Confidence Based Assessment

 Confidence Based Assessment using flashcards

A confidence based assessment is an amazingly powerful, yet simple, learning methodology.

To develop an understanding of this learning methodology, let’s first start with the definition of a confidence based assessment.

Next, we’ll work through an example demonstrating how the confidence based assessment methodology helps you master your content and achieve your academic goals.

Finally, we’ll look at three reasons why a confidence based assessment works so well.

What is a Confidence Based Assessment?

A confidence based assessment is a two-dimensional assessment measuring the quality of a student’s knowledge by assessing both the student’s confidence level in and the actual correctness of that knowledge.

 Confidence Based Assessment with Flashcards is a two-dimensional assessment in SpeakToYourMind.

The key to why this learning methodology is successful is because two dimensions are measured, confidence and correctness. The combination of these two metrics provides insight into the student’s true knowledge and gives guidance to the student about which content requires additional studying. 

The ultimate goal of a confidence based assessment is to master the content, which is defined as the student achieving both a high confidence level in and actual correctness of 100% of the content being assessed.

 Confidence and correctness equals mastered flashcard content

Let’s work through an example to demonstrate how this learning methodology works.

Confidence Based Assessment Example

The three steps in a confidence based assessment are:

  1. Perform a self-assessment
  2. Review the results
  3. Repeat the process until the content is mastered

For our example, let’s suppose you have 10 flashcards you are trying to learn.

Step 1: Perform a Self-Assessment

You begin by performing a self-assessment to identify the quality of your knowledge by measuring both your confidence level and correctness. Complete these steps:

 Step 2. Confidence in your memory of the flashcard answer
 Step3. Is your flashcard answer correct?
  1. Read the flashcard question and think of your answer
  2. Normally at this point, you would look to see if your answer is correct or incorrect. But with confidence based assessment, before looking at the answer, you ask yourself this question: “How confident am I that my answer is actually correct?” For our example, you can choose from two confidence levels - low or high. When you have decided on your confidence level, write it down

  3. Now look at the actual answer and compare it with your answer. Write down if your answer was correct or incorrect
  4. Repeat steps 1 thru 3 for the remaining nine flashcards

Step 2: Review Your Results

With two possible choices for your confidence level (low or high) and two possible outcomes for the actual correctness of your answer (correct or incorrect), each flashcard will end up in one of these four categories. 

  1. Low confidence level - Incorrect answer
  2. Low confidence level - Correct answer
  3. High confidence level - Incorrect answer
  4. High confidence level - Correct answer
 Flashcards will be distributed into one of four categories based on confidence and correct or incorrect answer

This is where it gets interesting. Putting your flashcards into these four categories helps you understand the quality of your knowledge and also guides you on which flashcards to include in your next study session. For example:

Categories 1 and 2 - You need to spend additional time studying these flashcards. You indicated a low confidence level in your knowledge and in fact, your answers for the flashcards in Category 1 were incorrect. 

Knowledge Quality: You are uniformed or only partially informed on this content

Category 3 – These flashcards require special attention as this is content you thought you knew. You indicated a high confidence level you knew your answer was correct, but your answer was incorrect. You need to spend time relearning this content. 

Knowledge Quality: You are misinformed on this content

Category 4 - You can set these flashcards aside as you indicated a high confidence level in your answer and your answer was correct!

Knowledge Quality: You know this content and are well informed

 Repeat until all flashcards are in Category 4 indicating high confidence and a correct answer

Step 3: Repeat the Process

Using your results, continue repeating the self-assessment process for the flashcards in Categories 1 and 2  (low confidence level - incorrect and correct answers) and in Category 3 (high confidence level - incorrect answers).

The ultimate goal of a confidence based assessment is to repeat the process until you have mastered your content, which is achieving both a high confidence level in and actual correctness of 100% of the content being assessed.

Using our example, you will have mastered your content when all 10 flashcards end up in Category 4. 

Why Confidence Based Assessment Works So Well

Now that we’ve defined and demonstrated what a confidence based assessment is, let’s look at three reasons why this learning methodology works so well.

Reason # 1:  Backed by Research

Researchers have been investigating the role of confidence in measuring knowledge for over 80 years.

In 1932, Kate Hevner wrote “A Method of Correcting for Guessing in True-False Tests and Empirical Evidence in Support of It” (published in the Journal of Social Psychology). Kate recognized measuring knowledge alone (that is, only looking at if an answer was correct or incorrect) was prone to error due to the student’s ability to guess the correct answer. She put forth the idea of measuring both confidence and knowledge.

In a 2003 paper titled “The Concept of Knowledge and How to Measure It” (published in the Journal of Intellectual Capital), Dr. Darwin P. Hunt explored confidence and knowledge and discovered highly correlative measures between self-assessment and learning. His work provided evidence a confidence-based approach to knowledge assessment provides a more comprehensive measure of a student’s knowledge, including the increased ability to retain the learned material.

Until 2006, Dr. James E. Bruno was a Professor of Education at UCLA who performed extensive research regarding knowledge, confidence, and behavior. His research led to the creation of a methodology called Confidence-Based Assessment & Learning which measured both the correctness of and confidence in an answer. 

Over the years, researchers have concluded that confidence, as well as correctness, are both important components in measuring the student’s true knowledge.

Reason # 2:  Multiple Learning Techniques

When using a confidence based assessment, two excellent learning techniques help you master your content.

 Active Recall

Active Recall

First, when you read a question and try to think of your answer before looking at the actual answer, you're using active recall. Active recall is a highly effective learning technique which we wrote about in this previous blog post.

Second, when you pause to think about your answer and determine your confidence level that your answer is actually correct, you're using a learning technique called metacognition. Metacognition literally means thinking about what you are thinking about. This additional thinking creates a deeper learning experience for you.

These two learning techniques are a powerful combination helping you to master your content.

Reason # 3:  Measurable Results

A confidence based assessment provides you with immediate, easy-to-understand, and measurable results. Your results clearly identify what content you actually know and what content requires more studying. The results make it easy for you to quickly know what content to spend your valuable study time on.


We’ve taken a deep dive into the learning methodology called confidence based assessment covering three major areas.

We started with a definition of confidence based assessment. We learned that knowing both your confidence level in and actual correctness of answers to questions measures the quality of your knowledge and distinguishes between what you think you know versus what you actually know

Next, we worked through an example of how the confidence based assessment methodology is used in practice. We discovered by performing self-assessments, your results measure your learning progress and help you target the content requiring additional studying. By repeating the self-assessment process, you’ll ultimately achieve mastery of the content, defined as high confidence in and actual correctness of answers for 100% of your content.

Finally, we saw a confidence based assessment works so well because it’s backed by research, utilizes two powerful learning techniques, and provides you with measurable results to guide your studying efforts.

A confidence based assessment is an amazingly powerful, yet simple, learning methodology. If you haven’t yet used this method for studying, we encourage you to give it a try and see how well it works to help you achieve your academic goals!