Active Recall

Active recall, also known as retrieval practice, testing effect, practice testing, or test-enhanced learning suggested long-term memory was improved significantly when some of the learning periods were dedicated to retrieving information from memory. It is different from another general practice effect. Active recall is defined in the APA Dictionary of Psychology as ‘any change or improvement that has resulted from the repetition of task items, practice, or activities’.

Cognitive psychology experts are working with educators to see how to take advantage of tests, not as a tool for assessment, but as teaching tools. They figured that testing prior knowledge is more beneficial for learning as and when compared to reading or passively studying material, and even more so when the test is more challenging for memory.

In recent research storage strength, and retrieval strength had become separate measures for retrieval practice. Retrieval strength, also called recall accuracy, was generally higher for restudied words when tested immediately after practice. However, tested words were higher as time went on. This suggested tests were more beneficial for long-term memory and retrieval which some authors believed were due to limited retrieval success during practice supporting the idea that tests are learning opportunities.

fMRI scans suggested that active recall strengthened subsequent retention of learning via a dual action affecting the posterior and anterior hippocampus regions of the brain. This supported findings that individual differences in personality traits or working memory capacity did not seem to have any negative impacts on active recall with a greater impact for lower ability individuals.

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