Study Strategies of College Students: Are Self-Testing and Scheduling Related to Achievement?

By Hartwig, Marissa K.; Dunlosky, John | Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, February 2012 | Go to article overview

Study Strategies of College Students: Are Self-Testing and Scheduling Related to Achievement?


Hartwig, Marissa K., Dunlosky, John, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review


Abstract Previous studies, such as those by Kornell and Bjork (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14:219-224, 2007) and Karpicke, Butler, and Roediger (Memory, 17:471-479, 2009), have surveyed college students' use of various study strategies, including self-testing and rereading. These studies have documented that some students do use self-testing (but largely for monitoring memory) and rereading, but the researchers did not assess whether individual differences in strategy use were related to student achievement. Thus, we surveyed 324 undergraduates about their study habits as well as their college grade point average (GPA). Importantly, the survey included questions about self-testing, scheduling one's study, and a checklist of strategies commonly used by students or recommended by cognitive research. Use of self-testing and rereading were both positively associated with GPA. Scheduling of study time was also an important factor: Low performers were more likely to engage in late-night studying than were high performers; massing (vs. spacing) of study was associated with the use of fewer study strategies overall; and all students-but especially low performers-were driven by impending deadlines. Thus, self-testing, rereading, and scheduling of study play important roles in real-world student achievement.

Keywords Testing . Metamemory. Strategy use

When college students study for their classes, what strategies do they use? Some study strategies-such as rereading text materials and cramming for tests-are commonly endorsed by students (e.g., Karpicke, Butler, & Roediger, 2009; Taraban, Maki, & Rynearson, 1999), even though they may not always yield durable learning. Other strategies-like self-testing-have been demonstrated to be quite effective (Roediger & Butler, 2011), but are mentioned less frequently when students report their strategies (e.g., Karpicke et al., 2009). Of course, not all students report using the same strategies-individual differences exist between students with regard to their study habits. Are these individual differences in study habits related to student achievement? If so, what differences exist between the study habits of high achievers and low achievers? A main goal of the present study was to answer these two questions, focusing on when students schedule their study as well as which strategies they use to learn course content. Our target strategies included those that appear popular with students or that cognitive research has indicated could promote student performance, such as self-testing, asking questions, and rereading. We will first provide a brief review of studies that have investigated these specific strategies, followed by an overview of the present study and its contribution to understanding strategy use and student achievement.

Two large-scale studies have surveyed students about their regular use of specific, concrete study strategies and their rationale for using them. One survey was administered by Kornell and Bjork (2007), who sought to describe what students do to manage their real-world study. A group of 472 introductory psychology students at UCLA responded to forced choice questions regarding topics such as how they decide what to study next and whether they typically read class materials more than once. Kornell and Bjork's questionnaire and the percentages of students endorsing various scheduling practices and strategies are presented in Table 1. Results relevant to our present aims included that the majority of students (59%) prioritize for study whatever is due soonest, and that the majority of students use quizzes to evaluate how well they have learned course content (68%).

Another survey focused more narrowly on a particular strategy-self-testing-that an abundance of research has shown can boost student learning (for a recent review, see Roediger & Butler, 2011). In particular, Karpicke et al. (2009) had 177 undergraduates free-report and then rankorder the strategies that they used when studying. …

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