Learning from Test Results

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the learning benefits of test taking
rows of students in desks outdoors, taking an exam

After the Test

As you leave the exam room, the last thing you may want to think about is that particular test. You probably have numerous other assignments, projects, and life obligations to attend to, especially if you pushed some of those off to study for this completed exam. Give yourself some space from this exam, but only for the duration of the time when your instructor is grading your exam. Once you have your results, study them—whether you did really well (Go, you!) or not as well as you had hoped (Keep your spirits up!). Both scenarios hold valuable information if you will use it.

Thandie had a habit of going all-out for exams before she took them, and she did pretty well usually. But once the instructor passed back the graded tests, she would look at the letter grade, glance half-heartedly at the instructor’s comments, and toss the exam away, ready to move on to the next chapter, section, or concept. A better plan would be to learn from her exam results and analyze both what she did well and where she struggled. After a particularly unimpressive exam outing in her statistics class, Thandie took her crumpled-up exam to the campus tutoring center, where the tutor reviewed the test with her section by section. Together they discovered that Thandie did particularly well on the computational sections, which she admitted were her favorites, and not well at all on the short-answer essay questions that she did not expect to find in a stats class, which in her experience had been more geared toward the mathematical side of solving statistical problems.

Benefits of Test Taking

While testing may be stressful, there is actually a number of learning benefits to testing that you should consider.

  • When you are tested—especially often—it encourages you to study more and procrastinate less.
  • The more you retrieve information, as you do during a test or quiz, the more likely you are to retain it in the long run.
  • You may learn more when you take a test than when you study for it or are just taught the material. For example, if you are asked to learn five formulas for a math test, you will likely remember the three formulas you are actually tested on better than the others.
  • Taking a test helps your brain organize knowledge better, and that helps you retrieve the knowledge more efficiently.[1]

So, testing is not just a method of measuring how much you know (or torturing you). It can actually help you learn. In addition, the results of a test—even when you don’t do very well—can also enhance your learning in valuable ways.

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  1. Kleeman, John. "Ten Benefits of Quizzes and Tests in Educational Practice." Question Mark, 2012, http://www.questionmark.com/ten-benefits-of-quizzes-and-tests-in-educational-practice. Accessed 26 Apr. 2016.