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Self-testing is a form of active learning and studying. The goal is to gauge your level of understanding and information retention. By using self-testing techniques, you can determine any gaps in knowledge and use information processing skills to maximize your comprehension, retention, and application of concepts and course material.   

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Strong self-testing skills allow you to

  • Process and retain new information
  • Put new applications into practice
  • Identify topics and concepts to review 
  • Exercise information recall for exams, quizzes, or assignments
  • Build confidence in test taking and reduce test anxiety
  • Confirm comprehension of course content and monitor your level of understanding

Questions for Reflection

  • How are concepts presented in your classes?
  • What types of knowledge assessments (quizzes, exams, cold calls during lecture, writing assignments, presentations) are required for your classes or program? 
  • How will you use the course content beyond the requirements of this class? Is it foundational, and will you need to demonstrate this knowledge in future classes or in your career?
  • What types of self-testing strategies or tools are most effective for you? 
  • How much time do you use, and how far in advance do you plan for testing your knowledge prior to an exam or quiz? How do you use this time?

Basic Strategies to Try

  • Use paper flashcards or a flashcard app for retrieval practice.
  • Formulate questions as you complete your course readings.
  • Use chapter questions from your textbooks. 
  • Create your own practice exams or use practice exams provided by your professor or in textbooks. 
  • When completing practice tests, simulate the exam environment as closely as possible (time length, no use of notes or readings, no consulting with study partners). 
  • Try a teaching session with others; allow them to ask questions.
  • Without looking at notes or text, summarize concepts in your own words – aloud or in writing. Compare with your notes to confirm accuracy and understanding. 
  • Create a concept map from memory. 
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Questions about how to implement these strategies? Email your question to us or attend one of our drop-in sessions.

Additional Stanford Resources

Resources Outside of Stanford