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Jun 25, 2014 05:20 PM EDT

First-Year College Students Forget Up To 60 Percent Of Material They Learned High School

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First year college students struggle to remember basic concepts they learned in high school the year before, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom found that college students could only remember 40 percent of their high school studies by the first week at a university.

"Universities expect their students to arrive with a high level of knowledge. What our research shows is that students are arriving at university with fantastic A-Level grades, but having forgotten much of what they actually learned for their exams," Harriet Jones, lead researcher of the study, said in a statement. "This is undoubtedly a problem caused by secondary schools gearing all of their teaching towards students doing well in exams, in order to achieve league-table success. But cramming facts for an exam doesn't give students a lasting knowledge of their subject."

For the study, researchers tested nearly 600 first-year bioscience students in their first week of term at five universities: the University of Birmingham, the University of Bristol, Cardiff University, the University of Leicester and UEA.

The participants were given 50 minutes to answer 38 multiple choice questions on cells, genetics, biochemistry and physiology -- all of which had been part of their A-Level core syllabus.

The students managed to answer an average of 40 percent of questions correctly. The longer the amount of time between sitting A-Levels and starting university also correlated with poorer results.

"School and university have very different demands. In higher education, students cannot rely solely on memorizing information so it is important that students can adapt to a more in-depth approach to learning," researchers said.

The findings were recently published in the journal Journal of Biological Education.

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