Spaced Repetition: How To Remember What You Studied Even After Your Exam

Many of you have likely completed at least one exam for the new school year. Now, take a minute and ask yourself: how much of what you studied for that exam do you actually still remember?

Like many of my classmates, I often felt that I forgot almost everything I studied after handing in my exam.

So, I searched for advice and looked into different studying techniques. I found the concept of spaced repetition to be the most helpful for learning and retaining a fact long-term.

Spaced repetition is a studying method that spaces out your review over progressively longer intervals of time. For example, if you learn a concept on day 1, you review it after 3 days, next a week later, and then a month later. Through multiple reviews, the concept sticks with you really well. This concept of spaced repetition has been shown to be effective at enhancing retention, as evidenced by one study here.

To capitalize on spaced repetition, you can use a popular and free application employed by many university students, called Anki. This spaced repetition flashcard program can be found here. Anki allows you to not only create flash cards, but also utilizes spaced repetition by testing you multiple times in progressive intervals through its repetition algorithm.

Here’s a sample flashcard made with Anki:

Personally, I have used Anki for multiple courses throughout my pharmacy degree including pharmacology and medicinal chemistry. It has helped me spend less time studying, yet allowed me to retain information for longer periods of time. Rather than passive recall such as reading your notes, through Anki, you’re actively testing yourself on cards you created. Another benefit of Anki is its compatibility on any device with internet access. For example, I often switch between using my laptop, Ipad, and sometimes phone when I’m on the go.

One disadvantage with Anki is that the user interface is not intuitive. However, once you get used to it, it does become second nature.

There are many resources that discuss Anki—several of which that I have used myself. Some helpful ones are from Mullen Memory and Med Shamim.

Lastly, similar to any learning technique, spaced repetition may not be effective for you. However, it is definitely worth a try, especially for courses or material covering a large amount of information that you want to retain long term. Good luck with studying!


Photo Credits: Wokandapix via Pixabay

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