How spaced repetition works

How spaced repetition works

Spaced repetition or distributed practice, as some people call it, is a learning approach which has been used for many years. The invention of mobile technology and apps has made it even more popular among learners nowadays. The technique involves taking information that you need to memorize and repeating it across increasing intervals. Information that is recalled easily appears at wider intervals, while information that a learner is struggling with gets shorter intervals.  In a more detailed manner, let’s see how spaced repetition works.

How it works

Think of the human brain as a muscle, just like the biceps. For instance, if you wish to have stronger arms, you don’t go lifting hundreds of pounds on your first gym visit. Instead, it is advisable to start by lifting five-pound weights and give your body some time to relax.  Then proceed to seven pounds and ten pounds as your body becomes accustomed.

By working your way up to weightier lifts in each session, you will get stronger arms each time. Your brain functions in a similar manner. Well, the human brain’s version of progressively lifting heavier weights is remembering information, over extended periods.   

Spaced learning technique, aims at reviewing information before it is forgotten and progressively increasing time intervals between repetitions until the said information has been stored in long term memory.

A simple illustration of How spaced repetition works

For instance, you learn the word “Z” today at 7 AM in the morning. At 11: AM, you get a chance to review the same word just before forgetfulness creeps in. Again, at 5:00 PM, approximately 8 hours later, word “Z” is ready for you to review. Another review takes place 12 hours later the following day.

This is how spaced repetition works
Implementations like brain boost can enhance how spaced repetition works.

One may question the need for all these successive reviews, but they are simply meant to reinforce the memory. Once you successfully review word “Z “after 12-hour interval, subsequent reviews can take place 24 hours later. Then a 48-hour interval and so on… The intervals basically keep on increasing. This combats the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. Understanding that is key to understanding how spaced repetition works.

Roughly, the next review can happen 7 days later, then 30 days later, then 90 days later, and then 180 days later.   

Bottom line

Undoubtedly, the technique is a far better study method to cramming everything in a single study session. That said; it is good to note that, manually planning these repetitions can be quite overwhelming. Thankfully, there are software and apps available nowadays to help you identify the sweet spot of optimal learning. Immediately when your forgetfulness goes below a certain level, these apps jump in and ensure your brain remains on track. How cool is that? Now you have some idea as to how spaced repetition works.

If you’d like to learn more about EdApp’s Spaced Repetition feature, called Brain Boost, get in touch at enquiries@edapp.com. You can also try the mobile lms and authoring tool by signing up free here or in the box below.

Related:
When to use spaced repetition
Spaced repetition and the forgetting curve
Is spaced repetition effective?
How to create spaced repetition

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