- What is spaced repetition?
- How does spaced repetition work?
- How do you use spaced repetition for revision?
- What is an example of spaced repetition?
- Pros and cons of spaced repetition
- Best spaced repetition apps
Spaced repetition is one of the most commonly used learning techniques. It’s used in classrooms across the world. Spaced repetition learning, also known as Distributed Practice, is a powerful learning method that can improve your brain’s ability to remember what you’ve been studying. 🧠
Let’s take a closer look at how spaced repetition works, what spaced revision looks like, and how it can be implemented to improve your learning process. 👇
What is spaced repetition?
So what is spaced learning all about? Spaced repetition is a learning technique that focuses on set time intervals between study sessions to benefit from the brain’s way of retaining information. It’s generally considered one of the most powerful methods to improve the brain’s ability to remember what you’ve studied. 🤓
This learning method is typically done in conjunction with the Leitner system. This technique employs the use of revision cards while studying to help with recalling information from memory. 💭
How does spaced repetition work?
Spaced repetition maximises a memory phenomenon called the ‘spacing effect’ – the brain’s ability to retain information when learning is ‘spaced out’ over time rather than crammed in at once. 🤯
Think of it like building a wall. If you stack the blocks too quickly without allowing the cement to dry, there’s a high chance that part of the wall will give way. Think of the spacing between studying as the cement. When you give it time to set and dry – that is, give your brain time to assimilate the information you’re trying to retain – the wall is less likely to collapse, and you are more likely to remember. 🧱
The human brain operates similarly – we learn and develop our understanding of certain concepts by remembering information over extended periods, and repetition is vital, especially when preparing for exams.
Spaced repetition aims at studying information before it’s forgotten and increasing the time intervals between studying that same material again until the information has become a part of your long-term memory. It’s a brain hack – using it, you’re leveraging our understanding of how the brain works to your advantage. 💁
How long should you do spaced repetition?
Thanks to experiments run by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus back in 1885, we discovered that it is exponentially harder to remember information over time. This led to the creation of a mathematical formula known as ‘the forgetting curve’ – which illustrates this phenomenon.
Spaced repetition techniques are a great way to combat this loss of information over time by continually reminding your brain of the same information in spaced intervals. The optimal intervals for review will depend on your timeline, but we recommend aiming for one day, seven days, 16 days, and finally, 35 days after learning the information. ⏰
How do you use spaced repetition for revision?
Spaced repetition is a very versatile technique that can easily be used for learning a range of different things. People use spaced revision in different ways, but a very popular and effective way to implement spaced repetition is to use revision flashcards to quiz yourself on whatever you’re trying to learn at set intervals.
For this method to be most productive, your best bet is to organise the cards in a box or bag, depending on what you got right. Cards answered correctly can go into a section that you quiz yourself on less frequently, while cards you didn’t know the answer to should be placed in a section that you’ll go back to more often. 🗂️
Using the spaced repetition technique, you should find that you can answer most if not all of the cards correctly after a few rounds of repetition!
What is an example of spaced repetition?
Let’s look at a simple example of spaced repetition used for learning.
Think of a primary school student learning the alphabet. At 8 am, they might go through the alphabet for the first time. At noon, they could review the alphabet again. At 4 pm, they go over it a third time. Then, on the next day's morning, they go over it again. Before you know it, that child will be reciting the alphabet. 🔠
No matter what you are learning about and at what level – complex concepts or simple basics – the spaced repetition principle will help you leverage the way your brain functions to retain more information.
For most people, the spaced repetition method is better for retaining information than trying to cram everything into your mind at once. You tend to lose information quickly when trying to absorb all the information simultaneously. Though time-consuming, spaced repetition can be very rewarding to those who are willing to put in the extra hours. 🥇
Pros and cons of spaced repetition
As with any learning technique or revision strategy, there are some pros and cons to consider. Not every method works for every student, so let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of using spaced repetition.
It makes practicing easy and flexible. You can spend just 10 minutes a day using spaced repetition.
You need to plan a long way ahead and leave yourself plenty of time.
It works well for visual learners who benefit from connecting imagery to facts.
Requires long-term commitment before you start to see results.
Great for memorising isolated facts, vocabulary or rules.
Not effective when trying to memorise larger theories or long-form information.
There are plenty of apps and tools to help you build flashcards and use spaced repetition.
Designing flashcards can be time-consuming and requires a lot of imagination.
Best spaced repetition apps
Some useful apps and programs utilise spaced repetition to help you learn faster and retain more of the information you read. Let’s take a look at a few of them: 🧑💻
Anki is a community-focused app. The best way to use it is to make your own deck of flashcards, that way, the visual prompts you use will be more personal and memorable – but you can download other people's decks for free!
Another cool feature is that you can tell Anki how hard it was for you to remember the answer to any card. This allows the program to adjust the time interval before seeing that item again.
Quizlet is very customisable. There are sets of flashcards on nearly any subject. Card sets range in size from about 10 to over 1,000. You can use your own cards or sets that the community has made.
The app is free, but you’ll need to make an in-app purchase to get the most out of the spaced repetition features and add images and sounds to your own cards.
Tiny Cards was developed by the same people behind Duolingo, and it’s free! A deck of cards is as large or as small as you make it, and you can either make your own or use one of the decks made by other people.
Adding a little gamification into the experience, only one pack is open at first when you are reviewing decks of cards. Each time you ‘pass’ a pack, the next pack is unlocked. This app is simple, fun, simple and easy to use.
Mnemosyne Project uses open-source software and relies on users to openly discuss their methods to make development updates to the app. So, it doesn't boast the best-looking interface and could be a little intimidating for first-time users.
The flashcard customisation options are also a little limited, but if you’re just looking for an app to help with memorisation and don’t mind too much about the design experience, this one’s for you!
With the help of the spaced repetition technique – and maybe a handy app – you may be able to improve your ability to remember what you’ve learned! We hope so. Give it a go, and let us know how it works for you.
Looking for some extra support with your subjects or exam preparation? Why not sign up for a free trial lesson with one of our dedicated GoStudent tutors to see how we can help to boost your academic success today. 🎒