A Test of the Testing Effect: Acquiring Problem-Solving Skills From Worked Examples


should be sent to Tamara van Gog, Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: vangog@fsw.eur.nl


The “testing effect” refers to the finding that after an initial study opportunity, testing is more effective for long-term retention than restudying. The testing effect seems robust and is a finding from the field of cognitive science that has important implications for education. However, it is unclear whether this effect also applies to the acquisition of problem-solving skills, which is important to establish given the key role problem solving plays in, for instance, math and science education. Worked examples are an effective and efficient way of acquiring problem-solving skills. Forty students either only studied worked examples (SSSS) or engaged in testing after studying an example by solving an isomorphic problem (STST). Surprisingly, results showed equal performance in both conditions on an immediate retention test after 5 min, but the SSSS condition outperformed the STST condition on a delayed retention test after 1 week. These findings suggest the testing effect might not apply to acquiring problem-solving skills from worked examples.