Spaced repetition: learning made easier
3 minute read
Have you ever tried cramming in loads of revision before an exam, only to be frustrated that you can’t recall it fully on the day? Well, you’re not alone. You might be surprised to learn that’s not how human memory works: just because you pore over something once doesn’t mean you’ll remember it the next week, or even the next day. Memory becomes ingrained within us when something is reviewed repeatedly over time. This is where the principle of spaced repetition comes from.
So, what is it?
Spaced repetition is a learning method which involves reviewing information at certain intervals to improve retention. The theory behind this is that by looking over information at regular intervals, our brains are better able to encode it into long-term memory. Spaced repetition is a means of optimising the gaps between these intervals, giving you the best chance of being able to recall the information later on. That’s not just our opinion; it’s been proven in modern research. So the next time you’re wondering what the best way for you to learn is, remember: it’s spaced repetition.
But how does it work?
It’s quite simple to put into practice. If you’re trying to learn some new information, make sure you’re reviewing it at those optimal intervals we mentioned earlier. But if you’re trying to learn lots of new things at once, it can be challenging to know what needs to be reviewed and when. This is partly why we made Luna, which does the planning behind spaced repetition for you. Luna will let you know what to review and when through the principles of spaced repetition; that means you can focus fully on conducting the learning.
Let's look at an example of spaced repetition in practice. Say you’re trying to learn vocabulary for a new language. If you reviewed the same words over and over again in one day, you’d probably still have forgotten them in a week. By using spaced repetition, you’d review the words today, tomorrow, a few days later, a week later, and so on. You’d space the repetitions more and more over time until, eventually, the words would be deeply ingrained in your memory.
What are the benefits?
Theoretically spaced repetition is great, but it’s always useful to look at some of the practical benefits you can expect by incorporating it into your learning:
Efficiency: learning at regular intervals is a form of optimisation. That means that while you’ll be reviewing on more days, the overall time to learn will be less. Conducting short, frequent reviews will overall be less time-consuming than two days in the library fuelled by Redbull. You’ll be learning more in less time: it’s a win-win.
Long-term retention: cramming isn’t effective as a short-term learning tool, and it’s even less effective in the long-term. If you want to make sure you can remember your learning over time, spaced repetition is far superior. It’s impractical to know something one day and have forgotten it the next: the goal should be to have it embedded in your mind moving forwards. This brings us to the next point…
Overcomes the forgetting curve: the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve is a phenomenon which shows we forget information soon after we learn it. Unfortunately, this is human nature, but it’s not very helpful when we’re trying to learn new things. The best way around this is using spaced repetition, as our brains are programmed to retain the information we see repeatedly. The best way to illustrate this is visually:
Spaced repetition is a powerful learning method: it can help you remember information over time and recall it without aid. Spacing out review sessions using optimised timings is proven to be one of the best ways to retain information. This applies to both long-term and short-term memory. If you’re looking for a more efficient way to learn, it’s a technique you should try. Luna is a tool which helps you learn through digitally generated flashcard collections that utilise spaced repetition.