How many times have you read an article or chapter only to completely forget the valuable information a few days afterwards? Ever studied a course and passed a test or exam but then realized that your brain has been wiped blank a few days later? You are now just as clueless about the subject before you took the course. You spend many hours studying and all of this is undone so quickly. If you forget what you learn soon after, then all the learning in the world will make absolutely no difference to your life and academic career.
There’s a single and simple reason for all this. It’s not because students are not intelligent enough or lack the sufficient memory power. It’s got nothing to do with this. It’s got to do with something that most students have never heard about and our experts at StudentView can’t understand why it isn’t taught it schools. Every student should know about this and it will save you a lot of confusion as you go through life and wonder why things aren’t sticking. If you’re a parent, make sure you teach this to your children. After you learn about this, you will be able to remember everything you learn provided you follow the formula.
The Forgetting Graph
Let us introduce you to the only graph that you will ever need in your academic career.
It’s called the “The Forgetting Graph” or “Forgetting Curve“. This beautiful graph tells us exactly how our brain retains information and how quickly it loses it.
How it works
Day 1: This is the moment where you have just completed a book or right at the end of a lecture or just after a course. You feel like you understand and know everything. You remember 100% of everything. You also tell yourself that you now understand it forever and will remember it when you need it. This never happens off course.
Day 2: Over the next 24 hours, if you don’t do anything with your new knowledge, you rapidly forget what you “knew” on day one. This can be seen by the exponential decline in the graph. By Day 2, you might remember around 20-30% of what you knew. Think about this. Just 24 hours later, you are basically starting from scratch again . Your once crystal-clear understanding is now a vague concept to you and all your hard work of going through the original learning process is wasted. The reason for this quick decline in retention, if you’re curious to know why, is due to the fact that your brain has been constantly recording a lot of useless information in the last twenty four hours. Everything you hear such as idle conversation, television etc. overwrites the important information which you knew on Day 1.
Day 7: As you can see, by Day 7 you have, for all practical purposes, forgotten everything.
How to change it
Now here’s the gold. What can you do to retain the knowledge? Reviewing is the name of the game. However, there are specific lengths of time after which you need to review your new insights and knowledge in order to remember it for a long time (if not forever). To cut to the chase: You need to review on days 2, 7 and 30. Why? Take a look at our new and improved graph!
By reviewing the information on Day 2, about 24 hours after learning it, you bring your retention back up to 100%. However, instead of losing most of it after one day, your brain is now trained to recognize that this information is important because of the repetition. By Day 7, you will still recall about 40-50% of the information. This might seem trivial but this is really powerful, previously you would lose about 80% of the information after just 24 hours. This is a massive improvement. You should review again on Day 7, this will allow you to retain 70% up to Day 30 when you should do a final review that will allow you to retain 85% – 100% for a long time afterwards.
The best part yet…
You might be thinking that this requires too much effort because you’re having to re-learn the same thing so many times. You don’t. You are just reviewing it for a far shorter period of time that the original learning time. You should spend the following time periods for each review, considering an original learning time of 1 hour:
Day 1: Original learning time (1 hour)
Day 2: First repetition/review (10 minutes)
Day 7: Second repetition/review (5 minutes)
Day 30: Third repetition/review (2-4 minutes)
Adjust accordingly for different original learning times (e.g. original learning time of 2 hours, then first rep should be 20 minutes).
If you are not convinced, try it out. Learn something, review it on day 2, 7 and 30 and see if you retain it.
We have created a spreadsheet that can help you. You simply enter what you want to learn and the original learning date. It calculates the subsequent repetition/review dates for you.
You can download the spreadsheet here.
Good luck and happy remembering!