When it comes to painful experiences, test taking ranks right up there with root canals and stomach bugs. And that’s especially true about the anxiety-producing SATs and ACTs, major tests that truly affect a student’s future. But new evidence suggests that test taking is an important educational tool that does much more than just evaluate how much someone knows; it actually helps people learn better! According to research recently published in the journal Science, To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test, students who take a test after learning something new recall about 50% more of that information the following week than students can recall who don’t take a test or who engage in another method of information retrieval.
While this research may have surprised many, it wasn’t news to us at WilsonDailyPrep. We’ve been witnessing the power of test taking for over a decade now, and this is why our program provides daily SAT and ACT questions designed as short quizzes. The key to success on the SAT and ACT is constructive, regular practice that reinforces test-taking skills and strategies. It is this consistent practice that helps students internalize questions and see patterns on the day of the exam. By regularly answering questions, students learn to answer questions automatically, without wavering in doubt.
When it comes to standardized tests, the old adage “practice makes perfect” rings especially true. And the way to practice is through constant repetition. Repetitive practice forces students to confront what they may have answered incorrectly, evaluate any gaps in their knowledge, and help them see test patterns. The new study in the Science journal supports this cognitive learning strategy “I think that learning is all about retrieving, all about reconstructing our knowledge,” said lead author, Jeffrey Karpicke, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University.
But we also need to work within the confines of students’ busy schedules, which often include long hours of homework, demanding sport practice, and volunteer work. The WilsonDailyPrep method gives students daily practice opportunities that fit into their hectic lives. Our six daily questions, which cover vocabulary, sentence completion, math, reading comprehension, and grammar, let students study on their own schedule – whether it’s 5 minutes in the morning while waiting for the bus or during a free period at school. However, they are not truly “studying.” Instead, students take a daily, short quiz of 6 questions that teaches students how to actively choose the correct answer on a standardized test. Daily quizzing is effective because by remembering information repeatedly we are organizing it and creating cues and connections that our brains later recognize.
Superstar athletes like Andre Agassi and Michael Jordan tell stories of drilling day after day with thousands of practice balls, on the most minor of moves. This is how athletes quiz themselves – and it’s how they succeed. Students who want to succeed on the SAT or ACT must follow their lead. Taking long, tedious tests, though, is not the answer, and the study in the Journal proves that cramming for an exam is not as effective as long-term daily drilling that fits seamlessly into a student’s day.
School districts that embrace more active approaches to learning , emphasizing reasoning over memorization embrace the WilsonDailyPrep because our short, daily quizzes reinforce cognitive, core skill building that allows for a continuum of learning both in and outside of the classroom and allows the teacher to focus on the more active components of learning. Teachers are freed to teach a concept and then move on, while WilsonDailyPrep provides the systematic drilling necessary for retention and skill building success.
As this new research proves, cramming before the SAT or ACT is ineffectual. To really make a difference – a difference that could mean getting into the college of one’s dreams – a student needs to be an athlete and commit to regular, daily practice. Our test prep method makes daily practice easy, accessible, and worth it.