See also Low Stakes Testing in the Mathematics Classroom for more information including what the students think!
A very valuable set of resources comes from The Learning Scientists. See their blog for more information and note the excellent downloadable materials on study strategies including Retrieval Practice. Note the blog on meta-analysis of 217 Retrieval Practice Studies.
Something I do regularly with all my classes is ask them some questions at the beginning or end of a lesson to see if they can recall recent (or not so recent!) work. The questions are short and can just be read out for students to write responses in their exercise books (making this a great starter – no IT or resources required). The questions may be just recall type questions on a variety of topics but could of course be a series of questions on just one topic; questions requiring higher order thinking skills could also be used (see Rich Questions for ideas). Students are then given immediate feedback and mark their own work. I always tell students that I am looking at their careful marking and corrections as much as their original attempts. Sometimes I will give a homework to review a particular topic and let them know there will be a mini-test to check their understanding.
Reading Make it Stick (The Science of Successful Learning) which discusses the use of testing as a learning tool convinces me even more that mini-tests are a good idea! Students need to recall information and the evidence suggests that testing is a better way of doing this than simply rereading material, a method often favoured by students. My students know that these mini-tests are low stakes ‘Self-checks’ which I hope helps them realise they are as the authors suggest a learning tool, not something to be stressed by.
Aristotle apparently wrote “exercise in repeatedly recalling a thing strengthens the memory.”
Note slide 2 here on Plenary Tweets where a student has used the hashtag #enlightened referring to a mini test!
See Class Quizzes from Corbettmaths for a collection of questions designed to help students remember key facts. Looking at these will probably give you ideas for writing your own quizzes too.
A really useful source of questions which can be used this way are the mental tests from CIMT; these are included with their resources for Years 7, 8 and 9 and also for GCSE. For Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) scroll down this page for the Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 course material, the resources include mental tests as part of the teacher support material. On the GCSE page scroll down to the teacher support material and note the mental tests available for most units, see this on Formulae for example.
Coming up to exams, one or more exam questions on a chosen topic can provide a mini-test of anything from a few minutes to slightly longer.
I frequently make up these mini-tests on the spot depending on what has been covered or what I know I wish to revise, I will add any documented mini-tests to this page.
Interesting Reading: see this article on how highlighting is a waste of time – and note the conclusion to the Time article ‘ditch your highlighter and get busy with your flash cards’ and this from Science Daily on how short tests improved student retention on online courses.
KS3 – Ages 11-14
Straight Line Graphs (could also be used for KS4)
KS4 – Ages 14-16
Mini-test example-mixed questions.
KS5 – Ages 16-18
Calculus age-16-17 a mini test with 5 basic differentiation and 5 basic integration questions.
I find that some students are not confident with handling fractions and indices.
Calculus mini test solutions as PowerPoint or pdf: Calculus mini test
Trigonometry age 16-17 a mini-test including solving equations.
Solutions on this PowerPoint: Trigonometry mini test (note that the excellent Desmos Graphing calculator has been used for the graphs).
Some trigonometry resources for students are here.
Calculus – mixed examples:
Having completed the various integration techniques required for our exam specification and aware that students sometimes muddle differentiation and integration, I started the last lesson of the series with a Year 13 (age 17-18) class the following ‘self-check’ to see what they could easily recall. I have stressed the importance of knowing the basics with this group. The questions I used are presented in the following slide show – a sort of KS5 mental Calculus test!