Taking a multiple-choice test, you have a much better chance of getting a passing score than if you were facing a blank piece of paper on which you have to answer an essay-type question. Recognizing the correct answer from among three or four options on a multiple-choice test is easier than trying to recall a list of facts and reasons for an essay question.

You Know It When You See It

If you see a picture of a person you know, you are likely to say, “I know him!” Then comes the hard part: Can you remember his name or where you met him? The recognition part is easy. When your brain receives a perception it stimulates a pattern of neural activity and is stored in your memory for later retrieval. When you see or hear something that stimulates that memory because it has a similar pattern, your brain recalls the original memory.

You Pull It Out of Storage

Recall is much more difficult than recognition. It requires your brain to retrieve details from its complex and massive filing system without any hints or search terms to sort through its database. Your brain finds it hard to recall facts without perceptual stimuli. This is the reason we use notes to help us remember speeches, visualize what we want to remember, or use mnemonic devices to remember lists of information.