Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Memorial Consequences of Multiple-Choice Testing on Immediate and Delayed Tests

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Memorial Consequences of Multiple-Choice Testing on Immediate and Delayed Tests

Article excerpt

Multiple-choice testing has both positive and negative consequences for performance on later tests. Prior testing increases the number of questions answered correctly on a later test but also increases the likelihood that questions will be answered with lures from the previous multiple-choice test (Roediger & Marsh, 2005). Prior research has shown that the positive effects of testing persist over a delay, but no one has examined the durability of the negative effects of testing. To address this, subjects took multiple-choice and cued recall tests (on subsets of questions) both immediately and a week after studying. Although delay reduced both the positive and negative testing effects, both still occurred after 1 week, especially if the multiple-choice test had also been delayed. These results are consistent with the argument that recollection underlies both the positive and negative testing effects.

Multiple-choice exams are commonly used in classrooms, since they are easy to grade and their scoring is perceived as objective. Although much has been written about the assessment function of such tests, less research has focused on the consequences of this form of testing for long-term knowledge. This gap in the literature is troubling, because the available results suggest that tests can change knowledge, in addition to assessing it. The most well-known example is the testing effect, the finding that taking an initial test often increases performance on a later test (see Roediger & Karpicke, 2006a, for a review).

Whereas earlier work on testing tended to rely on simple word list stimuli, more recently the emphasis has shifted to studying the effects of testing in educationally relevant situations (Butler, Marsh, Goode, & Roediger, 2006; Marsh, Agarwal, & Roediger, 2009; Marsh, Roediger, Bjork, & Bjork, 2007; Roediger, Agarwal, Kang, & Marsh, 2010; Roediger & Marsh, 2005). In the typical experiment, subjects read nonfiction passages on a variety of topics and then take an initial multiple-choice test. A few minutes later, they take a final cued recall test that includes questions that were tested on the prior multiplechoice test, as well as new questions. Subjects are more likely to answer final cued recall questions correctly if they were tested on the prior multiple-choice test, thus showing the testing effect.

A second effect in this sort of experiment is more problematic: Multiple-choice testing can also have negative effects on students' knowledge. The reason is that multiple- choice tests expose students to incorrect answers (lures), in addition to correct responses. Just as Brown (1988) and Jacoby and Hollingshead (1990) showed that exposure to incorrect spellings of words increased later misspellings, one could predict that reading lures on a multiple-choice test would increase errors on later tests. Supporting this logic, Toppino and his colleagues showed that students rated previously read multiple-choice lures as truer than novel false facts (Toppino & Brochin, 1989; Toppino & Luipersbeck, 1993). Similarly, Roediger and Marsh (2005) found that multiple-choice testing increased the intrusion of multiple-choice lures as answers on a final general knowledge test, even though subjects were warned not to guess on that test. Consistent with an interference account, multiple-choice questions that paired the correct answer with a greater number of lures increased this negative effect of testing.

Prior work has established that multiple-choice tests can have both positive and negative consequences. But how persistent are these effects? Prior research has established that positive testing effects persist over at least a week's delay. For example, Spitzer (1939) had 3,605 sixthgraders in Iowa read a passage on bamboo. The children were tested on the passage according to different testing schedules. In one group, children were tested on the passage immediately after reading it and again 1 week later. …

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