Vocab tip: A is for Active recall

Don’t just study words – test yourself!

Learning new words by testing yourself is  called “active recall”.:

  • Testing your vocab saves you time.
    In 1969 researchers compared students who learned vocabulary by simply reading the word again and again with students who learned by testing themselves. 
    The students who tested themselves just one time created memories which were as strong one day later as those who studied the word five times. 

  • Testing your vocab is twice as effective as simple studying.
    In 2003, researchers found that a week after first learning new words, students who tested themselves could still remember 80%  while those who simply studied the words could only remember 35%, even if they had studied the words a number of times.

Most vocab learners  test themselves occasionally but researchers found that generally this was to discover how much  they already knew and not as a tool for learning new words. And, although testing is much more powerful than simple restudying, researchers found that most language learners think restudying was more effective.

So, get testing – and check your friends are too!

More A-Z of vocabulary tips. – this research review on spaced repetition includes an invaluable and quirky summary of the research into the testing effect.

 Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. Science, 331, 772-775. Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011).

Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Karpicke, J. D., Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L. (2009).

The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning Karpicke & Roediger (2003).

 Effects of recall tests on long-term retention of paired associates. Allen, Mahler & Estes,  (1969).

Post image from Wikimedia Commons


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