Spaced repetition: how to foster long-term memorization?

Pulling an all-nighter to revise for an end-of-year exam? We’ve all been there.

Except those of us who didn’t go to school, but TV has taught us enough to know what a final exam is. 

Typically, we try to cram as much information as our brain can absorb in the shortest space of time, in the hopes of receiving a passing grade. Although cramming can work for short-term recall of key information, said information will be rapidly lost over time. So how can we retain and memorize information in the long-run?

Antoine Brenner, Gymglish co-founder, explains how we can best memorize and recall information thanks to the spaced repetition approach.

Before going any further, let’s recall the three stages of memory:

  • Encoding: processing incoming information so that it can be entered into memory
  • Storage: maintaining information in memory for a period of time
  • Retrieval: accessing or recalling stored information from memory when required

Having laid this foundation, let’s take a look at Hermann Ebbinghaus’s learning (or forgetting) curve theory. According to the German psychologist, information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. 

It’s virtually impossible for our brain to remember everything; however, thanks to the spacing effect, it is possible to recall selected information. But how does it work? It’s what we call the active recall concept. This may seem obvious, but the frequency of repetition and rehearsal, if spaced in intervals, promotes better recall of memory than if the information is presented in one long burst.

Our memory declines over time, so if a piece of information is learned (the encoding stage) and repeated several times, our brain will understand that the information is useful and relevant and will remember it – albeit only for a few hours or a few days (the storage stage). However, if the information is never used, it may well be forgotten… forever. Dun dun dun. 

If you review a piece of information at the right moment, your brain will understand that the information is relevant and will remember it in the long term. Said information will be stored in your long-term memory, and you’ll be able to successfully recall and use it at some point in the future. What were we saying? We forgot.

The spaced repetition approach has been an integral part of all of Gymglish’s online courses since 2004. Every day, our learners receive a 10-minute lesson with new knowledge. To consolidate what has been learned, our method takes into account our natural tendency to forget things over time. For long-term memorization, our system designs an optimized revision schedule for each student, which takes into account each individual’s learning speed and capacity to remember. Our AI engine will define different time intervals for reviewing specific points based on this information. This optimizes long-term memorization and makes sure revision is as effective as possible.

Take our online French course Frantastique for instance: students will be tested on a grammar rule one day, then re-tested three days later, and then 10, 30, 60 days later.

We cannot guarantee that this learning method works for everybody; however, judging by our experience (confirmed by the 2013 study “Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques”), the vast majority of our students continue to learn new things on a daily basis thanks to our tried and tested method. Please don’t ever forget this article.

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