Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 11
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: September 2009

4 - Influence of practice tests on the accuracy of predicting memory performance for paired associates, sentences, and text material


Learning and retaining class material is not only the primary goal in many class exercises (e.g. from learning the ABC to the periodic table of the elements) but may be essential for successfully mastering more complex lessons (e.g. reading, and developing chemical compounds). Accordingly, many researchers and educators have devoted their careers to engineering techniques that will improve learning. In the present chapter, we discuss the utility of one technique for improving individuals' ability to master new materials: practice tests or self-testing. A practice test involves an individual testing their memory or comprehension of class material to evaluate whether they will succeed on a subsequent test and, as such, can be considered a metacognitive activity. That is, practice testing may inform the learner about the degree to which to-be-learned materials have been stored in memory (or have been comprehended) so that they can accurately predict future test performance. In this way, practice tests may help students to regulate their study more effectively. For instance, a student may devise a test to evaluate whether to-be-learned material can be retrieved. If the material is retrieved during the test, they can move on to study other less well-learned materials. If the material is not successfully retrieved, then more study time should be allocated. The idea is that self-testing will improve the efficiency of self-regulated learning by helping students isolate poorly learned material for restudy. This simple strategy has been included in popular learning techniques and is undoubtedly used by many students.

Begg, I., Duft, S., Lalonde, P., Melnick, R., and Sanvito, J. (1989). Memory predictions are based on ease of processing. Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 610–632
Begg, I. M., Martin, L. A., and Needham, D. R. (1992). Memory monitoring: how useful is self-knowledge about memory?European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 4, 195–218
Connor, L. T., Dunlosky, J., and Hertzog, C. (1997). Age-related differences in absolute but not relative metamemory accuracy. Psychology and Aging, 12, 50–71
Clark, S. E., Hori, A., and Callan, D. E. (1993). Forced-choice associative recognition: implications for global-memory models. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 19, 871–881
Dunlosky, J., Domoto, P. K., Wang, M., Ishikawa, T., Roberson, I., Nelson, T. O., and Ramsay, D. (1998). Inhalation of 30% nitrous oxide impairs people's learning without impairing people's judgments of what will be remembered. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 6, 77–86
Dunlosky, J., and Hertzog, C. (1997). Older and younger adults use a functionally identical algorithm to select items for restudy during multitrial learning. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Science, 52, 178–186
Dunlosky, J., and Hertzog, C. (1998). Aging and deficits in associative memory: What is the role of strategy production?Psychology and Aging, 13, 597–607
Dunlosky, J. and Nelson, T. O. (1992). Importance of the kind of cue for judgments of learning (JOLs) and the delayed-JOL effect. Memory and Cognition, 20, 373–380
Dunlosky, J. and Nelson, T. O. (1994). Does the sensitivity of judgments of learning (JOLs) to the effects of various study activities depend on when the JOLs occur?Journal of Memory and Language, 33, 545–565
Dunlosky, J. and Nelson, T. O. (1997). Similarity between the cue for judgments of learning (JOL) and the cue for test is not the primary determinant of JOL accuracy. Journal of Memory and Language, 36, 34–49
Glenberg, A., Sanocki, T., Epstein, W., and Morris, C. (1987). Enhancing calibration of comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 116, 119–136
Hart, J. T. (1965). Memory and the feeling-of-knowing experience. Journal of Educational Psychology, 56, 208–216
Hall, L. K., and Bahrick, H. P. (1998). The validity of metacognitive predictions of widespread learning and long-term retention. In G. Mazzoni and T. O. Nelson (eds.), Metacognition and cognitive neuropsychology: monitoring and control processes, pp. 23–36. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Kelemen, W. L. (2000). Metamemory cues and monitoring accuracy: judging what you know and what you will know. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 800–810
Kelemen, W. L., and Weaver, C. A. Ⅲ (1997). Enhanced metamemory at delays: why do judgments of learning improve over time?Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 23, 1394–1409
King, J. F., Zechmeister, E. B., and Shaughnessy, J. J. (1980). Judgments of knowing: the influence of retrieval practice. American Journal of Psychology, 93, 329–343
Kintsch, W. (1994). Text comprehension, memory, and learning. American Psychologist, 49, 294–303
Koriat, A. (1993). How do we know that we know? The accessibility model of the feeling of knowing. Psychological Review, 100, 609–639
Koriat, A., and Goldsmith, M. (1994). Memory in naturalistic and laboratory contexts: distinguishing the accuracy-oriented and quantity-oriented approaches to memory assessment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 123, 297–315
Krinsky, R., and Nelson, T. O. (1985). The feeling of knowing for different types of retrieval failure. Acta Psychologica, 58, 141–158
Kubat, A. K. (2000). Training older adults’ self-regulation skills to improve learning. Paper presented at the 46th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, New Orleans, LA
Lin, L. M., and Zabrucky, K. M. (1998). Calibration of comprehension: research and implications for education and instruction. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 23, 345–391
Lovelace, E. A. (1984). Metamemory: Monitoring future recallability during study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 10, 756–766
Maki, R. H. (1998a). Predicting performance on text: delayed versus immediate predictions and tests. Memory and Cognition, 26, 959–964
Maki, R. H. (1998b). Test predictions over text material. In D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, and A. C. Graesser (eds.), Metacognition in educational theory and practice, pp. 117–144. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Maki, R. H., and Serra, M. (1992). The basis of test predictions for text material. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 18, 116–126
McDonald, S. L. (1997). What underlies the accuracy of predictions of recall for sentences? A competitive evaluation of two hypotheses. Master's thesis, UNCG
Morris, C. (1990). Retrieval processes underlying confidence in comprehension judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 16, 223–232
Nelson, T. O. (1984). A comparison of current measures of the accuracy of feeling-of-knowing predictions. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 109–133
Nelson, T. O. (1996). Consciousness and metacognition. American Psychologist, 51, 102–116
Nelson, T. O., and Dunlosky, J. (1991). When people's judgments of learning (JOLs) are extremely accurate at predicting subsequent recall: the “delayed-JOL effect.”Psychological Science, 2, 267–270
Nelson, T. O., and Dunlosky, J. (1992). How shall we explain the delayed-judgment-of-learning effect?Psychological Science, 3, 317–318
Nelson, T. O., and Dunlosky, J. (1996). Toward the theoretical mechanisms underlying immediate versus delayed judgments of learning. Paper presented at the 37th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Chicago, IL
Nelson, T. O., Dunlosky, J., Graf, A., and Narens, L. (1994). Utilization of metacognitive judgments in the allocation of study during multitrial learning. Psychological Science, 5, 207–213
Nelson, T. O., Graf, A., Dunlosky, J., Marlatt, A., Walker, D., and Luce, K. (1998). Effect of acute alcohol intoxication on recall and on judgments of learning during the acquisition of new material. G. Mazzoni, and T. O. Nelson (eds.), Metacognition and neuropsychology, pp. 161–180. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Rawson, K., Dunlosky, J., and McDonald, S. (2002). Influences of metamemory on performance predictions for text. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 55A, 505–524
Rawson, K., Dunlosky, J., and Thiede, K. W. (2000). The rereading effect: metacomprehension accuracy improves across reading trials. Memory and Cognition, 28, 1004–1010
Schwartz, B. L., and Metcalfe, J. (1994). Methodological problems and pitfalls in the study of human metacognition. In J. Metcalfe and A. P. Shimamura (eds.), Metacognition: knowing about knowing, pp. 93–114. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Spellman, B. A., and Bjork, R. A. (1992). When predictions create reality: judgments of learning may alter what they are intended to assess. Psychological Science, 3, 315–316
Thiede, K. W. (1999). The importance of monitoring and self-regulation during multi-trial learning. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 6, 662–667
Thiede, K. W., and Dunlosky, J. (1994). Delaying students’ metacognitive monitoring improves their accuracy in predicting their recognition performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 290–302
Weaver, C. A. Ⅲ, and Bryant, D. S. (1995). Monitoring of comprehension: the role of text difficulty in metamemory for narrative and expository text. Memory and Cognition, 23, 12–22
Weaver, C. A. Ⅲ, and Kelemen, W. L. (1997). Judgments of learning at delays: shifts in response patterns or increased metamemory accuracy?Psychological Science, 8, 318–321