Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, Sixth International Conference on Higher Education Advances

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Practice tests improve performance, increase engagement and protect from psychological distress
Stuart Graham Marlin, Tori English, Lewis Morley, Tahlia O'Keefe-Quinn, Paige Whitfield

Last modified: 30-04-2020


The increasing prevalence of high levels of distress in university student populations has led academic and support staff to investigate options to help students cope with academic stress. Our research focused on investigating the benefit of early academic interventions for content engagement and feedback. In a 1st year psychology student sample of 547 we collected data on psychological measures (motivation and distress), practice test engagement and performance on assessment tasks. Assessment data from a baseline phase (practice tests were available) were compared to assessment data from an intervention  (reward for undertaking practice tests). Our experiment also allowed an investigation of the type of benefit gained from practice tests engagement (content specific benefit vs general engagement effects). Results show that undertaking practice tests ahead of assessment quizzes is associated with significantly higher assessment performance.  Practice test uptake significantly increased when an incentive was in place resulting in much higher assessment scores for students. Students who showed high levels of distress on the DASS performed significantly lower on assessments. However, highly distressed students who undertook practice testing showed performance at the same level as non-distressed students.

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