Optimal Memorization With Spaced Repetition

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The technique is called spaced repetition.

Basically, it consists of  programming the repetition of what you want to remember at the optimal times.

When you try to learn and remember some stuff, the common method is to repeat what you have learnt many times, in order to make it stick to your memory. You would repeat the stuff the same day, some days after and may be even some weeks after, until you are sure that the content is in your memory (at least until the exam comes ;-).

It happens that there is a thing called the forgetting curve, which indicates how a person forgets things (see the figure below).

 

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The previous figure shows what some clever people have measured about how quick (or slow) we forget things.  The figure indicates that after the first time you learn something, you start forgetting it very quickly, unless you review the material. Every time you review, the  fade of the information in your memory slows down. This can be observed in the curves as they become more and more flattened.

In order to optimize your memorization time, you should achieve the following principles:

  • Perform as less repetitions as possible
  • Remember as long as possible

The figure above also shows the optimal points in time where you should review the material in order to keep it as long as posible in your memory, and to perform as less repetitions as possible.

Hence, in order to maintain the information for the longer time performing the less repetitions as possible you should perform repetitions following the next time steps:

  1. Review after 1 day
  2. Review after 10 days
  3. Review after 30 days
  4. Review after 60 days

The previous review times are just an indication. Those times may vary from person to person.  You can control those repetition times by yourself setting alarms and adjusting the repetitions as you observe that they are too long or too short, or you can take advantage of technology.

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Spaced Repetition Apps

Based on the forgetting curves knowledge, there are many apps for mobiles that can help you keep under control of the repetitions, in an automatic way. Those software, are based on  flashcards, where you can write down the information to memorize (for example, words in a language you are learning). The software, will make you review the flashcards at the appropriate times. If you fail remembering a flashcard, it will decrease time to review it again. If you succeed at reviewing it, the program will increase the time of review, always following the optimal forgetting curves.

Here it is a list of spaced repetition programs for all, mobiles and computers. Many of them have a database already made of flashcards for studying many things, from chemistry to languages. Have a look!

Conclusion

Even if spaced repetition has not been demonstrated scientifically to work, some preliminary research may indicate that students using this method have higher grades on a 67% more than students that do not use spaced repetition (provided that both perform the same number of reviews).

What is your experience with it?

 

photo credit: Austin Kleon via photopin cc

photo credit: KaiChanVong via photopin cc

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