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Effects Of Testing On Long-Term Retention

Effects of Testing on Long-Term Retention

Imagine your staff or students are sitting through another in-person training. In front of them is a well-spoken professional showing them how to use a new software, how to work more effectively with peers, or how to follow a new, evidence-based medical procedure. Without an assessment to test learning outcomes following trainings, chances are good that critical information gets lost in the shuffle over time. So, how can you ensure information from trainings is retained? It’s simple! Create a quick assessment utilizing a training platform that tests learners’ recognition of new information.

Multiple choice, true/false, and yes/no questions are all exam item types that test learner recognition. Utilizing an online training platform, it is easy to assess knowledge acquisition following a training. I know what you may be thinking: Can’t reading materials provided after trainings help trainees retain critical information better? Unfortunately, this is not true. According to Messineo, Gentile, and Allegra (2015), test-enhanced learning provides superior long-term retention when compared to re-reading without testing. The difference in retention rates between test-enhanced learning groups and re-reading without testing groups has been found to be statistically significant in a number of empirical studies (Fazio, Agarwal, Marsh, & Roediger, 2010; Karpicke & Roediger, 2008). Below are tips to improve long-term retention following a training program.

Improving Long-Term Retention via Testing on Trainings

Items Testing Recognition


Tips to Improve Long-Term Retention

  1. Utilize multiple choice, true/false, and yes/no questions. They are easy to create and administer via an online training platform.
  2. Provide explanations for correct and incorrect answer choices. Doing so prevents learning errors over time (Butler, Karpicke, & Roediger, 2008).
  3. Multiple choice questions with competitive correct and incorrect answer choices encourage greater critical thinking, which results in “beneficial retrieval processes” of new information and related information for employees and students (Little & Bjork, 2015, p.14).



Butler, A. C., Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2008). Correcting a metacognitive error: Feedback increases retention of low-confidence correct responses.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 918–928. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.34.4.918

Fazio, L. K., Agarwal, P. K., Marsh, E. J., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2010). Memorial consequences of multiple-choice testing on immediate and delayed tests.  Memory & Cognition, 38, 407–418. doi:10.3758/MC.38.4.407

Karpicke, J. D., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2008). The critical importance of retrieval for learning.  Science, 319, 966–968. doi:10.1126/science.1152408

Little, J. L., & Bjork, E. L. (2015). Optimizing multiple-choice tests as tools for learning.  Memory and Cognition, 43, 14–26. doi:10.3758/s13421-014-0452-8

Messineo, L., Gentile, M., & Allegra, M. (2015). Test-enhanced learning: analysis of an experience with undergraduate nursing students.  BMC Medical Education, 15, 1–7. doi:10.1186/s12909-015-0464-5


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