How to be Successful without Really Trying - Study Strategies - Part 5: Repetition and Forgetting
Updated: Aug 7, 2022
By: Mason Weupe
Now that we have strategies to record and review information, when should we? It is not good enough to study material one time and then never revisit the topic. Repetition is necessary for allowing the information to truly solidify in the mind. The technique I will introduce today is called spaced repetition. This is a well-researched concept that essentially says it is advantageous to memory if one reviews material on a semi-regular basis. For example, the material reviewed on Monday should be briefly reviewed again on Thursday. If material is not reviewed every three or so days, then there is a rapid decline in what you can recall. We would not want all the hard work we put into learning the material to go to waste. The strategy for this is embedded in the schedule you will create on a weekly basis. Sometime on Sunday, you should take some time to create a schedule for the rest of the week. Included in this schedule should be immovable time and movable time. Immovable will be things like class times, extracurricular events, work, etc. These things cannot be moved around so you will need to create your study and review schedule around these immovable times. Movable times will include studying, gym, sleep (movable but non-negotiable to get a minimum of seven hours per night), etc.
As for spaced repetition, you can see within the schedule is review time at the beginning of each study session. The idea is to continue to review material you have already gone over in the past. You can mark in your calendar what material needs to be reviewed when and, as we mentioned before, try to review material every 3 days. At the end of the week, which we will define as Sunday, you can review all the material for the week and determine what material you know really well and what material you need more time with. The material you already know you want to study in larger intervals, for example, maybe every 5 days. The material you may need more time with, review with more frequency until you the concepts begin to set in. Lastly, I will mention there is always something to do. If you have determined you are comfortable with all of the information for the week and previous weeks, begin creating mock exams and/or start early with the next week. There is no need to wait for the teachers if we have enough time to start learning material ahead of time. The more you practice the study strategies, the more free time you will have and the less stress you will find. Although I block 4 hours for studying, it may only take half the time to get through the material if it is easy to learn concepts and the review moves quickly. This means you will be able to get the grades you want, while only studying half the time as other students who are not as efficient. Now, how awesome does that sound?
Figure 1: The forgetting curve shows you if you do not review material there is a huge drop off in material retained. You can see after only one day, twenty percent of the material can be forgotten, and so on. If regularly reviewed, you can continually replenish knowledge, defeating this forgetting curve.