undergraduates enrolled in four sections of a Psychology of Learning class taught by the author in two consecutive fall semesters (designated Fall 1 and Fall 2). In Fall 1, 50 students completed the course. In Fall 2, 40 completed the course.

Procedure

In each semester there were three multiple-choice exams, each of which covered the most recent material. For both sections (Quiz and No-Quiz) in both semesters, all sections had the same textbook (Domjan, 2003), took identical exams and had virtually the same lectures. After the first exam, a coin toss determined which of the two class sections would receive quizzes. Students in the Quiz section (Fall 1, n=29; Fall 2, n=24) were informed that quizzes would be announced at least one class period in advance and what material each quiz would cover. …