What Works Well – and What Doesn’t – for Improving Learning and Test Scores

Last Updated: Apr 12, 2017 2:00:00 PM

In a January 2013 report titled Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology>1, researchers, after examining 10 learning techniques, presented their findings about which were more effective…

…and we couldn’t have done any better in building the case for students to take as many as possible of the free SAT and ACT simulation tests that we provide.

Two of the ten techniques were found to be highly effective:

  • Practice testing
  • Distributed practice (spread out over time)

Another three techniques were found to be moderately effective:

  • Elaborate interrogation (generating explanations for why things are true)
  • Self-explanation (explaining how new information relates to old information)
  • Interleaved practice (practice interleaved with practice on other tasks)

Five of the techniques were found to have low effectiveness – although some of our top tutors and founder disagree, maintaining that these techniques can be rather effective:

  • Summarization (writing summaries)
  • Highlighting/underlining
  • Creating keyword mnemonics
  • Imagery use for text learning (visualizing verbal material)
  • Rereading
SAT vs. ACT: Which test is better for you?

The researchers’ findings about the effectiveness of practice testing were supported in yet another study2, this one titled Retrieval Practice Protects Memory Against Acute Stress,” that appeared in Science last November. In commenting on this study’s findings, one of its authors, Amy Smith, said:

"Even though previous research has shown that retrieval practice is one of the best learning strategies available, we were still surprised at how effective it was for individuals under stress. It was as if stress had no effect on their memory. Learning by taking tests and being forced to retrieve information over and over has a strong effect on long-term memory retention, and appears to continue to have great benefits in high-stakes, stressful situations." [our bold emphasis]

While she wasn’t specifically referring to stressful situations like actual SAT and ACT tests, she might well have been.

And the conclusion is a no-brainer: If you want to do well on your SAT and/or ACT tests, contact us today to sign up for as many of our free simulation tests as you can.

1 Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E., Nathan, M.J., Willingham, D. Improving students' learning with effective learning techniques: promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, January 2013 vol. 14, 4-58.

2 Smith, Amy M., Floerke, Victoria A., Thomas, Ayanna K. Retrieval practice protects memory against acute stress Science  25 Nov 2016: Vol. 354, Issue 6315, pp. 1046-1048

Topics: ACT Test Scores Educational Consulting SAT

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