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My Exam Strategy, Part 2: Spaced Repetition

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

What is Spaced Repetition?

The idea behind spaced repetition is to strategically schedule when you study certain topics to interrupt the forgetting curve. As you can see from the graph, once something has been learned, as time goes on your retention of that something decreases exponentially. However, every time you relearn something you interrupt the curve and as time goes on, the rate of decrease of your retention of that something is slower. Spaced repetition is the idea that you review material at certain points which gradually get further apart meaning that the rate of forgetting decreases each time.

Credit: Chun BA (2018), The effect of flipped learning on academic performance as an innovative method for overcoming ebbinghaus' forgetting curve How I Use Spaced Repetition This section described how I use the retrospective revision timetable. For a more comprehensive overview see Ali Abdaal's Youtube videos from which I got this method from, click here. The Retrospective Revision Timetable Schools constantly advise you to make a revision timetable for yourself and I'm sure many of you have done so in the past. Many of you, just like me, probably have not stuck to it. The problem with revision timetables is that you have to try and plan out which areas to study in advance. This is problematic since you can't predict which areas you are struggling with the most and it is also counterproductive to schedule areas that you are confident with. Similarly, by nature, a revision timetable is very hard to stick to unless you are extremely disciplined. You also cannot predict events springing up, like having a meetup with a friend, or a family hiking trip or something. The alternative- the retrospective revision timetable.

The retrospective revision timetable involves recording the date when you studied a subject rather than recording a date to study a subject and this is easily done in Excel or Google Sheets. So for example, if I studied the heart today, I would record 09/06 under heart. To use spaced repetition with this method, I would highlight the date with a colour (red, orange, yellow or green) depending on how confident I am with it. The less confident I am with it the sooner I will restudy the subject and this is easily seen by looking at the colours. See the image below.

As you can see, the areas that are most red/ orange I studied sooner than those that are less. This uses the idea of spaced repetition.

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