Persistent miscalibration for low and high achievers despite practice test feedback in an introductory biology course

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7 Scopus citations


Students' ability to accurately judge their knowledge is crucial for effective learning. However, students' perception of their current knowledge is often misaligned with their actual performance. The relationship between learners' perception of their performance and their actual performance on a task is defined as calibration. Previous studies have shown significant student miscalibration in an introductory biology course: students' predicted exam scores were, on average, significantly higher than their actual scores. The goal of this study was to determine whether completion of a practice test before exams would result in better performance and calibration. The hypothesis was that students who completed a practice test would perform better and be better predictors of their performance on exams than students who did not engage in practice testing. As predicted, students who voluntarily completed a practice test, on average, performed better and were more calibrated than students who did not. Importantly, however, many of the lowest-performing students continued to significantly overestimate their knowledge, predicting higher scores on the exam than they actually earned, despite feedback from practice tests. In contrast, practice testing was associated with underconfidence in high-performing students. These findings indicate that practice tests may enhance calibration for many students. However, additional interventions may be required for the lowest-performing students to become better predictors of their performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Microbiology and Biology Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Osterhage. is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.


  • Calibration
  • Dunning-Kruger effect
  • Metacognition
  • Testing effect
  • Undergraduate biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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