Visual Imagery, Information Dumping, Environment Matching, Practice Test Questions, and Test Taking Retrieval Strategies
Imagery is the ability to produce mental pictures of things that have previously been seen or can be imagined visually. Visual associations are used to facilitate retrieval when old, familiar images are associated with images of information to be remembered.
Students often use this method unconsciously as a means of remembering information. They can become more efficient by recognizing the process and working to make images more vivid.
Material from a wide variety of subjects may be symbolized and remembered using visual associations. Abstract concepts and events as well as things may be entered into and retrieved from memory using the strategy.
Visual association is similar to visual elaboration, except that visual association relies on linking to images that already exist in memory while visual elaboration does not. In addition, visual association is usually done by the student him/herself and is not usually written down. Visual elaboration is covered in the Memory page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
The following are guidelines for visual imagery.
The following are examples of the visual imagery strategy.
A specific test-taking strategy that aids in retrieval is dumping. Information dumping refers to quickly writing down all information that one feels he/she may forget or confuse otherwise. It is done before looking at the test questions.
If you fear you will forget or confuse names, dates, formulas, or statistics, dump that information on the back of the test as soon as it is distributed. You should also dump visual aids, organizational aids, and other "tricks" that were used to encode the information (see the Visual Aids section of this page). Then refer to the dumped information for answering questions.
Environment matching refers to matching the internal and external environments of task preparation with the internal and external environments of the task situation. It is often used for exam preparation but is appropriate for other tasks, such as public speaking.
The internal environment reflects what the student thinks about the material and him/herself, while the external environment refers to the setting in which the student undertakes an activity. Retrieval is enhanced when task-preparation and task-completion environments match to some degree.
Practice Test Questions
The most proven, yet least used, way to study for exams is practice tests. Sample questions allow one to assess one's retrieval success before the exam; areas of weakness are identified and addressed prior to taking the actual test. Students may make up their own questions, or they may answer questions on old tests or in the textbook or student workbook accompanying the text.
Practice tests have many benefits. This strategy may be used to prepare for nearly any type of test. They help one to anticipate what the test may look like, reducing anxiety and stress. Practice tests are a valuable way to assess one's understanding of the information, distinguishing what is known and what needs to be learned. Writing one's own questions requires that one thoroughly understand and evaluate the information. When used effectively, practice tests improve one's mental preparation for an exam, bolstering confidence and positive attitudes. Finally, writing and/or answering practice questions forces one to repeatedly review the material, which enhances memory registration and recall.
Some students may complain that making up and/or answering practice questions is too time consuming. However, the advantages of the strategy greatly outnumber the disadvantages. If time is a concern, students may form study groups for sharing the responsibility. Each member writes some questions, and the group meets to exchange and answer the questions.
The following are guidelines for the practice test questions strategy.
Examples of practice questions are given in most of the pages in the Content-Specific Learning Strategies main stack.
Test-Taking Retrieval Strategies
A common academic task that requires efficient retrieval skills is test taking. Test-taking retrieval strategies vary according to the type of material to be covered, the types of test questions, and a student's preferred learning channel.
The Test Taking page in the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack extensively describes and illustrates test-taking strategies in general as well as strategies for specific types of tests. While most test-taking strategies are used during an exam, some are used before or after the test. Examples of strategies covered in the Test Taking page that relate to retrieval are studying in the test room (or environment matching, also covered earlier in this page), information dumping (also covered earlier in this page), starting with the questions one knows best, looking for clues in other parts of the test, and writing outlines.