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Research project

The pros and cons of using multiple-choice quizzing to enhance learning

Project overview

Retrieval practice is generally good for long-term retention, but multiple-choice (MC) practice tests can introduce problems. For example, the lures gain familiarity during practice and can be erroneously endorsed on later tests (negative testing effect). In this research, we explored a related problem caused not by lures, but by corrective feedback. Although normally good for learning, we have found that exposure to correct-answer feedback on MC practice tests increases the likelihood that the feedback is erroneously endorsed later on related final-test questions which have a different correct answer. At the same time, answering MC questions during practice causes retrieval of accurate information about the options which opposes this bias.

In a series of experiments, we investigated the interplay of these opposing memory influences in both experimental and educational contexts. Depending on factors such as practice-test format, final-test format, the degree of false recognition, and the temporal proximity of related questions, final test performance can be facilitated or impaired. This research is informing us about the theoretical side of learning as well as offering some practical recommendations for educators.


Lead researcher

Professor Philip Higham

Professor of Experimental Psychology

Research interests

  • Enhancing student learning in educational settings
  • Protecting social media users from fake news
  • Understanding the interplay of controlled and automatic influences of retrieval practice

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

Aeshah Alamri,
, 2022 , Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition , 48 (5) , 752--768
Type: article