Whether quizzing is a graded assessment or looks more like a fun activity makes little difference. The key is to quiz the students several times before the unit test or exam. But quizzing is only half of the task. There must be corrective feedback if you want the review activities to improve their grades.
Researchers, in a study* among seventh graders, found that quizzing students several times throughout the unit improved their grades when they received feedback about the incorrect answers. Apparently, students benefitted from the experience of thinking through questions, discovering their incorrect answers, and processing why the answers were incorrect. And this activity was repeated in intervals two or three times before the exam. Pre-testing right before the exam was also beneficial. Another interesting take-away from the study was the fact that multiple choice and short answer questions reaped the same effect. It could be concluded that the experience of reviewing, correcting, and analyzing answers was more beneficial than the type of questions.
Whether you make the review a formal or an informal activity, do it often to give your students opportunities to digest the material. Don’t forget a critical factor: they must have an opportunity to digest feedback about their incorrect answers. Frequency of review and helpful feedback may be the missing ingredients you can add to your lessons if your aim is to help your students improve their test scores.
*McDermott, K.B., Agarwal, P.K., D’Antonio, L., Roedigner, H.L., & McDaniel, M.A. (2013). Both multiple-choice and short-answer quizzes enhance later exam performance in middle and high school classes. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 20(1), 3-21. https://doi.org/10.1037/xap0000004