Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Effect of Prelecture Quizzes on Exam Scores in a Management Course

Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Effect of Prelecture Quizzes on Exam Scores in a Management Course

Article excerpt


If students read the assigned material before a class meeting, their learning outcomes, as measured by exam scores, may improve [Sappington, Kinsey and Munsayac, 2002]. Reading before class may be particularly important if the pedagogy requires active learning in class, as is the case in a Management course that contains a participatory case analysis or a team exercise. But student self-reports [Sikorski, Rich, Saville and Buskist, 2002; Clump, Bauer and Bradley, 2004; Berry, Cook, Hill and Stevens, 2013] indicate that few students comply with the instruction to read before class. An analysis of pop quizzes [Burchfield and Sappington, 2000] found that only 24 percent of students in their 100- and 200-level courses actually read the assignment before class meeting-a percentage even lower than the low percentage indicated by self-reports. This low level of compliance suggests that methods to motivate reading before the class meeting may improve student learning outcomes and student exam scores.

One way to motivate students to read before class is to give prelecture quizzes over the assigned reading. Prelecture quizzes are a strategy of behavior modification: the quizzes provide rewards (high quiz scores) to reinforce the desired behavior (reading the assignment before class) and punishment (low quiz scores) for failure to read before class. If the prelecture quizzes produce more efficient study (from as spaced learning or from a richer classroom experience), or even if they simply produce more total time spent studying, the quizzes should, all else equal, lead to higher scores on exams.

A number of studies in the psychology literature (see review below) have attempted to measure the effect of prelecture quizzes on exam scores. Their findings have been inconsistent: several studies found that prelecture quizzes improved exam scores significantly, but other studies detected no effect. Replication or corroboration of the reported experimental results would therefore be valuable. It would also be valuable to investigate the possibility that any improvement in exam scores is explained simply as the result of improvements in attendance, and to extend the prelecture quiz pedagogy to disciplines beyond psychology

This paper describes how I designed a regimen of pre-announced, forcredit prelecture quizzes, applied the quiz regimen to a course in Management, and assessed the effect of the quizzes upon student exam scores, student attendance, and student attitudes. I first review the literature on prelecture quizzes and then discuss the design of my quizzes, exams, and experiment.


It is important to distinguish prelecture quizzes, which serve primarily as instruments of motivation, from postlecture quizzes or "tests," which are typically instruments of assessment. A literature on the frequency of testing [Bacon and Stewart, 2006; Bangert-Downs and Kulik, 1991; Connor-Greene, 2000; Daniel and Broida, 2004; Fulkerson and Martin, 1981; Grover, Becker and Davis, 1989; Kling, McCorkle, Miller and Reardon, 2005] has found that frequent testing (i.e., frequent postlecture "mastery" quizzes) can increase exam scores, due to the benefits of spaced learning [Dempster, 1996; McIntyre and Munson, 2008] or perhaps due to a "practice effect" when quiz questions are similar to exam questions. Prelecture quizzes, by contrast, aim to change student study behavior, and often use questions that are "easy" or are deliberately dissimilar to the questions used on the exams.

Several studies of prelecture quizzes have found that they are an effective way to change student study behavior. Solomon [1979], studying a regimen of unannounced ("pop") extra-credit quizzes, reported improved performance on a writing assignment. Carkenord [1994], Thorne [2000], and Wilder, Flood and Stromsnes [2001], studying extra-credit quizzes or assignments, all detected higher levels of student preparation and attendance. …

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