How to Memorize Faster With The Spaced Repetition Learning Technique
05 Sep 2020 • 6 min read
As many of us have experienced during school years, late-night learning is not the most effective technique. The information might have stuck around for a short period, but just after the day of the exam, it flew away with us unable to recall it. If you would like to remember more during and after your studies, forget the last-minute learning. Using spaced repetition, a method to rehearse educational material, you will not simply earn better grades, but studying would be an overall easier process and memorized information will be available to recall later in your life.
The spaced repetition system is a learning technique in which the material previously learned is recalled by the learner from time to time at ever-increasing intervals. This method is based on the intermittent repetition effect on how we tend to forget information. The primary goal of the technique is to recall the material learned as infrequently as possible, just before we forget it. By approaching repetitions in this scientific way, time spent learning can be used much more efficiently.
The neurological background of memorizing
Learning always begins with perception, the form of how we collect information. This data travels through the nerve pathways to the place where the perception is processed, our brain. Some perceptions cause our bodies to react, which usually does not happen consciously.
Scientists once thought that the brain stores memories in a similar way to computers. It was later proved that the artificial approach is completely different: information is broken down into elements (bits) on the computer and is stored that way. The machines can store up to a certain amount of information on a storage device called a hard disk. If our brain would work similarly, despite having hundreds of billions of cells, our internal storage device would have filled up in a matter of hours.
Our brains work in a rather different way: since we always store information in context it is more about capturing the contents of things. That’s why when we recall a memory, related reminiscences come to mind, like smells or the color of the paper, or what we ate for dinner during learning.
What makes spaced repetition so effective?
Spaced repetition technique is one of the most effective learning techniques, which you probably use even if you do not know about it. Using this method consciously makes it far superior to standard learning.
There are three key values it provides:
Delays forgetting learned information by prolonging the forget-curve.
Active recall helps to keep memorized information fresh (as the context layers build-up, it gets easier to remember what you have learned).
Spaced repetition supports long term memory, so you won’t forget the learned information even after the exam.
How to get started with the spaced repetition system?
To put the above in practice, try to remember a movie you’ve seen more than one time. After you’ve watched it first, you understood it well, but a few weeks later you only remembered the title and main story points. You watched it with a friend two months later, and while watching, you have realized that you can recall the story and started to watch out for certain details in the background, or the listening closer to the music. When you watched it for the third time, you probably remembered all the names, a few exact quotes, and the story details too.
Of course, the typical study materials are far from a movie’s excitement, however, learning it works the same. Review your documents and memorize them for the first time. After you have finished, try recalling them in a suitable way: you can write them down or simply rehearse the answers out loud. (Trying to recall it through your inner voice is not the best idea as we all tend to cheat ourselves.)
If you recalled it correctly, put the documents down and start another activity. After an hour try to rehearse it again, maybe using a different method. Then again in a few hours, and on the next day morning. Keep lengthening these intervals until you are ready to face the exam.
Applications and websites that support you along the journey
Luckily, today we have multiple choices on how to organize our studies. Different websites, along with applications, will help to study faster and also memorize for the long-term. Let’s see 5 software programs and applications utilizing the spaced repetition system!
Platforms: iOS, Android, web
The basic idea: This is an application that you can use either through your browser or on any mobile device. With one account you can have all your data synchronized, so you can continue your studies away from the computer when it is time to repeat!
The basic idea of Quizlet is that you can search for subjects that already have their case sets and use those, or you can create your own “memorizing cards”. Just enter the term and the definition, and after you are ready, you can start the learning process. Quizlet is also utilized for high-level education and corporate usage, ranging from healthcare studies to Starbucks training programs.
The app is available for students and teachers as well. If you get the vibe of this tool and you want to support it, for a low amount of monthly payment you can also purchase Quizlet Go or Plus for wider and advanced toolkits to create enhanced study sets.
How it fits with SRLT: After creating or choosing your flashcard set, you can start to memorize the information. When you feel ready, you can choose how to check your knowledge. First is the “Learning” phase: Quizlet will show you the term and you will have to answer it from multiple choices or you will have to type it from memory - and the software will immediately review it. Getting it correctly will set the term as “Familiar”, and after multiple times it will be changed to “Mastered”. Furthermore, this spaced repetition app will give you constant feedback based on your answers, where you are in the learning process, and what you should focus on.
Platforms: iOS, Android, web
The basic idea: Signing up for EdApp will give you a choice if you want to educate others or yourself. The registration is fast, and you can immediately create your topic or search in the content library based on your interest.
The contents will be summarized using texts, gifs, and short videos because visualization had a great positive effect on memorizing capabilities. The presentations also have interactive parts, triggering the mind with the element of surprise, stabilizing the learned information. While you are stepping further, EdApp will give you milestones to know where you are in the process.
How it fits with SRLT: With its sophisticated approach and triggering effects, this spaced repetition software helps to improve memorizing information. On its finalizing page it summarizes the studied content, and based on your answers it gives feedback.
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and any device with a web browser
The basic idea: Anki is a simple, ad-free software that helps you to create flashcards. After downloading it to your computer or on your mobile phone, the first step is to generate decks, which will include flashcards. All cards have a front- and a backside that you can fill up with information. Also, you can insert pictures and other notes from your classes, so you can memorize those as well. You can also grade the difficulty of the lesson. Anki is mostly used by college students (especially in healthcare). It runs offline, and its ad-free, transparent user interface won’t cause any disturbance during studying.
How it fits with SRLT: Based on how difficult you have found the lecture, the program will offer you three choices to choose from: to see the lesson again in one minute or to repeat it in ten minutes or four days.
Platforms: web, Android, iOS
The basic idea: Brainscape is a specialized spaced repetition system where the algorithm focuses on the areas which need improvements, based on your answers and learning patterns. This is a lively web surface because their team is openly active on other social media websites and showing their results and feedback from users and companies, furthermore, a blog, full of content, is available as well.
How it fits with SRLT: Brainscape will effectively monitor and check your answers and will support you - if you are honest how well you have known the flash cards’ answers, based on a scale from 1 to 5. It will also measure time during your study phases and help you to memorize information faster.
The basic idea: Smartcards will support your studies with a learning curve, measure the optimal time, and suggest when to repeat your studies. This spaced repetition app is only available for iOS users.
How it fits with SRLT: Its classical surface will help you not simply with drag and drop text flashcards, but you can also insert video and audio files to support the memorization process. Furthermore, typing an answer is also an option during the learning phase, and the program will color results to show if you were correct or not.
Learning accompanies us throughout our entire life, while as we age studying gets harder. Spaced repetition is a good-to-know tactic (or even life-hack) that you might have used before without consciously knowing it. Utilizing the method through one of the above spaced repetition software apps will help you to memorize learning materials more effectively and in less time. The method comes handy in all ages, regardless if you go to school, prepare for college exams, or do corporate training to develop your career.