The Effect of Announced Quizzes on Exam Performance: Quiz Content

Article excerpt

I administered quizzes to two sections of a course named "The Psychology of Learning." There were three multiple choice exams during the semester. Quizzes were given between exam 1 and exam 2. For one section, (lecture) quizzes occurred after the material had been covered in lecture. For the other section, quizzes were based on material not yet covered in lecture (textbook). Both sections received a total of 8 quizzes which were identical. The rational for this study was that the textbook section would have to read the book on a regular basis thereby improving exam 2 performance. Both sections were academically the same in on such measures as overall G.P.A.s, hours already taken and credits taken that semester. No differences were found between the exam 2 scores in the 2 sections. In addition, both sections performed equally on the quizzes.

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Quizzes, either announced or unannounced (pop quizzes) may serve several instructional purposes, including increased attendance (Azorlosa, 2011; Azorlosa & Renner, 2006; Hovell, Williams & Semb, 1979; Wilder, Flood & Stromnes, 2001) and increased reading of the text prior to an exam (Azorlosa, 2011; Azorlosa & Renner, 2006; Marchant, 2002; Ruscio, 2001; Wilder et al., 2001). With regularly scheduled exams, many students studying follow an Fixed Interval (FI) pattern in which they study very little until right before an exam and then do the majority of the studying a day (or night before) the exam. Research has provided empirical support for this "cramming" phenomenon (Mawhinney, 1971). It may seem intuitively obvious that several quizzes before an exam will reduce the FI effect and promote increased studying in between exams. Nonetheless, evidence for quizzes improving exam performance is mixed. Several studies have found that quizzes (or a greater number of exams) had no effect on exam performance (Azorlosa & Renner, 2006; Beaulieu & Frost, 1989; Beaulieu & Utecht, 1989; Conard,Spenser & Semb, 1978; Gurung, 2003; Lumsden, 1976; Wilder et al., 2001). Other studies have found that quizzes (or more frequent exams) improve exam performance (Azorlosa, 2011; Beaulieu & Zar, 1986; Fulkerson & Martin (1981); Geiger & Bostow, 1976; Hadsell, 2009; Johnson, & Kiviniemi, 2009; Noll, 1939). Another study reported somewhat mixed results. Daniel, (2004) reported that on-line quizzes did not increase exam performance compared to written quizzes but after some adjustment, both web-bases and in class quizzes both increased exam performance. Other studies found that quizzes have beneficial effects such as reduced exam anxiety (Sporer, 2001) and increased reading of the material in the text (Ruscio, 2001). However, these two studies did not present data as to whether the quizzes improved exam performance.

Although the literature on the effect of quizzes is mixed, an examination of the studies by Azorlosa & Renner, (2006) and Azorlosa, (2011) may shed some light on this topic. In the Azorlosa & Renner study, we found that multiple choice quizzes had no effect on exam performance whereas Azorlosa, (2011) found that quizzes improved exam performance by over eight percentage points. The difference was that in the first study, the quizzes were multiple choice but the exams were essay. In the latter study, both the quizzes and exams were multiple choice. This may have been the crucial difference. In order for quizzes to have a beneficial effect on exam performance, both the quizzes and the exams may have to be in the same format.

Based on several studies, including the most recent (Azorlosa, 2011) it appears that quizzes can improve exam performance. In the Azorlosa (2011) study, the quizzes were a mixture of material already covered in lecture and new material. It seems important to determine whether quizzes should consist of material already covered in lecture or whether they should consist of all new material. …