Recognition vs recall

There’s a difference between knowing something when you see it, and remembering it without a prompt.

To explain what psychologists mean when they discuss the difference between recognition and recall, think of seeing a family friend you haven’t seen for years. You are likely to know immediately if you have seen her before, but you may not being able to remember her name. If you are then told her name, it may suddenly appear very familiar to you. “Of course!” You might say to yourself.

Recognition involves a ‘prompt’ - a cue or reminder - to access knowledge that your brain has stored. In this case, the person’s face, and then later their name.

Recall is when you access knowledge without a prompt or reminder, like when you are trying to remember someone’s name.

Exams test your ability to ‘recall’ information you have learned in lessons. This becomes obvious when you think about how ludicrous it would be for the questions to have ‘helpful reminders’ in them, to jog your memory!

When most people revise for exams, they are using a lot of what we are referring to here as ‘recognition’. Reading over your notes, summarising the information in front of you, talking with a friend about lesson content - all of these involve recognition of the material.

We all know the feeling of not being able to remember the answer to a question you have been asked in class, and any teacher will tell you how often pupils say, when the answer is revealed, “Oh yeah, I knew that, sir!”. Well you didn’t know it before you saw the answer did you! That’s the difference between recall and recognition

How can you see this in upgrade?!

This is the cornerstone of upgrade’s revision process. If you don’t know if you will be able to answer something in test conditions without being in test conditions, then do some questions in test conditions!

Pupils don’t always think they like doing exams, but that’s because they have to dig deep in their brains to find the information. Recalling is harder than recognising, but it gets easier the more you do it!

Upgrade is all about preparing the exams by replicating what it takes to sit them, and getting you better at it with every minute you spend revising, because anything you couldn’t recall first time will come back in a future test - so you can have another go at recalling it like you’ll need to in the exam.


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