I was looking into whether unannounced (memory) tests were actually unexpected by participants, and if the benefits accredited to unannounced tests are well-founded. Considering that students are rarely asked afterwards whether they expected the tests or not. (Oeberst & Lindner, 2015)

Some tests are unannounced to prevent for instance the "drowning out" of other effects (?):
"Learners study and remember information differently depending upon the type of test they expect to later receive" (Middlebrooks et al, 2017).

I found barely anything on the topic, except one paper by Oeberst & Lindner (2015), which did not receive much attention. Is it such an obvious question with an obvious answer, or why is there not much out there on the topic?

It appears to me that tests are such an apparent consequence of learning for students, that it seems unlikely that for the majority those tests are unanticipated.

Clarification/example: Taking this paper by Wetzler et al (2021) as an example, where:
"using an unexpected/unannounced test to alleviate concerns that test expectancy could generally elevate students’ effort to an extent that would drown out the effects of extra effort induced by the disfluent font (Eitel & Kühl, 2016)."

They are assuming that unannounced tests are not expected by students and therefore students' effort would not be elevated during learning (?). What if 50% of the students actually expected a test regardless and thus affected the results. The difference between the Oeberst & Lindner (2015) paper and this one is that the former uses a repeated test paradigm, which the latter does not.

Serving as inspiration:

This is an external contribution from Reddit (unreliable source):

"If a design uses an incidental learning task, I think it's reasonable to expect a manipulation check just as you would any other experimental design feature. With a lot of memory phenomena it just doesn't seem to matter all that much, but it's going to depend what you're trying to accomplish. I'd think it less important in a learning-from-text setting than in, say, eye-witness memory." (DocAvidd, 2022)


Middlebrooks, C. D., Murayama, K., & Castel, A. D. (2017). Test expectancy and memory for important information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(6), 972. https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000360

Oeberst, A., & Lindner, I. (2015). Unannounced memory tests are not necessarily unexpected by participants: Test expectation and its consequences in the repeated test paradigm. Cognitive processing, 16(3), 269-278.

Eitel, A., & Kühl, T. (2016). Effects of disfluency and test expectancy on learning with text. Metacognition and Learning, 11(1), 107-121. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11409-015-9145-3

Wetzler, E. L., Pyke, A. A., & Werner, A. (2021). Sans Forgetica is Not the “Font” of Knowledge: Disfluent Fonts are Not Always Desirable Difficulties. SAGE Open, 11(4), 21582440211056624. https://doi.org/10.1177/21582440211056624

DocAvidd. r/academicpsychology - Are unannounced tests unexpected by participants? Reddit. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from https://redd.it/wuk20o

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I provided some more details, but there's not much more I can add. I'm working on the Wetzler et al (2021) paper as an assignment, and I questioned their claims of the benefits of "unannounced tests" $\endgroup$
    – rlamesch
    Aug 18, 2022 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ This is an interesting question. I remember a few times in college and uni that when learning about certain things, I would think to myself "I reckon they will test our knowledge of these facts" where the facts needed you to remember names, dates, places and other particular linked information. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2022 at 6:07


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