20 Effective Self-Testing Strategies

Self-testing is one of the most powerful study strategies. Creating good questions requires you to think critically about what you need to learn (planning).

Testing whether you can answer questions without referring to a textbook or notes, as you would in a test, allows you to check your progress. The trick to effective self-testing is asking the right questions. In college, you’re required to move beyond recalling basic facts and details, and you must apply and analyze material.

One way of picturing these levels of depth in learning is Bloom’s Taxonomy. The categories in the cognitive taxonomy include:

  1. Remember (knowledge recall) – retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory.
  2. Understand (comprehension) – interpreting the meaning of information; being able to “translate” knowledge into your own words; linking new information to what you already know.
  3. Apply – using what you know to do required tasks.
  4. Analyze – taking things apart; dissecting; asking “why?”; seeing relationships and how things work.
  5. Evaluate – appraising, judging and critiquing the outcomes.
  6. Create (synthesis) – putting things together; building on what you know to create something new; seeing new relationships or making new connections. [1] [2]
Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning: Remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, creating, evaluating
Image Credit: Rawia Inaim. [Long Description].

A way to create study questions or active learning activities is to move step-by-step through each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Begin with a few questions at the Remembering level then go deeper into your subject as you move through the levels. If you don’t yet know the technical language of the subject, it will be difficult for you to apply, evaluate, analyze, or be creative.

Try it!

Create Self Study Questions Using Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy

  • Pick a topic you’re working on.
  • For each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy:
    • Create a question and answer it to show that you can think about the material at that level.
    • Then, working with a partner and using the chart below, explain the question at each level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
    • Discuss how your question would allow you to assess how much you know and what level you’re working at.
Level Question
Remembering Remembering and Recalling information.
Understanding Understanding Explaining ideas or concepts.
Applying Applying information in a familiar situation.
Analyzing Analyzing by breaking information into parts to explore relationships.
Evaluating Justifying a decision or course of action.
Creating Generating new ideas, products, or ways of viewing things.

  1. Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.
  2. Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.


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